Paris: A Summer of Sport

We all know that Paris is the city of love, but this summer it’s also going to be Europe’s foremost city of sport. Whether you are planning to spectate or compete, and regardless of whether it is running, racing, or battling it out on ice which gets your adrenalin pumping, the city has a packed sporting calendar to enjoy.

Paris Marathon: 9 April

Paris Marathon (c) gal

50,000 runners compete in the Paris Marathon each year, and it boasts one of the most tourist-friendly routes on the planet. The race starts on the Champs-Élysées, it passes the Bastille, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Musee D’Orsay, and of course the Eiffel Tower, and finishes at the Arc de Triomphe. The record route time of 2h 05 min 02s was set by Ethiopian runner Kenenisa Bekele in 2015, and there will be plenty of big names competing in this year’s race in the hope of taking his crown. The bridges across the Seine are great points to watch the race from, but they tend, understandably, to get crowded. You might, therefore, consider instead taking a picnic and finding yourself a spot along the race route in the Bois de Boulogne park, just before the finishing line.

Ice Hockey World Championships: 5 May — 21 May

Ice Hockey World Championships (c) RussellMur

The 2017 Ice Hockey World Championships is split between two locations, Paris and Cologne. All the Group B matches are happening in Paris’ AccorHotels Arena, and it’s here that you’ll be able to watch world champions Canada compete against teams including Switzerland, Norway, Finland and France. Canada is undoubtedly the favourites for the competition, but in ice hockey there’s never a dead cert.

Roland Garros – The French Open: 22 May — 11 June

Roland Garros – The French Open (c) Yann Caradec

Roland Garros is France’s answer to Wimbledon, and the French Open is one of the most fiercely contested tennis competitions in the world. Rafael Nadal, Rodger Federer, Serena Williams, and Novak Djokovic will all be fighting for glory in Paris this summer, and the Juniors Tournament gives you the chance to catch some of the sport’s future stars in action. Tennis aficionados should check out the RG Lab during their visit: this innovative display space showcases the latest technology, including virtual tennis and 360° live match broadcasts. You’ve never seen — or played — tennis quite like this before.

Tour de France: 23 July

Tour de France (c) Dominotheorie

The Tour de France is the ultimate in long distance cycle races. The full race around France takes place over three weeks (so you can also catch it this year in cities such as Bergerac and Marseilles), but the final stage is from Montegeron to the Champs-Élysées in Paris, a distance of 105 km. Last year’s winner Chris Froome of Team Sky will be hoping to repeat his stellar performance, and he’s the favourite for this year’s race, but Australian Richie Porte and Colombian Nairo Quintana are also serious contenders to watch.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: 30 September — 1 October

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (c) Charles Roffey

Paris’ sporting season continues straight into the autumn with the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Often called “the greatest horse race in the world”, last year more than 41,000 spectators watched it in person, and 1 billion watched on TV. The races are held this summer in the Hippodrome de Chantilly, with a stunning chateaux as their backdrop, and there’s a real festive atmosphere. You’ll join an exceptionally glamorous crowd for flat racing, betting, and drinking Champagne, and can also try out racing simulators, party with the DJs, and indulge in some first rate celebrity spotting.

Fact File

Fly: EasyJet has return flights from London Gatwick to Paris Charles de Galle from £60 return this summer, as does Vueling.

Transfer: Paris airport taxi firm T2Transfer will arrange an airport pick-up and drop you either to your hotel or straight to the sports event venue.

Where to stay: Accommodation in Paris tends to be on the pricey side, especially in summer when demand is highest, but if you book well in advance then you’ll have plenty of variety to choose from. If you’re going to splash out for something really special, look at Saint James Paris, a chateaux close to the Arc de Triomphe. For a more budget-friendly option, choose a charming guesthouse like Manoir de Beauregard or La Villa Paris.

Check out our dedicated Paris page for more info on what to see and do in the French capital.

Where to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

William Shakespeare (c) wikimedia

The Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare is being remembered across England this year to mark 400 years since his death in 1616. In just 52 short but highly productive years he produced plays that still inspire us today.

Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon is leading the way with all day events on Saturday April 23, ranging from live music, stage fighting workshops and a Blood, Guts and Gore demonstration (which shows how fake scars and bruises are created) all building up to a grand firework finale.

But if you miss that, here is our round-up of where to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and works and uncover the untold stories of England’s finest playwright.

Shakespeare’s birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace ® Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The picturesque town of Stratford-upon-Avon has the accolade of being the place baby Will came into being. The son of a wealthy tanner and glove maker his half-timbered family home was by far the biggest in Henly Street. It survives today as a museum and tells the story of how the building almost ended up in the US. The story goes that American Fairground Mogul PT Barnum attempted to buy it in 1847, planning to ship it to the USA. A group of writers including Charles Dickens bought it for £3,000, so it remained in England. Visitors will see how the parlour, hall and bedrooms may have looked in 1574 and see many of the plants in the garden that are mentioned in his plays. At times roving actors will create impromptu Shakespearean performances.

Shakespeare’s schoolroom

After a £1.8m lottery grant, the 15th century boys’ school, King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon, has been restored and for the first time the Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall will be open to the public. The school was erected between 1418 and 1420, and this is where the Bard was educated. As this was the only place where plays could be held at that time, this is where he first experienced professional theatre. It served as the centre of civic life in Stratford for over 400 years and is still used to teach students. Visitors will get a glimpse into Shakespeare’s life as a school boy during the decade he attended.

Anne Hathaway’s cottage

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, Stratford-upon-Avon

Young Bill courted Anne Hathaway at her family home in the hamlet of Shottery – a substantial yet very pretty thatched farmhouse that is now open to the public. Inside there are several original items of family furniture, including the finely carved Hathaway Bed. The mattress is held up by an array of ropes that stretch the width of the bed. These ropes had to be tightened regularly and it is this action that led to the phrase “night night, sleep tight”.

The home is surrounded by 9-acres of beautiful gardens and perhaps as you stroll you can imagine the young couple falling in love.

Globe Theatre

Globe Theatre, London (c) wikimedia/Schlaier

The Globe has always been synonymous with Shakespeare. The original was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s company. It burned down in 1613 as a result of a miss-fired cannon during a Henry VII performance and replaced in 1614. Sadly, it closed down twenty years later. The third incarnation of this open-air theatre was built in 1997 nearby and renamed Shakespeare’s Globe.

Situated in the underbelly of the theatre, a year-round exhibition and tour takes guests on a journey through the life of Shakespeare, exploring the London in which he lived and the 1599 Globe Theatre where his plays came to life. Entertainment includes a sword-fighting display, handmade period costumes and the working theatre of today.

Windsor Castle

The Royal Standard flies at Windsor Castle

Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted it performed during a celebration at Windsor Castle. The play was performed to coincide with the Queen’s Cousin, Lord Hunsdon, being made Knight of the Garter in 1597. When first performed, the play wasn’t open to the public, and rather was shown privately at the Castle in Vicar’s Hall, of which the main window can be seen from the town centre opposite the Royal Theatre. There is some controversy about where the play was actually written as two places claim the accolade: The Old Kings Head in Church Street, and the Harte and Garter Hotel (where the two inns, the White Hart and The Garter once stood).

Shakespeare under the sky

As part of the Globe Theatre on Tour, the Shakespeare under the Sky summer performance season will include an Oxford Shakespeare Festival of plays at Oxford Castle, the Oxford Shakespeare Company in Wadham Gardens and English Repertory Theatre in University Parks. There will also be performances by Creation Theatre Company.

Shakespeare Festival

The historic Roman town of St Albans is where the Shakespeare Festival runs till the end of June. It features all 37 of the Bard’s plays. Encompassing theatre, choral singing, symphonic music, poetry, stand-up comedy and dance there is plenty to see. Highlights include an interpretation of Hamlet, Hold off the Earth, and a visit to St Albans from Merely Theatre, as part of their nationwide tour.

Where to stay in Stratford-upon-Avon

The 16th century Macdonald Alveston Manor Hotel, is home to the famous Cedar tree rumoured to have been the setting for the very first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The hotel is surrounded by Shakespearean heritage, and their signature cocktail ‘The Poets Tipple’, pays homage to the playwright’s sonnet: “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day”.

⇒ More hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon

Recommended Tours

⇒ More Stratford-upon-Avon tours

New sports technology provides a GPS alternative

Instead SABEL Labs has developed SABEL Sense, an alternative to GPS for tracking running speeds and distances and which is set to be a game changer in the sports performance and wearable technology industries.

SABEL Sense is timely, as sporting organisations in particular consider their options. The AFL recently announced it had switched its GPS provider.

SABEL Labs project manager and research fellow Dr Jono Neville developed a model which presents accelerometers as a viable alternative to GPS in the quest for improved athlete assessment techniques.

His research, titled ‘A model for comparing over-ground running speed and accelerometer derived step rate in elite level athletes’, is detailed in Sensors Journal, which is currently published online and will be in print next month.

Dr Neville said while Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are an important tool for workload management, the devices have limitations when it comes to changes in speed and direction and when they are used indoors, due to their reliance on external satellites.

He said he compared inertial sensor data with GPS data, collected simultaneously from Brisbane Lions AFL players during 2009, to create a model which was highly accurate for running speeds.

“There is a driving need for emerging technology like this in the sports performance industry,” the microelectronic engineer said.

“When it comes to frequent and rapid changes in speed and distance, GPS just doesn’t cut it, although it’s still the most widely used technology.

“We have found a data processing technique which allows us to extract data from an athlete and create an individualised model. “

Dr Neville said his technology will be key in monitoring training and game workloads.

“This will assist in preventing things such as over-training, which is a major concern for elite athletes, to reduce risk of injury.”

Dr Neville said individualised models are created automatically using SABEL Sense technology which can then be used to track speeds and distances.

First study of effects of Ultraman competitions

But what is all of that work really doing to your body?

A team of Florida State researchers is trying to find out.

“These people are at the peak of fitness, but what they are doing is incredibly hard on the body,” said Mike Ormsbee, assistant professor of exercise science and director of the Institute for Sports Sciences and Medicine.

Ormsbee is leading the first group of scientists to look at how the human body responds to the endurance competition known as the Ultraman.

The Ultraman is a three-day competition designed to test an athlete’s physical and mental endurance. The first day is a 6.2-mile open swim, followed by a 90-mile bike ride. The second day is a 172-mile bike ride. And the third day is a double marathon — a 52.4-mile run.

And for 20 competitors at February’s Ultraman Florida event — 15 men and 5 women — they also spent mornings stepping on a scale, giving urine samples and pricking their fingers so that Ormsbee, accompanied by graduate students Chris Bach and Dan Baur and undergraduate student Will Hyder, could analyze body composition, glucose levels and other physiological changes. Their sample included Florida State alumnus Chris Clark, the first type 1 diabetic to ever finish the race.

“We’d analyze the person on the spot,” Ormsbee said. “We looked at everything we could — weight, body composition, glucose and hormone levels.”

The immediate effect of the competition on the body was somewhat startling, the researchers said.

Prostate cancer: Unexpected results from international Phase III study

The “Urological Tumors” working group at MedUni Vienna’s Department of Medicine I in Vienna General Hospital is known to oncologists throughout the world as a research team with recognized expertise in the modern treatment of prostate cancer. In 2012, the team was therefore invited to participate in an international study for a new drug (cabozantinib) for the treatment of advanced — so-called castration-resistant — prostate cancer. Michael Krainer, Head of the Urological Tumors working group and currently working as Visiting Scholar in the USA at the invitation of MGH, had the following to say about the results: “Although, in most cases, cabozantinib increased the overall survival of the patients by one to two months, this effect was not statistically significant when compared with the current standard treatment. This surprised us, in so far as the Phase II studies had shown clear improvements for patients in many areas.”

Cabozantinib is an orally administered inhibitor of certain cellular signaling pathways (such as that of receptor tyrosine kinase MET and that of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), which are closely associated with the development and progression of prostate cancer. And, indeed, initial clinical studies showed that the administration of cabozantinib had a beneficial effect upon the course of the disease for prostate cancer patients: patients’ progression-free survival was prolonged and their quality of life improved.

Prostate cancer treatment rates drop, reflecting change in screening recommendations

The decline reflects efforts to decrease overdiagnosis and overtreatment — preventing some unnecessary treatments that can cause long-term impact on quality of life, while still providing life-saving care to patients who need it.

But among those who are diagnosed, only 8 percent fewer are getting initial surgery or radiation treatments — even as data shows those with low-risk disease can substitute surveillance.

“It’s not entirely surprising: Primary care doctors who perform the majority of screening were the target audience of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines recommending against screening. But the specialists who treat prostate cancer once it’s diagnosed had a more tempered response,” says study author Tudor Borza, M.D., M.S., a urologic oncology and health services research fellow at Michigan Medicine.

In a study published in Health Affairs, Michigan Medicine researchers used Medicare claims data to identify 67,023 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2007 and 2012. Nearly three-quarters of those men had initial curative treatment, such as surgery or radiation.

In comparing overall treatment rates from 2007 till 2012, researchers found a sharp decrease of 42 percent, reflecting a change in screening recommendations and adoption of surveillance strategies in select groups of men. In 2008, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised against routine screening in men older than 75. By 2011, a recommendation came out against all PSA screening. However, specialty societies, such as the American Urological Association, continued to advocate for screening in men who were most likely to benefit.

How cancer’s ‘invisibility cloak’ works

“The immune system is efficient at identifying and halting the emergence and spread of primary tumors but when metastatic tumors appear, the immune system is no longer able to recognize the cancer cells and stop them,” said Wilfred Jefferies, senior author of the study working in the Michael Smith Laboratories and a professor of Medical Genetics and Microbiology and Immunology at UBC.

“We discovered a new mechanism that explains how metastatic tumors can outsmart the immune system and we have begun to reverse this process so tumors are revealed to the immune system once again.”

Cancer cells genetically change and evolve over time. Researchers discovered that as they evolve, they may lose the ability to create a protein known as interleukein-33, or IL-33. When IL-33 disappears in the tumor, the body’s immune system has no way of recognizing the cancer cells and they can begin to spread, or metastasize.

The researchers found that the loss of IL-33 occurs in epithelial carcinomas, meaning cancers that begin in tissues that line the surfaces of organs. These cancers include prostate, kidney breast, lung, uterine, cervical, pancreatic, skin and many others.

Working in collaboration with researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, and studying several hundred patients, they found that patients with prostate or renal (kidney) cancers whose tumors have lost IL-33, had more rapid recurrence of their cancer over a five-year period. They will now begin studying whether testing for IL-33 is an effective way to monitor the progression of certain cancers.

“IL-33 could be among the first immune biomarkers for prostate cancer and, in the near future, we are planning to examine this in a larger sample size of patients,” said Iryna Saranchova, a PhD student in the department of microbiology and immunology and first author on the study.

Researchers have long tried to use the body’s own immune system to fight cancer but only in the last few years have they identified treatments that show potential.

In this study Saranchova, Jefferies and their colleagues at the Michael Smith Laboratories, found that putting IL-33 back into metastatic cancers helped revive the immune system’s ability to recognize tumors. Further research will examine whether this could be an effective cancer treatment in humans.

This study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Family friendly skiing at La Plagne, France

La Plagne, in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, is probably the world’s most popular family friendly ski resort. Many are attracted by its vast ski area and its myriad of beginner and intermediate runs and the choice of affordable apartments and villas.

The resort was born in the 1960s, with a bold new post war vision of giant Alpine complexes to provide affordable ski holidays, but these ended up no bigger than rabbit warrens amid vast acreages of linked ski slopes.

Decades later, these tiny apartments were knocked into larger units and nine satelite villages were developed. One of which is former farming village, Montchavin – my base for the duration of my stay.

Montchavin les Coches (c) Phillippe Royer

In recent years La Plagne has been connected by a spectacular cable car with neighbouring Les Arcs – the Vanoise Express. It spans a valley that is 1,800m wide and 380m deep and forms the vast ski and snowboard playground marketed as Paradiski.

It sits between enormous linked ski areas – the Espace Killy (Val d’Isère-Tignes) and the Trois Vallees, which comprises resorts including Meribel and Courchevel. At its heart is the original, 45 years-old development now known as Plagne Centre.

Its great advantage was (and still is) that it allowed visitors to ski from and back to its doors. The flattish snowfield outside, the so called Front de Neige, with its cat’s cradle of lifts heading in all directions, can be so busy it gives the impression that if you sat long enough at one of its outside tables someone you know would eventually come gliding past.

Paradiski (c) T. Shu

Paradiski is claimed to be the world’s second biggest ski area connected by lifts. It has some 265 miles of pistes, and with more than two-thirds of its skiing over 6500 feet.

A great advantage of La Plagne is the large amount of blue rated intermediate cruising, on long and unthreatening slopes. Unthreatening, that is, on groomed powder. If you’re unlucky enough to catch them when they are hard and icy, head for steeper red or black pistes, for the easy terrain tends to attract skiers whose compulsion to bomb down exceeds their abilities.

Montchavin panoramic view (c) Phillippe Royer

Experts may wish to head for Roche de Mio for its 2,700m of challenging runs or the Bellecôte Glacier for black pistes and the opportunity to go off-piste.

And you can always take the cable car to Les Arcs, you don’t have to journey far to find a clutch of similarly moreish descents above Vallandry.

Funiplagne (c) Elina Sirparanta

Skiing back to Montchavin – it lies at only around 4100 feet – can be tricky. In warm conditions I found the snow to be heavy as wet sugar. But you can always wimp out and catch the gondola down the last stretch.

The resort certainly has its charms with a lovely range of pistes and gives the impression of being a sort of Metropolis on snow that is worthy of its popularity.

Note: This is a vast area so it may be worth downloading the Paradiski app, Yuge, so that you know where the queues are and anticipated waiting times. There’s also a digital piste map, weather forecasts, ski itineraries and tracking information.

Where to eat: Les Cocottes offers commendable cooking, pleasant service and not bad prices – though unless the £ recovers from its post Brexit vote slump you’ll need to allow about £25 – £30 a head.

Where to stay: a double room at the Hotel Bellecôte for a week between late January and early February costs between €130 and €150 a night for b&b.

Tour firms offering holidays at the hotel include Erna Low and Ski Solutions. Peak Retreats also offers holidays to Montchavin.

For more information on La Plagne go to

Header image by Ola Matsson

New Insights Into Side Effects Can Help Prostate Cancer Patients Choose Treatments

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study examines quality-of-life outcomes for the treatment choices most patients will face. Those choices include active surveillance, radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation treatment, and brachytherapy, a treatment that involves inserting radioactive seeds into the prostate. “Patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer — and that’s the vast majority of patients with this disease — face many treatment options that are thought to be similarly efficacious,” said Ronald C. Chen, MD, MPH, UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “Therefore, the quality-of-life differences among these options become an important consideration when patients are trying to make their decisions.”

The study is needed as prostate cancer treatment technologies have advanced, and as active surveillance has emerged as an important strategy for sparing low-risk prostate cancer patients unnecessary side effects. Active surveillance involves regular testing to check for cancer growth rather than immediate treatment, and many patients with low-risk prostate cancer on active surveillance may be able to avoid treatment for several years or altogether. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has endorsed active surveillance for most men with low-risk prostate cancer.

“There has not been a large-scale comparison of the quality-of-life impact for these modern options, until now,” Chen said. “Existing quality of life studies have studied older types of surgery and radiation that are no longer used, and patients need updated information regarding the impact of modern treatment options so they can make informed decisions about the choices they face today.”

Getting the jump on competitors: athletes’ focus determines winning jump

Dr Daniel Greenwood, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, with support from the Queensland Academy of Sport Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research, has studied the run-ups of elite athletes in sports such as cricket, long jump, triple jump and pole vault and found the vertical objects sportspeople see at the end of the runway significantly impact their performance.

“What we have found is as athletes prepare for their run-ups, they visually focus on something at the end of the runway to help them get their foot in the right place and make their final steps accurate,” he said.

“My research has pinpointed what the visual element is that athletes use to regulate their run-up and found it is vertical objects such as judges, umpires, windsocks and spectators.

“Knowing this we have adapted our training environments to replicate the dynamic stadium environment, something that has not been standard practice until now. Most training settings are sterile, stable environments.

“We now make it part of training to have people stand in as judges, to have windsocks in sight and to have people milling around.”

Dr Greenwood said this was a breakthrough finding and was being used to better train Queensland Academy of Sport athletes prior to competition.

As part of his PhD research, the sports biomechanist tested his theory by working closely with elite athletes connected to the Queensland Academy of Sport and Athletics Australia national jump centre based in Brisbane.

“I have been working with Robbie Crowther (long jump) and Henry Frayne (long jump) who recently competed at the Commonwealth Games, and also Olympic long jump medalist Mitchel Watt and Olympic champion hurdler Sally Pearson since 2010, as well as a host of world junior track and field athletes,” Dr Greenwood said.

“What this has allowed me to do is test my research in a practical environment.”

Dr Greenwood used specialised analysis methods to show when there was no vertical reference point in view, athletes made about 80 per cent of their adjustments to running behaviour in the final stages of their run-up, compared to just 40 per cent when there was a vertical object in view.

“This is a critical finding because we want athletes to make most of their adjustments in the early stages of their run-up, so their performance is less likely to be impacted with late stepping changes,” he said.

“We also found that athletes who can master their first run-up perform better in competition. For example, a study of competition winners in long jump over a 10 year period, found 85 per cent led their competition from their first jump.”

“This shows getting the run-up right quickly is vital to performance in competition.”

Dr Greenwood said athletes were also being trained to embrace a changing environment where movement is part of the competition.

“We are educating our athletes that every run-up is not the same and they have to deal with that, then it is less likely that these changes will impact their performance on competition day.”