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Golf, BBQ lobbyists behind US hour change

 

Mar 29, 2013 04:26:47 PM

Golf,  BBQ lobbyists behind US hour change Europeans will lose an hour of sleep this Sunday, something most Americans did three weeks ago. And in the fall they'll get it back a week before their US counterparts.

So why this trans-Atlantic divide?

Look no further than the US golf and barbecue industries.

For years, the United States changed its clocks in late April and late October, but that changed in 1986 when lawmakers heard from lobbyists that more daylight means more money, explained writer Michael Downing.

According to Downing -- author of "Spring Forward, The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time" -- the industry claimed "one more month of daylight savings meant $200 million more in selling of barbecues and charcoal."

"For the golf industry, one more month of daylight savings meant $400 million more in green fees and equipment sales," he said, adding "and that was the industry estimate 25 years ago."

The spring change was moved to early April, which, for many years, put the US in line with its European counterparts.

But in 2005, the time change was bumped up a second time: springing forward to the second Sunday in March and falling back the first Sunday in November.

This added three weeks of daylight savings in the spring, and an extra week in the fall.

Chambers of commerce and big supermarket chains helped pressure Congress into making the change, hoping an additional hour of light at the end of the day would encourage Americans to stop by stores on the way home after work.

The confectionery industry meanwhile can take credit for that additional week in the autumn, explained Downing, who teaches creative writing at Tufts University in Boston.

"The candy-makers have long wanted to have Halloween's trick-or-treat covered by daylight savings, for the children to be able to collect more candy," he said.

However, at least one US industry objected to the most recent change: the airlines.

"They had to reschedule the flights take off and landing times for international flights that had been fixed for years around. It cost the industry $200 to $400 million," Downing explained.

The United States used a two-year implementation delay in a bid to convince other countries to follow suit in an attempt to smooth things over. The cajoling didn't work.

Complicating the daylight saving dilemma further is that every US state can decide for itself whether to follow along.

Those shunning the system are Hawaii -- which enjoys sunshine all year round -- and Arizona, known for its sizzling summers.

-- "You're meant to duck!" --

At the Tiger camp, about 20 students from countries including Australia, Britain, Egypt and Russia sweated their way through a recent beginners' class under the close watch of muscular former Thai professionals.

"One, two, duck, body punch," shouted one of the instructors as the students, of varying levels of fitness, practised their moves.

After warm-up exercises involving jogging, stretching, star jumps and shadow boxing, the students paired up to spar, punching the air within a whisker of their opponents' ears.

"You're meant to duck!" one girl reminded her friend after a near miss.

The main goal of most of the trainees is not to become a boxing champion but to lose weight, said instructor Phirop Chuaikaitum, better known as Ajarn (Master) Dang.

"They run for a long time, stretching, punching in the air for a long time -- that makes it easy to lose weight," he said.

"But we don't make it hard because they will get hurt. We do it slowly but non-stop for two-and-a-half hours. They only have a three-minute break."

There is no slacking off, even for royalty.

"There was one guy who was a prince from Dubai," Phirop said.

"He came for the beginner class. I hit him with a stick and he told me that he was from a royal family. Whether you're a construction worker or member of a royal family, when you come for boxing training you are all equal."

As the session neared an end, sweat dripped from the students' foreheads and they grimaced with pain. And the knock-out blow -- 100 push-ups to finish, for those with the energy left.

"It does hurt. You're sore everywhere. Sometimes it's tough to walk," Henderson said. "You're dripping in sweat but once you get back, have a shower, a swim in the pool -- you can't buy that feeling."

AFP

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