One Year To Go To Tokyo 2020

Brendan Gallagher: The Daily Telegraph writer reviews the return to action of Sir Chris Hoy

Duncan Mackay

Cycling may be the new golf, Dave Brailsford and Sky might have set off in pursuit of the Tour de France and Cav may have recently been voted the overseas sportsman of the Year in Belgium, of all places, but somethings never changes – notably the British National Track Championships.
Understated, unheralded and proudly non-commercial the "Nationals"  remain the grass roots event par excellence. A competitors event run purely for the convenience of competitors at the start of their winter season. A very in-house gathering of the faithful and none the worse for that. 
Should you wish to watch entrance is free for all but a couple of the evening sessions but the crowd is virtually negligible. The focus is totally on the riders, their bikes and catching up on the gossip in the pitts.
Not surprisingly it was in this welcoming and familiar environment in which Sir Chris Hoy decided to make his first competitive appearance in Britain since the Beijing Olympics after a serious hip injury torpedoed his best efforts last season. He chose well.
Originally Hoy had set his sights on this week’s World Cup competition in Manchester but such was his form in training in September and early October that he had no qualms in starting a week early at the Nationals where any gremlins would be ironed out away from the public gaze.
Not that there appeared to be any. He looked imperious on a chilly Thursday morning when he unleashed a world class time of 9.990sec in the flying 200 metres to qualify in first position for the men’s sprint. Later in the day he marched through the knock-out stages and eventually took the title in style defeating Matt Crampton 2-0 in the final.
If anything he was even more impressive in the team sprint when he anchored a Team Sky HD squad to victory in a very swift 43.759, the sort of time that will win a big medal at the World Championships in Copenhagen in March. In qualification Jamie Staff, Jason Kenny and Ross Edgar did the needful with Hoy being drafted in for the final instead of Edgar, a taste of probably GB tactics this season.
The flying Scot concluded a highly successful week on the Saturday evening when he crushed the opposition in the keirin, leading from the front as usual. He is back and clearly with no diminution of his powers.
Elsewhere there was also a hat-trick of gold medals for Vicky Pendleton, who seems likely to be granted a shot at three gold medals at London 2012 with the UCI poised to confirm changes to the programme next month. 
Pendleton finally gave herself a break in the summer after batting on after the Olympics and arrived in Manchester in stunning early season form, decimating the fields in the 500m time-trial, sprint and keirin posting times in the 500m and the flying 200m for the Sprint that were very close to lifetime bests.
Geraint Thomas meanwhile was catching the eye in the men's 4km individual pursuit. A key member of the world record breaking team pursuit squad in Beijing, Thomas posed two back to back 4min 18sec with no apparent discomfort. He can undoubtedly go quicker and would seem a very strong gold medal prospect in the World Championships in March.


But two factors could militate against that. As a core member of Team Sky he night be otherwise engaged on the road and even if Brailsford – his boss at Sky and Team GB – decided an assault on the Worlds is indicated is there much point in targeting an event that seems certain to be dropped from the Olympic programme?
The answer is an emphatic yes. The 4km is still one of the classic events and an absolute pure test of class and ability. If Thomas concentrates on it and can bring home a gold it would be a huge boost to his confidence on the track and road. It's a prize worth chasing.


The multi-talented Brendan Gallagher writes for the Daily Telegraph, covering a variety of sports, including rugby union, cycling and basketball

Mike Rowbottom: What will they think of next?

Duncan Mackay

James Clarke, senior vice-president of the World Sport Group, was asked an interesting question at this week’s inaugural Global Sports Industry Congress in London.

Having set up the exclusive internet televising of the last Asian Youth Games, did he think that this method of publicising a sports event, a method employed more recently to show the England football team’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, was the way of the future? Was this a watershed?

"Yes," he said, before adding rather important qualification. "I think so."


Wise man.

Back in the 1920s, you could imagine those behind the first football commentaries on radio being asked the same question about the eight-square grid system in which listeners were invited to imagine the ball as it moved around the pitch.

Such is the problem of new technology – in the time it takes to write a sentence it's old technology.

Clarke's fellow speaker Paul Barber, executive director at Tottenham Hotspur, offered his own version of how swiftly things are changing on the broadcasting front.

Barber, who before joining Spurs in 2005 was the Football Association’s Director of Marketing and Communications, recalled the furore that occurred in 2000 when England’s World Cup qualifier in Finland was exclusively broadcast on the pay-for-view U-channel, which had purchased screening rights for £3.25 million.

"Even though we had no control over that decision, we were lambasted because it was the first time an England World Cup qualifier had been on a paying platform," Barber recalled. "Now virtually every England game is on a paying platform."

Barber has witnessed the cutting edge of technological change in his own household – as wielded by that most fearsome of new wave figures, a youngster. "My 15-year-old thinks using e-mail and texts is prehistoric," said Barber with a fitting degree of resignation. "They use Facebook or PSP."

"Yeah," I thought. "Right. PSP. Had to be."

Then I thought: "Is that like…ESP?"

So then I asked: "What is PSP?"

PSP – short for PlayStation Portable, a generic term for hand-held game units with their own hard drive.

Barber and his colleagues are now considering using such units in the proposed new Spurs stadium, the theory being that fans can use a PSP to replay as much of the foregoing action as they please until they leave the ground, at which point the data will be blocked, or stripped.

"I'd be happy to pay an extra couple of quid for that option," Barber said brightly. He may be right. He may be wrong.

It's just a stray thought, and not a particularly positive one, but I’m just wondering what thousands of football fans might feel like doing with their PSPs if things start to go seriously awry on the pitch.

I could imagine a situation where some technology might take a swift route down from stands to grass – if they continue to play on grass, that is.

Such things have been known to happen in football grounds.

But I digress.



Before I undigress, though, I wonder whether referees and linesmen could be given their own PSPs for instant action replays of controversial incidents.

They might be less likely, too, to lob the technology into the stands if things weren't going tickety-boo…

Frankly, nothing is better calculated to make you feel out of touch with the modern world than a bright and lively youngster.

I speak as a man whose ability to record TV programmes was effectively phased out by a new DVD player several years ago.

I'm sure it's all very simple, but I just cannot be arsed to pick up the instructions, skip past the Arabic and German sections and start looking for English sentences that correspond even vaguely to something I need to know.

Barber offered another tantalising glimpse of the future when he discussed the new Sony development of  "picture-stitching", which he says can recreate in a viewer the experience of being in a stadium. "It makes you feel like you are there," he said.

At this rate, they won't need to put any seats in the stadium because everybody will be able to get the same experience without leaving the pub.

If people are still drinking in pubs by then, that is.

There will also be increasing options for remote viewers of sporting action to be interactive. They will be able to track particular players throughout a match, or to view the action from particular angles.

Another general comment from Clarke on the subject of broadcast technology seems appropriate here: "The pace of change will be faster than we can imagine."

Again,wise man.

He's right, no doubt.

But the urge to imagine is strong – and I have a bold concept which, although it appears far-fetched right now, may one day be viewed as a commonplace.

It's this. How long can it be before the red button we use to choose our viewing options includes the result?

Nothing is better calculated to improve viewer approval than a successful outcome in the sporting event they are watching.

And if viewing rights can be purchased, why not outcomes?

The monetisation of this optional process is straightforward. RBR's, as they will be know – Red Button Results, stupid – will be achieved through the accretion of nominal payments from participating supporters.

Put simply, the team whose viewers contribute the most through this method win, with contributions from the other team being transferred to their next sporting fixture.

That will mean their team are effectively a goal up before they kick off – a situation which will require even larger numbers of opposing fans to enter the RBR process.

I think it's worth running up the flagpole. If we still hang flags on poles, that is.


Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now chief feature writer for insidethegames.

Andy Hunt: The BOA's new home will help us deliver our objectives for London 2012

Duncan Mackay

Sixty Charlotte Street represents the new home of British Olympic and Paralympic sport. It is significant, and a great step forward, that we are co-locating with our Paralympic colleagues. The relationship between our two organisations has always been strong.


We, of course, share similar values, not just from the wider Movements of which we proudly belong, but within the British sporting landscape where we uniquely share the honour of servicing and representing our country’s finest athletes through Team GB and Paralympics GB. We felt it was only appropriate that our two organisations found a home somewhere that symbolised excellence - and while it is incredibly modern, it imaginatively pays tribute to our Olympic and Paralympic heritage.
Given the extensive media coverage of the finances of the British Olympic Association (BOA), you may be wondering how the BOA could afford such a wonderful new office. Put simply, we benefited from the sale of our old HQ at the height of the market and then negotiated this new lease at the very bottom of the market in the spring.


For the fitting out, in true entrepreneurial spirit, we begged, borrowed and cajoled and above all received an unprecedented amount of support from our Landlords (PPG), Olympic partners (Panasonic and BT) and a whole host of suppliers (architects Gebler Tooth, design and build Modus, brand agency Antidote, Cisco, our agents CBRE and NetPractise (Audiovisual), many of whom have worked at cost to help us create something that we would otherwise not have been able to afford. 


The BOA has undergone a significant restructuring and transformation process over the past year. Our chairman’s vision was to ensure that we as an organisation were fit to deliver for our athletes and fulfill our objectives as a Host Nation of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The move to Charlotte Street encompasses that fresh vision and purpose. We want to create a culture that is vibrant, a place where our staff feel motivated and inspired, and an organisation that is dynamic and forward-thinking. In the timeless words of the Olympic Movement: Faster, Higher, Stronger.
To coincide with the opening of the new offices, we have also introduced revitalised emblems for both the BOA and Team GB, emblems that reflect the values we’ll bring to every aspect of our work, both now and in the years ahead. We have also sought a fresh way of encapsulating Olympism and the values of the Olympic Movement, creating an expression that is personal to the BOA - "Better Never Stops".  This expression will underpin our working practices, encouraging us to strive for excellence in everything we do.
As the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games come closer, there has never been a more important time for our organisations to be unswerving and resilient, and above all - aligned in our purpose. The British Olympic and Paralympic Movements will, I have no doubt, thrive in Charlotte Street and that can only benefit the future of sport throughout the United Kingdom.

Andy Hunt is the chief executive of the British Olympic Association

Alan Hubbard: Rapprochement between amateurs and pro can only be good for boxing

Duncan Mackay

They were mixing it at the Boxing Writers’ Club dinner in London’s Mayfair this week. Not in the nose-biffing sense, of course. The annual bash of the pugilistic cognoscenti is always a model of decorum, cauliflower ears sponged and pressed (and that’s just the scribes) and everyone chirpily swapping yarns rather than punches. No, the exchanges were friendly rather than fistic, none more so than the one-time fractious professional and amateur elements of the of the fight fraternity.

There is a new togetherness now that can only be good for the game. Thankfully gone are the days of the apartheid between the headguards and vests brigade and  those who punched for pay that was as viciously imposed as that which once existed between Rugby Union and Rugby League. Colin Moynihan , the British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman, who won a boxing Blue for Oxford as a bantamweight, still chuckles when he recalls how he was suspended by the simon pure blazerati of Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) for sparring with pros at the famous Thomas A’Beckett gym in South London.


There was a time too, when the ABA would not share the same room as the professional British Boxing Board of Control with whom discussions have subsequently started about the possibility of boxing eventually coming under a single umbrella body.


This is the same ABA who, together with then freshly-constituted British Amateur Boxing Association, this year took a table at our Club dinner, a function traditionally dominated by the professional element. Of course, all the big name pros or ex-pros  there, including Frank Bruno, Chris Eubank, Billy Walker, John H Stracey, Charlie Magri, Lloyd Honeyghan, James DeGale and Tony Jeffries were all former  top amateurs. And that was always the bone of contention.


For inevitably the amateurs lost their best men to the professional stables and how it rankled.

Now these are more enlightened times. The barriers have been eased down and the twin aspects of boxing are sensibly learning to work together. Pros and amateurs now spar regularly. It was not generally known that the successful Beijing Olympic squad took four paid sparring partners with them to their pre-Games camp in Macau at the instigation of then national coach Terry Edwards. It worked well.


Now two former world class pros, Robert McCracken, the one-time British middleweight champion who now trains world champion Carl Froch, and Richie Woodhall, ex-world super-middleweight champion, are now consultants to Britain’s new national squad. Woodhall is currently with them on their boxing tour of the United States and Finland.

Fittingly too, the personable young amateur bantamweight Luke Campbell (pictured in blue), from Hull, Britain’s first Euro champ for almost half a century, followed unbeaten pro Kell Brook on to the rostrum to receive a Best Young Boxer award at the dinner.

This rapprochement is not only heartening but practical ,as nowadays boxing is fast becoming a pro-am sport anyway. Lottery funding means the best amateurs can train full time and be pros in all but name. And in fact when the new World Series, devised by AIBA, the international governing body for amateur boxing, gets under way, they will be pros in actuality too.


For so handsome are the proposed rewards in the global team tournament (five three minute rounds, sans vest and headguards) that most will earn more than they might as fledgling fighters on professional promotions within prize money ranging from US$30,000 (£18,000) to $300,00 (£180,000).

More details are likely to be unveiled when BABA and the ABA jointly launch their “Road to London 2012” mission at the House of Commons on November 9. For guest of honour will be Dr C K Wu, the new Taiwanese President of AIBA. While Dr Wu may sound like someone who tripped off George Formby’s ukulele, he is becoming a significant voice on the Olympic scene.


Not that his new baby, financially weaned by sports marketing giants IMG,is being welcomed into the world by everyone in the sport. In fact the incipient "professionalisation" of amateur boxing is believed to be one of the reasons why Kevin Hickey’s spell as BABA’s performance director was so short-lived.

But most see Dr Wu’s move, like the introduction of women’s boxing into the Olympics, as both progressive and necessary. Though it does lead us to wonder now the last bastion of the Olympics has been breached whether the day is not far off far off when boxers who have had only a few fights in the professional prize ring will be allowed to compete over three rounds in the Olympics should they wish to do so.


After all, tennis. basketball, and now golf, are entitled to field their top professionals and I can even envisage a future situation in which boxing has an open tournament at, say  under-23 level, as in football. Never? That’s what they said only a few years ago when pros and amateurs weren’t allowed to share the same table, let alone the same ring.

Now, if not exactly hand in boxing glove, they are at least touching gloves and getting ready to come out fighting. Together.  
Alan Hubbard is a sports columnist and boxing correspondent of The Independent on Sunday, and a former chairman of The Boxing Writers’ Club. He has covered 11 summer Olympics.

John Anderson: A great face for radio

Duncan Mackay

The Olympics Games have always held a fascination for me. I was born in an Olympic year, 1960, and Mexico 1968 with Tommie Smith’s black power salute, Bob Beamon’s jaw dropping long jump and David Hemery’s hurdles gold medal are among my earliest sporting memories.


In 1972 news of Valery Borzov’s sprint double, Mark Spitz’s domination in the pool and the horrors of the Olympic Village massacre filtered through from Munich to my family holiday in Brittany via tiny TV screens in local bars and three day old copies of the Daily Mail. 


By Montreal in 1976, aged 15, I was on a scout camp in Devon, listening to the radio commentary of Trinidadian Hasely Crawford’s surprise win in the 100 metres and by the time 1980 came along I was a lowly pensions administration clerk rushing home to watch Allan Wells, Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Daley Thompson triumph in Moscow.    


The Los Angeles Games coincided with my first taste of radio journalism at my local station County Sound in Guildford where I was a breakfast show runner, helping compile the news and sport for bulletins. Even then, if someone had told me than that I'd actually be at the next Olympics in Seoul as a commentator and reporter I'd have drugs tested them for LSD, magic mushrooms and methylated spirits.


And yet, having eventually graduated to the ranks of sports reporter at Independent Radio News (IRN) I embarked upon my own Olympic odyssey which spanned the five Games between Seoul 1988 and Athens 2004. 


Now don't get me wrong, the BBC covers the Olympics brilliantly on TV, Radio and online. And so they should, since they routinely send more people out to the Games than the Team GB do and have a special correspondent for virtually every sport.


At IRN things were rather different. Generally we would have a staff of two with a brief as far and wide as the event itself. Basically it was a giant treasure hunt in which, using our journalistic and sporting instincts as metal detectors, we would scour the host city for the merest whiff of gold, silver or bronze for Britain.


When it came to athletics and swimming this was relatively straightforward given that we understood the sport and knew the performers well, but just as often we would find ourselves reporting from events of which we had little or no knowledge. And that is where things didn't always go according to plan. 


At Sydney 2000 archer Alison Williamson was considered a medal hope and so I went along to do an interview with her as a scene setter. I knew nothing about archery but, assuming it couldn't be too complicated and keen to sound well informed, I came out with, what I thought, was a clever opening question.


"So four long years of training and preparation all comes down to that little red cirle at the centre of the target."


"It’s yellow," she replied.


In Barcelona when Chris Boardman (pictured) and his super bike became one of the biggest stories of the Games I headed of to the Velodrome to capture the British cyclist’s bid for glory in the 4,000 metres Individual Pursuit. 


Although cycling is now an Olympic sport at which Britain regularly excels, in 1992 it barely warranted a mention and so I was far from being an expert. Indeed, prior to Boardman’s success, the last time Britain had won a gold medal on two wheels was courtesy of a couple of blokes on a tandem in 1912. 


I was not providing actual live coverage of the race but wanted to capture a commentary the final lap on tape so that it could be replayed in forthcoming news bulletins. It was clear, even to a cycling neophyte like me, that Boardman was going to win, as he was almost on Lehman’s shoulder as the last lap loomed and, barring a stray cat or a Spanish lollipop lady wandering across the track in front of him, the gold medal was as good as his. The bell rang for the final lap and I took a deep breath and got as far as. "It's Chris Boardman for Great Britain…legs pumping furiously in pursuit of golden glory……"


At which point Boardman whizzed past his German opponent Jens Lehmann (no, not the former Arsenal goalkeeper), raised his arms and then freewheeled for a hundred metres or so before dismounting and punching the air in triumph. 


What I had singularly failed to understand was that once a rider overtakes his opponent he has won the race, since the pursuit has been successfully completed.  In my defence, it has to be said that this outcome is extremely rare and had never before occurred in an Olympic final.


I am just thankful that, during my Olympic time, there were never any British medal prospects in the individual sabre or Greco Roman wrestling.

Freelance broadcaster John Anderson covered five Olympic Games in a long career as the chief sports reporter at Independent Radio News. Now he’s written a memoir entitled "A Great Face For Radio", which is packed with hilarious anecdotes, witty observations and fascinating behind the scenes insights drawn from almost two decades on the road. To order a copy click here.

Roald Bradstock: Proud to be British again and aiming for London 2012

Duncan Mackay

As I checked my e-mails a little after 8pm on Friday evening I noticed a message in my in-box from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).  As I opened it and read it I realised this innocent looking e-mail was my official notification from the IAAF, from Pierre Weiss, IAAF General Secretary, granting my request for a change in "status". 


As of Friday, October 16, 2009 the IAAF will now allow me to compete for Great Britain & NI - I was officially "British" again after more than a decade of having competed for the United States. This change means that the IAAF has cleared the way for me to attempt something very unique and to do it in my home country in 2012:  I am going to attempt to compete in an eighth consecutive Olympic Trials in the javelin at the ripe old age of 50!


So the question now is can I do it? Can I stay fit and healthy, avoid injury and sickness for the another three years in one of the most violent, physically stressful events there is? It is hard enough to do when you are young. Now I have all the age related health concerns and physical limitations due to the aging process and all the wear and tear of decades of training and throwing. Well the answer is I don't know, but I am going to try. I do like a challenge!


This is not the first time I have set myself such lofty, ambitious goal.  In 1968 I was diagnosed with spina bifida and told never to play sports, in fact I was instructed to avoid them altogether for fear that I would become paralysed. I remember very vividly the doctors looking at the x-rays of my spine and being baffled that I could walk - but I did. 

Around the same time as my diagnosis in 1968 I watched the Mexico Olympics in amazement. I was inspired. I knew that's what I wanted to be - "An Olympian" and I even knew the event I wanted to pursue: the javelin.


The odds were stacked against me, but I was inspired, determined, and very, very stubborn.  I knew I would have to train hard but I also knew I would have to be creative.

I sought out the most knowledgeable coaches I could find and developed a special technique for throwing that would minimise stress on my back, yet allow me to reach my full potential. I began improving dramatically but at every barrier I reached, every new level I got to whether it was school, district, county or national, I was greeted by a slew of  "naysayers" telling me why I could not go any further:  I was too small, too slow, had a weak back, etc. 

As I smashed record after record at the school, district, county, national and international level, I was still met with a myriad of reasons why I could not throw any further and repeatedly told that I was going to get injured and my back would give out.  Even during the television coverage on the BBC of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, my good friend and neighbour BBC commentator Ron Pickering talked about my back, my spina bifida.

I was the first Britain to break 90 metres with a Commonwealth record of 91.40m [under the javelin's old speficiations]  in 1985. I was the first person in the world to break the 80m barrier with the new rule javelin with a world record 81.74m in 1986, which I then improved on to a life time best of 83.84m the following year.


Several decades later here I am, still standing, still throwing, still competing and still breaking records. This year I threw 72.49m for a world age-record for a 47-year-old. - a distance that puts me fifth in the 2009 UK Rankings. To date I haven’t had any problems with my back and I have never had a single surgery on any part of my body (again, to date ) - how many javelin throwers can say that? 

So as I look toward 2012 I feel confident I can make it to my eight Olympic Trials. Will my back give out, my knees, my body?  Maybe. But my passion and the love for my sport and the Olympics will not waiver. 

My Olympic journey began over 40 years ago in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. It has taken me around the world, living in two Olympic cities Los Angeles and Atlanta . It seems only fitting that I end my athletic career on my home turf and hopefully in the Olympic Stadium in 2012. My Olympic journey would then be complete traveling full circle from beginning to end. 

Javelin throwing is an explosive fast dynamic event but if I can make to that field in 2012 it would be athletic accomplishment of durability, perseverance a 50 years in the making.  But make no mistake if you see me out there throwing my spear in 2012 it will be as much an artistic statement as athletic accomplishment.  Not because I may be wearing hand painted outfits that match my javelins, although I am not ruling that out, but it will be "performance art" that combines sport and art with time and timing - 50 years of time and a set time and location to perform. 

Will my quest have an amazing ending or will it be a sad saga of someone that doesn't know when to quit? Well I embrace both knowing that either is possible - to succeed one must be willing to fail.

Roald Bradstock represented Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and in 1996 was an alternate for United States Olympic team. Bradstock competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic Trials. In addition to being an Olympic athlete, Bradstock is also an Olympic artist dubbed "The Olympic Picasso".

David Owen: An Olympics in Hiroshima would be a stunning and wonderful idea

Duncan Mackay

I went to Hiroshima seven years ago.

It was during the 2002 World Cup and the visit acted as a supreme reality check.

After three weeks wallowing in the best escapism on the planet, the sight of the Japanese city’s ruined dome, its skeleton exposed like a barbed wire climbing-frame, restored my sense of perspective with a thud.

Two days earlier in the bowels of a football stadium maybe 500 kilometresm away in Shizuoka, I had looked on as a distraught David Seaman and his England team-mates reacted to being knocked out of the competition by an outrageous Ronaldinho free-kick.

At the time, their despair seemed only natural. Viewed from the spot where the most terrible and important single event of the 20th century had taken place, it was exposed as utterly preposterous.

How could a grown man be reduced to tears by anything as small as a World Cup?

These memories came rushing back to me this week when I read that Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other Japanese city attacked with an atomic bomb by the United States in World War Two, were considering a joint bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Conceptually, this is a stunning and wonderful idea.

We all take winning in sport much too seriously these days.

Pierre de Coubertin’s assertion that, "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part", has taken on the timbre of a quaint cliché, more honoured, by far, in the breach than the observance.

Staging the Games on land incinerated by bombs that harnessed what President Harry S. Truman described as "the basic power of the universe" would restore a much-needed dose of humility to proceedings.

No other city could give a more compelling answer to the question, 'Why should the Olympics be staged here?'

It is on turning one’s mind to the other fundamental question – 'How are the Olympics to be staged here?' – that the practical difficulties that would probably undermine a Hiroshima/Nagasaki bid become evident.

These are principally, 1. They are not big cities – the population of Hiroshima is just over one million; that of Nagasaki not quite half of that and 2. They are not that close – a map I consulted suggests an intervening distance of about 300 kilometres, as the crane flies.

It could be that the symbolism inherent in staging the Games in these two cities would be deemed so potent as to override the usual practical concerns, but I doubt it.

As the last two contests have shown, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is spoilt for choice at the moment when it comes to selecting its Summer Games hosts.

Having said that, a strong Asian bid should stand a good chance of walking off with the prize in 2020.

For example, Tokyo – which garnered a lot of goodwill in a losing cause with its recent 2016 bid – could be formidable if it tries again.

It seems to me that there could be a way of granting Hiroshima and Nagasaki at least a piece of their Olympic dream while investing a new Tokyo bid with a potentially decisive extra dimension.

Why not advocate making Hiroshima and Nagasaki the heart of the 2020 Olympic football tournament?

This is generally spread around the host country in any case and my hunch is that FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is also an IOC member, would welcome the idea.

Other places associated with the war – Okinawa? – could perhaps also stage matches.

● As one Olympic race finishes, another begins.

We now know that there will be just three bidders – Annecy of France, Munich of Germany and (for the third time in a row) Pyeongchang of South Korea – in the contest to stage the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For the 2014 Games, won eventually by Sochi, there were seven applicant-cities.

So my question is: Should the IOC be concerned?

I have to say my answer would be, Yes, kind of.

There is no crisis here: economic times are hard, so it was always likely that cities which might in other circumstances have bid would think very hard before entering this prestige contest.

And these are solid runners; I would be surprised if any of them fails to make it to the Candidate-city phase, making it a three-horse race in the final stages – the same as last time.

It is only fair to point out too that Sochi 2014 is bucking the economic trend as far as corporate sponsorship is concerned.

As I speculated in February, it could be that Sochi will be the first Winter Olympics to raise more than $1 billion (£613 million) in domestic sponsorship.

But Sochi, I suspect, will prove a bit of a one-off.

Not only is Russia a part of the world where the Winter Olympics matters more than just about anywhere else, but Vladimir Putin, a politician who wields very considerable power, has made the Sochi Games a personal project.

Both factors, I would think, must be helping Games organisers to ride out these tough economic times in good shape.

Vancouver 2010, for whom the global financial crisis could hardly have come at a worse time, have appeared less serene, with the IOC recently agreeing to assist Games organisers if, as feared, they incur a deficit caused by the recession’s impact on corporate sponsorship.

The Canadian city’s problems are largely a timing issue.

As Andrew Benett, global chief strategy officer for Euro RSCG Worldwide, the advertising agency, recently told me: "If the Vancouver Winter Olympics had been in February 2011, not 2010, they would be suffering less."

However, as Benett went on to say, "Even so, the Winter Olympics have never done as well as the Summer Olympics."

In short, I am starting to wonder whether the time has not come for the Movement to start thinking in earnest about how to beef the Winter Olympics up.

The fundamental problem, of course, is that – unlike their summer counterpart – large chunks of the world, which rarely experience snow and ice, are not really interested in them.

This has business repercussions for the IOC since, while the sums raked in by the Winter Games are far from negligible, its real copper-bottomed money-spinner – the Summer Olympics – comes along only once every four years.

(In this respect, the IOC is a bit like FIFA, world football’s governing body, whose flagship competition – the World Cup – is also on a four-year cycle.)

I have long thought that the IOC would benefit by making the Summer and Winter Olympics more equal in scale.

It seems to me, furthermore, that there is a relatively simple – if no doubt politicially delicate – way of achieving this.

Why not switch some of the indoor sports currently in the Summer Olympic programme to the Winter Games?

I can’t really see why disciplines such as track cycling and gymnastics shouldn’t make such a move, in the process broadening the appeal of an event that can seem like the Movement’s poor cousin.

And how about volleyball – a sport popular in many snow-less nations that would still have, in beach volleyball, a format ideally suited to the Summer Games?

The financial milestones being established by Sochi will probably mean that Olympic bosses can get by without making significant changes to the shape of the Winter Games if they want to. Whether this would be the wisest stance to adopt is another matter.

David Owen is a specialist sports journalist who worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering last year's Beijing Olympics. An archive of Owen’s material may be found by Twitter users at

Charlie Charters: Rugby's political structure should bar it from the Olympics

Duncan Mackay

I'm in a big bind here – I love rugby (even went to the school where it was invented) and I especially love Fiji rugby (I'm writing this within arms reach of a jersey signed by the 1997 Sevens Rugby World Cup-winning team, and a framed photo of the 15s side that beat the British Lions in 1977).

But sometimes you have to think with your head and not your heart. And I believe that by admitting rugby into the Olympics, the International Olympic Committtee (IOC) are propping up a political structure of governance that is discredited and needs to be swept away to save the game we all love.

Political power within the International Rugby Board (IRB) is vigorously and jealously manipulated by a self-selected elite of first-world nations. But don't just take my word for it. Last year an independent study, co-authored by top UK legal firm Addleshaw Goddard, found that seven per cent of the IRB's member unions controlled 62 per cent of the voting power. Put another way, 90 per cent of the unions (think, developing world) had less than a quarter of the votes. The system is rigged in favour of the few, over the many.

The IRB does have a Congress and it also has an Executive Committee but slotted in between is the 26-member Council, the apex of power – rugby's equivalent of a boardroom, and expressly referred to in the game's constitution as the sport's supreme authority.

Sixteen votes, two-a-piece, come from the so-called Foundation Unions of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Compared to this permanent bloc, the 10 votes shared, one each, between Japan, Italy, Argentina, Canada and the six regional confederations, are almost an irrelevance.

Impoverished Fiji, for instance, has one vote among 11 others within the Federation of Oceania Rugby Union (FORU) to select the Pacific's IRB representative (currently, the Samoan lawyer Harry Schuster). Australia and New Zealand also vote in the same FORU election as well as having two seats apiece in the Council.

And what of the IRB's Congress, where all the member unions attend? Little more than a talking shop, concluded Addleshaw Goddard, in a highly critical report entitled Putting Rugby First. Noting the Congress meets only every two years and has no formal legislative powers, consequently the wider membership - in one sense equivalent to the full shareholders register of world rugby - has extremely limited power and fewer opportunities to influence the direction of world rugby.

If the rest of the sports affiliated with the Olympic Movement are doing things differently, with greater accountability and transparency, why does rugby have this mania for control and privilege?

The answer is fear. The painful truth is rugby is not in good health across the Council membership.

Some examples: the number of senior male players in Scotland may soon tip below 10,000; in Australia almost all of the Super 14 matches were out-rated in the critical New South Wales TV market by the National Rugby League Under-20 Toyota Cup (that's right, no-name teenagers playing league); in England, a month into the Premiership season and only two sides had scored try-bonus points and five out of the 12 teams were averaging less than a try a match (prompting headlines in the Daily Telegraph such as, Is It Me, Or Is The Rugby Rubbish?)

Everybody on the Council is fretting about something, from the weakness of their local currency to inroads made by rival sporting codes. Which is why the 20 delegates representing national unions view issues through the prism, not of what is good for THE game but what is good for MY game.

This mutual suspicion is what collapsed long-overdue attempts to rewrite the laws of the game (the so-called ELVs). And why, as rugby enters its first economic recession since turning professional, the game's lack of leadership is imperilling its very existence as an entertainment choice.

Not only have the ELVs been bounced into touch but a raft of long-overdue areas of reform have also been neglected because decision-making has become such a fraught and deadlocked process.

The IRB concedes the political structure is skewed in favour of some nations but adds, it is not unreasonable to argue that those that provide the bulk of players and money into the game should have the bulk of the representation.

The bulk of players? Well, that isn't true. Fiji, with a population one-sixth of Scotland, has more senior male players and a consistently higher IRB ranking but is only represented at arm's length by a regional confederation.

Perhaps quality of players? Not true either. Japan, Italy and Canada hold three precious Council votes but between them have only once reached the final eight in all editions of the Rugby World Cup. Samoa has made it to the knockout stages in three of the five previous tournaments, yet has no direct vote.

The tragedy of rugby is that it started at the same time as football, from the same place, has a similar colonial heritage and a deliberately low cost of entry and participation.

But rugby's consistently backward-looking governance has denied the sport the spectacular trajectory enjoyed by football.

The teams likely to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup are the exact same sides you would have backed 100 years ago had there been a tournament. And those sides belong to the very unions in whose grasp all political and legislative control is permanently vested. Yet with all that power, rugby is in, or teetering near, apparent crisis within most of the council membership.

And that's why the IOC should have sent a clear message to the IRB Council. Play fair with your governance. Loosen your grip, open things up, and once you've created a level playing field, then come and join the Olympic Movement.

London-born Charlie Charters was marketing manager of the Fiji Rugby Union from 2001-04 and helped create the Pacific Islanders test side. He is now a writer, and his debut book Bolt Action, a thriller, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010

Philip Barker: Lord Burghley - Britain's most powerful ever sports administrator

Duncan Mackay

In his heyday, he was  the most powerful man in world sport, but in a peculiarly British way.

Lord Burghley, Marquess of Exeter, was President of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a fierce defender of the amateur code. He had been a world class athlete and Olympic 400 metres hurdles champion.

"Few men made such a vast contribution to the Olympic Movement and amateur sport or tried to remain so loyal to the concept of Baron Pierre de Coubertin," wrote The Guardian's John Rodda of the man who had dominated British sport for almost half-a-century.

He was born David George Brownlow Cecil in 1905 , the year the British Olympic Association (BOA) was formed and that was appropriate. He held the offices of chairman and President of the BOA, one of very few to do so, and was also president of the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) for 40 years. Even his Rolls Royce had the number plate AAA1.

He could trace his lineage back to Elizabethan times, and on the sports field he was the ultimate gentleman amateur. "He always seemed to have complete control of his nerves and has the happy gift of being able to talk about any subject under the sun, the farther removed from Athletics the better," said Bob Tisdall, his successor as Olympic 400m hurdles champion.

The IOC noted "he fought valiantly to keep amateur sports amateur, trying to instill in athletes’ minds ,the  glory of competing for sportsmanship and not for money.

Burghley was the only one of the three leading characters who lived to see the release of the Oscar winning "Chariots of Fire", set at the 1924 Paris Olympics. In the film  his part was re-christened "Lord Lindsay" and played by Nigel Havers (pictured). As producer Lord Puttnam will cheerfully admit, the film changes some details for dramatic effect.Burghley is actually  thought to have trained with matchboxes on hurdles, not glasses of champagne, evidently unwilling to waste a drop.

Abrahams and His Lordship never raced around the Great Court of Trinity together, but Burghley did beat the  clock three years after the Paris Games.

His diary entry for June 7 1927 recorded  "ran round Trinity Court on the flags while the clock struck 12, doing it  before the one but last stroke, time 42 and a half seconds." In the film he bursts in to a meeting with the Prince of Wales  and suggests that Eric Liddell takes his place in the 400m. The 19-year-old Burghley competed only at the 110m hurdles in 1924

By 1928 in Amsterdam he went to the Olympics as AAAs champion and lined up in the final of the 400m hurdles. Drawn on the outside lane, Burghley went off well and at the last hurdle produced "a desperate turn of speed when his feet once more touched the ground".

His winning time  53.4sec was a new Olympic record.

On his return to London, he was mobbed by crowds and is reported to have said: "What a reception! I would rather face a hundred champions than a crowd like that."

Two years later, in Hamilton, Ontario for the inaugural  British Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games)  he won three gold medals and stood  for the first time on a  medal  podium, an innovation later "borrowed" by the Olympic Games.

His third and final Olympics were in Los Angeles  in 1932.  He demonstrated  sportsmanship by parading in the long and tiring Opening Ceremony, simply because he became aware that his closest rivals were doing the same. He finished fourth in the 400m hurdles  final , and also reached the 110m hurdles final and won 4x400m silver. The following year, he became a member of the IOC at the age of 28. He also went into Parliament as the Honourable Member for Peterborough, he was sent to Bermuda during World War Two as Governor General. When London was awarded the 1948 Olympics with little more than two years to prepare, Burghley became chairman of the organising committee, a role filled for the London 2012 Games by Sebastian Coe, another Lord.

It was a measure of his success that on July 29 1948, he welcomed King George VI to Wembley Stadium on a scorching day to open the games of the XIV Olympiad. Dubbed the "Austerity Games," they were staged on a shoestring with no new facilities built. "The Olympic spirit fired all those who worked in the organisation." he said. "They contributed their uttermost to create a great and glorious landmark."

He also wrote the farewell message for the Wembley scoreboard. "The Olympic Spirit which has tarried here a while, sets forth once more."

Burghley had replaced Sigfrid Edstrom as President of the IAAF in 1946 .Many believe it was down to  his encouragement that the Soviet Union made their return to international athletics. "He possessed tremendous authority," wrote Lord Killanin, the IOC President from 1972 until 1980. "He would have all the support of the Eastern European countries, they liked him and treated him with respect because he was an athlete."

It wasn’t just in the East either. When the British Army of the Rhine lobbied for West Germany to enter the 1952 Olympics, they wrote to Burghley, "In the earnest hope that you will use your best endeavours  to obtain agreement." By now an IOC Executive Board member - the last Briton to hold such a lofty position in world sport until Sir Craig Reedie was elected to the same position Copenhagen earlier this month -  in 1952 Burghley stood  for the Presidency against the American businessman Avery Brundage, another who saw the amateur code as sacrosanct. The members went with Brundage by a vote of 30-17.

Burghley became Marquess of Exeter in 1956 and challenged for the leadership again in 1964. This time, the vote was conducted by postal ballot and the figures were not revealed by the IOC to apparently to save the losing candidate any "embarrassment". Brundage won again.
"At 59 which he was then, he could have given invaluable service to the IOC over the next eight to 12 years," observed Killanin. "His knowledge of athletics and the Olympic movement was immense. Personally I think it was a great pity that he lost."

Exeter remained a vice-president of the IOC until 1966 and served on the Executive Board until 1970. He was still in charge of the IAAF and 40 years after his own triumph he presented an Olympic gold medal to another British 400m hurdles gold medallist, David Hemery.

He remained President of the BOA until after the 1976 Montreal Olympics, but his last appearance on an Olympic stage came in 1981 at the IOC Congress and Session in Baden Baden, a few weeks before his death. This was where the IOC opened the way for  professionals. Olympians had no longer to be "amateur" but simply "eligible". It was farewell to the world in which Exeter had lived his sporting life. As he said goodbye, he received the Olympic Order in gold.

The IOC president of the day Juan Antonio Samaranch offered his own tribute. "It is difficult to put into words the importance of Lord Exeter’s role...He was overwhelming and influential in his dedication to athletics. He dedicated his life to the world of sports and actively promoted the ideals of amateurism and Olympism for more than 50 years."

Philip Barker, a freelance journalist, has been on the editorial team of the Journal of Olympic History and is credited with having transformed the publication into one of the most respected historical publications on the history of the Olympic Games. He is also an expert on Olympic Music, a field which is not generally well known.

Alan Hubbard: Gary Lineker can be England 2018's Sebastian Coe

Duncan Mackay

Jack Warner may be a noxious clown but he has certainly had England’s 2018 World Cup bidders jumping through hoops.

The Fifa vice-president from Trinidad, whose support supposedly is crucial to England’s quest to stage the tournament for the first time since 1966, has never been much if an Anglophile and his jibe that the bid is "lightweight" is par for the particular course he is adopting. But at least it seems to have provoked an overdue revamping of a bid hitherto heading perilously in the same direction as Paris’s abortive attempt to get the 2012 Olympic Games.

It may not simply be coincidence that the former Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady, aka the first lady of football and now the new sidekick of Sir Alan Sugar on The Apprentice, has been told "You’re hired!" She comes in to add glam and gumption, alongside Paul Elliott, a welcome black presence and worthy anti-racist campaigner who is as erudite off field as he was a player on it for Chelsea and Celtic.

Out goes Baroness Amos, off to be Our Woman in Canberra, the  Labour peer whose original inclusion baffled many in football as her knowledge of the game could be written on the back of her occasional Spurs match day ticket.   

All excellent moves, as was the recent belated invitation to Seb Coe, who knows more than anyone in the land about bid-winning. But do they go far enough? Much as we all want England to play host in 2018 the vibes are not altogether heartening.

Led by another Labour peer, Lord Triesman, who has elected himself to double with his role as FA chairman, the bid team still appears politically top-heavy (though it might well have been politic, in every sense,  to incorporate the Shadow Sports Minister Hugh Robertson as he looks likely to be doing the job for real when the bid is decided). The uncomfortable echoes of Paris four years ago remain. If the outcome was to be decided on technical merit alone then surely England would be home and dry.


We have the stadia, the pedigree and then organisational nous. But history shows these bids are won by style as much as substance and we continue to await the evidence that this England team (like its playing counterparts) can actually win the World Cup. Like, Paris, its lacks, pizzazz and personality up front.

Also, favourite is not the most comfortable position. Ask not only Paris, but Chicago - and remember England considered themselves as such when the 2006 World Cup was up for grabs. Then arrogance and complacency was blamed for a disastrous defeat – not to mention a broken promise that they would not bid against Germany. Luckily there seems little likelihood of those characteristics repeating themselves this time but other factors may weigh against England. High among them is a continuing lack of popularity among  elements of FIFA, not just Warner’s cronies. It is vital that these are won over.

The question is whether Lord Triesman is the man to do woo the waverers. While he may consider he has the clout, does he really have the charisma to do as Lord Coe did in Singapore?

London’s fortunes changed when Coe replaced  Barbara Cassani, a square peg in the Olympic rings, as bid chairman. Maybe a change of striker would work similarly for England.

So who could do a Seb for England? Alas, the good lord himself is otherwise occupied with 2012, though he is now giving useful input to the bid together with his erstwhile vice-chairman Sir Keith Mills. While candidates don’t exactly leap, out at you, surely it would be beneficial to those star-gazing FIFA delegates to see a former player of distinction up front? While David Beckham will be as invaluable mid-field as he was for London 2012, you can’t imagine him giving the keynote address. But you need not delve back into the realms of 1966 and all that to unearth someone capable of putting a Coe-like message across.


My choice would be Gary Lineker (pictured), who has the lucidity, the tele-presence, the profile and a fluency in Spanish that would impress the FIFA's influential Latin bloc. Alongside him I’d have Sir Trevor Brooking who has the necessary gravitas.

It is a pity that Heather Rabbatts, the former Millwall chair, cannot be persuaded to make herself available, too. Both gifted and black, she is a feisty, opinionated lady who herself would make an outstanding bid leader if football was not such a male dominated bastion. One problem though is that she is married to Mike Lee. the former UEFA and London 2012 spinmeister who masterminded Rio’s 2016 Olympics-winning campaign but whose proven PR skills have been overlooked by England. Instead he is helping to promote rivals Qatar – who are not bidding for 2018 but watch them emerge as serious contenders for 2022.

However it seems unlikely that the seriously single-minded Triesman  will drop himself and bring on a sub at this stage. So we must hope he is equipped to score against some tough opposition, the most formidable of which I believe will be Russia now they have declared themselves in. Having a first World Cup in Eastern Europe could be as appealing to FIFA as giving an Olympics debut to South America was the IOC.

It is easy to flatter Blatter,and Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is known to have the ear of the FIFA boss, as indeed, does someone far more powerful; former President Vladimir Putin,, now the Prime Minister, whose friendly persuasion was instrumental in snatching the 2014 Winter Games for the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Matching Triesman against this Russian giant will be as intriguing and potentially painful an Anglo-Russian punch-up as little David Haye taking on the 24-stone seven-foot Goliath Nikolay Valuev.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered 11 summer Olympics and several football World Cups.

Tom Degun: Running in the shadow of Usain Bolt

Duncan Mackay

As the 2009 athletics season drew to a close, there was just one name on everyone’s lips: Usain Bolt.

That should not come as any real surprise considering the giant Jamaican has torn up the script of what is within the realms of human possibility. In a 12 month span, Bolt has twice destroyed both the 100 and 200 metres world records as well as the 4x100m relay world record.

If his performance at the Beijing Olympics – where he slowed down whilst rewriting the history books - was outstanding, the adjective to describe his performance in Berlin has yet to be invented. Perhaps 9.58sec in the 100m and 19.19 in the 200m says it all.

But while the world marvels at the majesty Bolt, a humble American lurks quietly in the background and who, despite his truly remarkable feats, seems to be the forgotten man of world sprinting.

His name is Tyson Gay and he is the man with the great privilege and huge misfortune of being the closest rival to Bolt.

In the 100m final in Berlin, Gay - who was the defending world champion over the 100m, 200m and 4x 100m relay – ran the astonishing time of 9.71, the third-fastest time in history. This time set a new United States record and when considering that modern sprinting greats such as Maurice Greene and Carl Lewis are from those shores, that certainly is no mean feat. Yet Gay only finished second.

Indeed 9.71 would have bought Gay a gold medal and world record in all but two races in the history of the event. Unfortunately for Gay, he ran against the genetic freak who won those two races. Whilst any normal person would have been delighted with the time and furious with Bolt, the mild mannered American just shrugged his shoulders, congratulated Bolt and told the world's media that his time simply wasn't good enough. What a true gentleman. I really can't help but feel sorry for Gay. Of all the world’s athletes, he suffers most from being born in the era of Bolt.

Let us take those American sprinting greats Greene and Lewis I mentioned and let’s throw in some other 100m legends like Linford Christie, Frankie Fredericks, Ato Boldon and current sprint rival Asafa Powell. Gay’s time beats them all over the distance. And on top of that, just three weeks ago at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, Gay ran the second-fastest men's 100 metres on record.

His winning time of 9.69 equaled the time set by Bolt at the Beijing Olympics. And all this with a nagging groin injury that is soon to go under the surgeon’s knife. He should be blistering next season then. But still, nobody appears to care.

Only the more knowledgeable athletics fans are even aware that Gay recently ran a time of 9.69 and can comprehend how unbelievably fast that is. But to many, Gay simply remains the man who is favorite to finish first behind Bolt.


However, there remains a realistic possibility that Gay could yet emerge from the great man’s enormous shadow.  Although the American is obviously a phenomenal 100m runner, I believe his best distance is over the 200m and when I had the privilege of meeting Bolt in London earlier this year, he told me the same thing.

Gay's best time over the distance is 19.58, the third fastest over the distance behind Bolt and sprint legend Michael Johnson. A less commonly known fact is that Gay has only raced Bolt over 200m in one major final at the 2007 Osaka World Championships. And Gay won.

True, he wasn't racing the fully matured version of Usain Bolt we have come to know and worship. Rather a very talented 21-year-old from Jamaica who at the time, was only destined for greatness. But even so, Gay won and therefore still holds the better head to head record over the distance. Surely that must count for something?   

Don’t misunderstand me, I love Usain Bolt. I think what he is doing for the sport is superb and he is without a doubt the “coolest” guy I have ever met. But I really hope that Gay beats him next season. And what’s more, I think it could happen.


Was it just me, or was Gay gaining on Bolt in the Berlin 100m final after the Jamaican’s far superior start? Furthermore, I think that if Gay has a successful operation on his groin - lets say it takes 0.7 off his personal best over 100m and 200m - and improves on the poor starts he been prone to this season; he could be a genuine threat to Bolt.

Let me set you a scenario. Bolt and Gay line up for a major race in 2010, let’s say – because I’m English - at the Crystal Palace Grand Prix. Bolt – as he is at the moment- is considered unbeatable while Gay is in good form though the two are racing for the first time in the season. Bolt is in lane six while Gay is just inside in lane five. The gun goes off and while Bolt gets a poor start (which is more than feasible) Gay come flying out of the blocks. After a perfect bend, Gay surges past Bolt with 70 meters left to go.

Bolt, who has not experienced the situation for centuries, begins to tighten up. He realises that his immortality is under threat by the last man to beat him in a major final. The crowd see Bolt struggle for the first time in their lives and their cheers spur Gay over the line in a world record time of 19.18. Bolt finishes a distant second in 19.25.

Imagine the headlines..."Lightning Strikes Bolt!" "Gay Topples Superman!" "Bolt Beaten Bad." Okay, I’m a little crazy and I’ve gone well into the realms of fantasy while my imagination is running away with me but if anyone can beat Bolt, it’s Gay.

Certainly Gay has more chance of achieving victory over the Jamaican that Dwain Chambers with his ridiculous "Project Bolt", which had about as much merit as me heading to my garage, pulling out my second-hand golf clubs and embarking on “Project Woods".

But in all seriousness, how fantastic it would be if once, just once, Bolt was beaten and we had a rivalry rather than a procession on our hands? While we all love watching the “Usain Bolt Show”, seeing one man consistently destroy seven others will eventually become tedious. And Gay beating Bolt could actually turn out help Bolt.

The Jamaican – who has achieved almost everything in the sport - needs a challenge like all sporting greats who have thrived because of a fierce rival’s challenge. Ali had Frazer, Borg had McEnroe and Federer’s career became far more intriguing when a young Spaniard called Nadal turned up. A true Bolt v Gay rivalry would undoubtedly be exciting to watch and would be fantastic for the sport of athletics.

So let us appreciate the talents of Tyson Gay. Let us cheer him on and let us be grateful that we, the spectators, have a man on our hands who is perhaps the only man in history with the potential to challenge the greatness of Bolt. After all; who better to challenge the fastest man of all time than the second?


Tom Degun is a reporter with

Dame Kelly Holmes: I can see how London 2012 is inspiring everybody

Duncan Mackay

Dame Kelly Holmes 280113It seems that London 2012, coupled with our athletes' fantastic achievements at the Beijing Olympics and this year’s athletics World Championships, is already having a real impact on our nation. I'm lucky enough to meet an array of people participating in sport, from kids at schools, to up-and-coming athletes (of all ages) and those at the more elite end of the scale. London 2012 is certainly on people’s lips.

The fantastic achievements of our athletes in Beijing provided the perfect springboard for London and its plans for 2012. It wasn’t just that we won such a high number of gold medals, it was the fact that we medalled over such a number of different sports. This is clear evidence that the funding that has been put in place is proving worthwhile. Speaking as a female athlete, it was also great to see a leap in performance from the British women, raising their profiles and giving young women more role models to be excited about ahead of 2012.

Through my "On Camp with Kelly" mentoring initiative, I’ve seen first-hand how positive young talented athletes are about the forthcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games. I have been mentoring 60 junior middle distance athletes (45 girls and 15 boys) with 17 of them going on to compete at the European Junior Championships, European Under-23 Championships and World Youth Games. Nine of those athletes were medallists and it really seems like some of them have what it takes to make it to the top. 

The beauty of London 2012 is that, for those with the talent and aspiration, it acts as a real driver. Because of 2012, promising young athletes are having to mature more quickly. With developments in coaching and sports science, plus increases in funding, the young athletes seem to be getting faster a lot younger than before.  

"On Camp with Kelly" will have been a nine year project by the time the Games arrive and it would be fantastic to see someone from the Camp go all the way. However, it’s also important for some athletes to realise that 2012 may be too soon for them but, if 2016 is a more realistic target, they will still be able to reap the benefits of seeing the Olympics close-up in London.

It's great to be in a position where you can use your experiences to benefit a new generation of athletes. It's so important that former professional sports people pass down their knowledge and advice to young talent who can really benefit from it to help improve their performance. The BT Backing Talent programme, run through the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, utilises retired sports people to engage with youngsters participating in sport. We recognise that former athletes have the ability to engage younger people and, in turn, inspire them.  

As part of the BT Ambassador scheme, I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with some of their younger sporting Ambassadors about their goals ahead of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It's good to be an Ambassador for a company that values the London 2012 opportunity and, internally, is doing all it can to make its staff feel part of the journey.

With the 1,000 Days To Go milestones fast approaching (Olympics on October 31 and Paralympics on December 3) it certainly brings home how time is flying. Before we know it, it’ll be 2011 and we’ll be on the final run-in to the event. All eyes are on London, British athletes and the sports system to achieve the best possible results and deliver a brilliant Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Some of the elite athletes that have performed so well recently will already be feeling the pressure to match or better their excellent achievements, especially as it’s on home turf.  Not everyone can go on to be an elite athlete, but everyone can be involved in sport.

I have always said sport has the ability to transform lives through Social inclusion, community engagement, communication and leadership skills, personal development, aspirational fulfilment and healthier lifestyles. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are two of the most inspirational events in the world and the thought of them coming to Britain really seems to have impacted on participation in sport.

I’m constantly meeting people of varying ability and age who want to talk about the Games now we just need them to start saying they have started playing a particular sport because they were inspired by them.

Bring on 2012!

Dame Kelly Holmes is a BT Ambassador.  BT is the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and title sponsor of the BT Paralympic World Cup. For more information click here.

David Owen: Why the US World Cup bid will not "do a Chicago"

Duncan Mackay

That didn’t take long: it’s been scarcely a week since Rio emerged triumphant as host-city of the 2016 Olympics, yet already the sports world has moved on emphatically to the next big thing – the race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

With a Leaders in Football conference scheduled for last week in London, this abrupt switch was perhaps on the cards.

A little less predictable (but, OK, only a little) was the cascade of criticism showered on England’s World Cup bid, with one English newspaper posing the question, "Will England’s 2018 team do a Chicago?"

This sort of comparison should not be overdone: we are talking about very, very different races. The World Cup 'electorate' – also known as FIFA's Executive Committee - numbers only 24 (versus more than 100 members of the International Olympic Committee). And fully a third of them are from countries who are bidding for one competition or the other.

Nonetheless, there is one important way in which England’s position in the world of football is similar to that of the United States in Olympicland.

This is that, whatever they do, the rest of the world seems more inclined to typecast them in the role of pantomime villain than any other country.

This is very hard to address. Bid leaders have striven mightily to guard against any trace of the arrogance for which English football has been pilloried in the past. But is this compatible with the salesmanship necessary to persuade the rest of the world that England’s bid is best? It will be a delicate balance to strike.

One advantage of England 2018 over Chicago 2016 is that England’s technical bid - crammed with big, modern, evocative, football-specific arenas – should be demonstrably the best on offer.

Another is that it has in the Premier League, a globally revered product that takes English football into the living-rooms of fans of every nation – including countries with FIFA Executive Committee members such as Thailand and Nigeria - on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately this is a two-edged sword: FIFA and UEFA, the European football confederation, are inclined to see the Premier League as a powerful rival.

It would be potentially disastrous for England if it were somehow to put Michel Platini’s nose out of joint, prompting the UEFA President publicly to endorse the bid of one of England’s European rivals.

So the Premier League’s global appeal is a weapon that must be wielded with great care and, for the moment at least, largely in private.

Used in the right way, though, the global web of contacts built up over many years by Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards and his colleagues might just make all the difference.

One World Cup bid that I don’t expect to "do a Chicago" is, ironically, that from the US.

Mexico’s recent withdrawal – predicted here as long ago as June 1 leaves the US in glorious isolation as the sole bidder from CONCACAF, the snappily entitled Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

That makes the task faced by CONCACAF leaders in the current bid race crystal clear: do everything in their power to ensure that one competition or the other takes place in the US.

What a contrast with the crowded fields from Europe and Asia, which have respectively four and five separate runners.

It so happens that CONCACAF has, in President Jack Warner (the man who touched off last week’s flurry of World Cup bid headlines), one of world football’s most adroit politicians.

But I reckon even I could land one of these World Cups for the US in these circumstances.

Put yourself in Warner’s position:

CONCACAF has three votes on FIFA's Executive Committee in its own right.

There are a further three votes from South America, the host confederation for 2014, some or all of whom might feel a sense of regional solidarity with their North American neighbours.

And, though one hopes that the process would be more dignified than this perhaps implies, wouldn't you expect the other bidding countries with Executive Committee members - there are SEVEN in all - to be turning their minds to how they can persuade CONCACAF members to vote for them once the US is out of the running, either because it has been eliminated or because it has won the right to stage the 2018 tournament?

With a US-based World Cup also certain to be a commercial success and to fire interest for the sport in a market that still has huge growth potential, it doesn’t appear that difficult to come up with the necessary 13 votes.

(It seems to me, incidentally, that in this dream scenario for the US, Warner is almost duty-bound to keep other bidders in the dark regarding his voting intentions at least for the time being, since such a strategy would probably leave him best-placed to extract pledges that could be of benefit to CONCACAF football.)

For whatever reason, a lot of people seem to think of the US as a likelier bet to stage the 2022 World Cup - and, looking at the bigger picture and the fact that the 2014 tournament is in Brazil, this may indeed be how it pans out.

My question, though, is as follows: given the favourable way in which the cookie has crumbled, what if the US wins the 2018 vote, as it assuredly could?

In a word, panic.

Though I still think more withdrawals are likely, as things stand today, you’d be left with an almighty scramble pitching four European bidders - Belgium/Holland, England, Russia and Spain/Portugal - against five from Asia - Australia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.

And, though I'm sure FIFA would take a deep breath before turning its back on Europe for what would be a fourth-consecutive tournament, who is to say that the commercial security afforded by the US might not then embolden them to sail their flagship competition IOC-like into the virgin territory of Australia or even the Middle East?

How does that motto run? "For the Game. For the World".

Food for thought.

David Owen is a specialist sports journalist who worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering last year's Beijing Olympics. An archive of Owen’s material may be found by Twitter users at 

Jens Sejer Andersen: Rogge has never been in a stronger position to clean up the Olympics

Duncan Mackay

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge had reasons to be satisfied when he entered the closing reception with his colleagues yesterday in the Tivoli Gardens, ending nine days of the Olympic summit in Copenhagen.

Re-elected by an 88-1 majority Rogge can start his last four year term with a strengthened mandate to achieve his political goals.

Everything in Copenhagen went as planned by the IOC President, who most often acts with discretion, but keeps tight control over details.

After a 15 year break the IOC Congress dealt with issues such as conditions for athletes, the autonomy of organisations, youth involvement in sport, the future of the Olympic Games and the digital media challenges, and the Congress ended by approving the conclusions that were mostly written in advance.

Moreover, the 106 IOC members took notice of Rogge’s hints and made clear decisions on important matters like the choice of Rio as host city for the Summer Olympics 2016, the election of rugby and golf as new sports and elections to the IOC’s executive levels.

Rogge not only counts on support from his constituency. He also has the advantage that he cannot be re-elected when his third four-year term ends in 2013, and hence he is freer than before to take unpopular steps.

Therefore, the next four years will be decisive for whether the 67-year-old Belgian will be regarded as the staunch reformer that he was launched to be when replacing the controversial Spaniard Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001.

In the first eight years, Rogge has obviously been hampered by his predecessor, now Honorary President Samaranch, who has been a very active lobbyist in the Olympic circles, not always in support of Rogge’s visions.

As recently as during the choice of the 2016 host city 89-year-old Samaranch could mobilise 32 votes in favour of Madrid, and for many years he has been assumed to control around 40 of the 76 members who were appointed under Samaranch’s 21 year long rule.

As a born diplomat Rogge's (pictured) attitude to Samaranch is kept private, but the accumulated irritation is appreciable when Rogge to the American website Around the Rings says about his own future after stepping down in 2013: "I think the first quality of a past president is to shut up. "

Until Rogge resigns, it will be needed more than ever that he speaks up.

If the IOC is to give convincing answers to its challenges, for instance with regard to involving the youth and combating the growing corruption, it has to radically change the prevailing culture of silence.

Meetings in Copenhagen have stressed that the IOC still inhabits a reality of its own where open debate about difficulties is as welcomed as the use of pesticides among organic farmers. On this field, Rogge does not display a significantly different management style to his predecessor.

The IOC likes to take praise of being open and transparent, but largely practices the opposite, although it has a far better score than many other sports organisations. Whether it is the ability or the will that is lacking is hard to tell. A few examples:

  • One year before the congress, the IOC opened a website with the promising title "Virtual Congress". If anyone imagined something like a forum for dialogue that could warm the public and the participants up to the next Congress, they were thoroughly mistaken. The correct title should have been "Virtual Mailbox", because the website was a simple mail slot in which anyone could submit a text about the congressional five main themes, but without being able to read or comment on what others delivered. The website resulted in 1,400 entries, which was sent to delegates as a huge book. Not bad, but also not referred to at all during the Congress meetings – at least not those that Play the Game could attend.
  • Apart from this book and the designated main themes not even the IOC members received information about the Congress programme. Neither the website nor information upon arrival revealed even basic information such as list of participants and names of presenters. Reportedly it was an angry outburst by ex-King Constantine, Honorary Member of the IOC, that convinced the organisers to put photocopies forward every morning with programme details. Only for that same day, of course - the IOC perhaps assumed we would not be able to cope with more information.
  • During the plenary sessions, we were allowed to listen to prominent speakers, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the forefront. No questions were taken, neither by Ki-moon nor lower-ranking speakers over three days. The discussion forums we also were invited to were no such thing. Instead of exchanging and developing thoughts the set-up allowed only a pure delivery of viewpoints. Each participant was allowed to deliver a two minutes statement, but without any interaction between the delegates. 
  • Last but not least, the organisers provided completely impossible working conditions for the media at the beginning of the Congress. The media were not allowed into the meeting room or to come into close contact with participants during breaks.

The IOC took pride in hosting a few personal representatives of the world public for the first time, and the main sessions can still be seen in their full length at But giving access to professionals representing millions of readers and viewers – no way.

Only after a massive protest from the media the organisers decided to lift the ill-considered restrictions.

In my quite long career as a conference guest and organiser I have never experienced such rigid and secretive management of a forum that was supposed to provide "intellectual guidance" to the IOC's leadership on vital issues.

One could easily get the impression that the organisers tried to avoid that hundreds of delegates would delay the straight way toward the pre-given conclusions.

As a final discouragement, Jacques Rogge rounded the conference off by inviting to the next Olympic Congress – in 15 years time!

Can the IOC possibly imagine that the world will continue to evolve at greater speed than the IOC itself, and that a need for consultation with the outside world might arise before the year 2024?

Why not keep the Congress every four years as part of the Olympics, as an open interaction with stakeholders, inspired by a permanent "Virtual Congress" with online debate and information sharing concerning sport’s most pressing issues?

Among all Olympic taboos, one stands out as the most serious credibility problem.
Although the IOC president in his two opening speeches and on other occasions stated that the IOC maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, the IOC, just like the rest of the international sports community, suffers from a collective repression of the three letters I-S-L.

The ISL was for two decades the world's leading company for sports marketing. Last year a court in Switzerland declared that the ISL from 1989 until its collapse in 2001 paid out more than $100 million as secret personal commissions to a narrow group of leaders from a handful of international federations, in return for TV and marketing rights to be managed by the ISL.

Not one federation has responded to this information, nor has the IOC. The court named only a few names of bribe takers, and therefore it is surprising that Jacques Rogge stated with certainty during the closing press conference that no IOC members had even been involved. How can he know?

The ISL taboo also leaves us unknowing if it is still "just another day at the office" to sell TV and marketing rights by channelling bribes through secret funds and bank notes bundled tightly in attaché cases. Did that practice die with the ISL?

Too add insult to injury, the only person that knows every bit of the affair, the ISL director Jean-Marie Weber (pictured) who personally distributed the bribes, was a very active guest at the IOC meetings, residing at the chosen IOC hotel, the Marriott.

ISL is by far the worst, but certainly not the only repressed affair in the sports world. Corruption is flourishing both on the pitch and in the corridors of the International Handball Federation, and in the International Volleyball Federation a new chairman is cleaning up after the Mexican Ruben Acosta, who in his 24 years as a despotic ruler awarded himself fees for at least $20 million (£12.6 million).

In 2004 IOC put pressure on Acosta, but when he voluntarily lay down his status as an IOC member with reference to his coming of age, the IOC left volleyball to its own devices.

As exception to the rule, the IOC should be commended for enforcing reforms in the international boxing federation AIBA, partly by withholding AIBA's share of the profits from the Olympics.

Also, it must be said to Rogge's credit that he ensured that the congress created a basis for the IOC to intervene more actively in future. A number of congressional recommendations are set to create uniform rules for "good governance" throughout the Olympic Movement, including in National Olympic Committees (NOC's) and international federations.

The Congress furthermore proposed that federations and NOC's must submit annual reports on governance and that it must be possible to sanction those who violate the common rules.

But the credibility of these efforts is weakened when one realises that they are to be executed by people around Rogge with a somewhat more diverse CV than the President himself.

What are we to think when the IOC this week chose Italy’s Mario Pescante for vice-president, the man who in the 1990s funded EPO experiments at the University of Ferrara, where skiers, cyclists and other elite sport people flocked?

Pescante, who had to resign as chairman of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in 1998 because the doping laboratory in Rome cheated with tests of Italian footballers? This dubious past has not prevented Pescante from making a brilliant career as a longstanding secretary for sport in Berlusconi's Government, President of the European Olympic Committees - and now vice-president of the IOC.

And what are we to think when at the same time the IOC rejects the new President of AIBA, Taiwanese Ching-Kuo Wu, as a member of the IOC Executive Committee, though Wu has been a frontrunner in cleaning up one of the most corrupt federations?

The IOC must thank its Gods - presumably the Greek ones led by Zeus and Pallas Athene – that only a few politicians, media people and sports fans are interested in sports politics, while the whole world is fascinated by the IOC's core product, the Olympic Games.

These Games were also under discussion in Copenhagen. One of the toughest challenges for Rogge has been to cut back on the Olympic programme and bring down the number of participants, so the games can also be held by smaller countries and appear in a handier format.

Now that the giant Summer Olympics in Beijing 2008, decided on the same session that brought Rogge to office in 2001, lie behind us, Rogge stands a better chance to reduce the size of the Games, helped along by an international financial crisis that does not encourage massive investment in high-tech sports facilities for single use.

Also the massive cost overruns in the preparations for the 2012 Olympics in London serve to alert many countries and help the IOC President's message of moderation through.

Two issues to which Jacques Rogge has shown a strong personal commitment are those of working conditions for athletes and the high dropout from sport among young people.
On both themes the Congress recommendations laid a clear track for further work. 
The health and rights of the athletes should be protected through education and information, and all organisations of the Olympic Movement should adopt rules protecting athletes from being exploited by agents, managers and sponsors.

Recognising that the athletes’ entourage exercises a great influence on the young athlete, the Congress recommends creating a committee for coaches, trainers and others in the entourage.

The Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore 2010 will not only serve as a test for a new type of event, but also as a personal test for Jacques Rogge. Despite widespread scepticism, even among close allies, Rogge has insisted that this kind of Games that have run at European level since 1991, must now grow to a global scale.

The Games are meant to draw young people back to sport, both as TV viewers and as practitioners, and they are to contain more cultural elements than adult Olympics. 
It seems unlikely that any of the two main goals will be reached, but the Youth Olympics may become a success in another way. From a marketing perspective, games that radiate youth and joy can strengthen the Olympic brand. Youth Olympics can also be an attractive target for countries that are eager to get a profile in international sport, but cannot overcome hosting the real Olympics.

This can be the case for small countries like Denmark, where curiously enough the chairman of the national sports confederation and NOC used this week’s Olympic event to dismiss any talk of a Danish bid for the Olympics.

While the Olympic bigwigs sat down at a beautifully set table in Tivoli, volunteers started to clean up the congress venue Bella Centre. The volunteers of course knew that they could not let troublesome items remain on the floor, pretending that they did not exist.

Will Rogge use his strengthened mandate to clean up as efficiently as the volunteers at the Bella Center? In four years time, we will know how clean the IOC can get.

Jens Sejer Andersen is the Director of Play the Game, an organisation that aims to strengthen the basic ethical values of sport and encourage democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport. Play the Game is an independent institution funded by the Danish Ministry of Culture, the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (DGI) and the Danish Federation of Company Sports (DFIF). Its offices are based at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus. This is article first appeared on the Play the Game. For more information click

Jonah Lomu: Rugby sevens is perfect for the Olympics

Duncan Mackay
My greatest regret as a player is that I never had the opportunity to compete for a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

I was fortunate enough to be a member of the New Zealand team that won gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. It was an awesome experience and gave me a flavour of what it might be like to compete at an Olympic Games.

Like many of my fellow top players, I grew up watching the Games. I was sports mad and watching the world's best athletes playing on the world's greatest stage gave me a great buzz.

I wanted to be there. I would have been proud to call myself an Olympian and speaking to rugby players from all corners of the world it is a sentiment that is echoed from New Zealand to Brazil, South Africa to China and everywhere in between.

You see it is not just to have the opportunity to go for a medal that excites us all, but also the opportunity to showcase our fantastic sport at the Olympic Games, to experience the Olympic village, mix with the world's best athletes and proudly represent our nation - you know it gives me a buzz just thinking about it.

Now, I might be too old to be around to play in Rio in 2016, but I was here in Copenhagen to express my belief that sevens is the perfect match for the Olympic Games, to represent the world's top players who have all backed the campaign, and share with the members and the global sporting community our passion for a sport that has brought so much joy, so many special memories and provided me with friends all over the world.

As someone who spent over a decade playing sevens, I firmly believe that it has an exciting blend of qualities that make it so suited to the Olympic Games. It reaches out to new audiences and engages youth, both girls and boys. It is played exceptionally talented players who are undoubtedly the fittest and quickest in the Game. It is also unpredictable and is already a hit with sports fans around the world who like to party, soak up the atmosphere and support all the teams.

It is also a sport that has slotted successfully into all the major multi-sport championships outside of the Games. As I have already mentioned, it is a hugely popular event at the Commonwealth Games attracting sell-out crowds, but sevens has also proven to be a hit at the World and Asian Games, leaving Rugby legacies within each host nation. sevens will also be played at the All Africa and Pan American Games, giving the opportunity for more nations to compete within a multi-sport environment - that is very exciting.

As I have already mentioned, there really are no "givens" in sevens as I can certainly testify. I played against the very best teams in the world in both 15-a-side and sevens, but only sevens currently provides the opportunity for emerging nations to compete with a defeat the best. I was in Dubai in March for rugby World Cup Sevens and I watched as pre-tournament favourites crashed out to a new generation of emerging teams.

Was I surprised? Maybe. Should I have been surprised? Definitely not. You see, sevens is a great leveller and rewards the brave and the likes of Kenya, Tunisia, the Cook Islands, United States, Zimbabwe, Portugal and Uruguay have all enjoyed success, claiming scalps. Indeed the quarter-finals of the Dubai event saw the four pre-tournament favourites crash out.

Yet it is not just the men's tournaments that provide the surprises. Women's rugby sevens is also thriving. In Dubai in March, I watched Spain, Thailand, Uganda, Russia, China, the US and Canada all cause upsets. Now, I must apologise to members of those teams mentioned if any offence is taken by classifying them as underdogs, but for those outside the Rugby family, this may come as a bit of a shock.

Indeed I was also pleased to see that the women's game has made great advances in recent years with standards increasing across the board and I have no doubt that Olympic Games inclusion will propel women's rugby to new heights around the world.

Coming back to my experiences, I know that sevens will be a success in an Olympic Games context. I know that the fans will travel, the top players will be there and that rugby will be a proud member of the Olympic family.

I also know that the global rugby family will be unified as one, and will have been awaiting the news from Copenhagen with everything crossed. Being here in Copenhagen I have been privileged to see that passion that International Rugby Board (IRB) President Bernard Lapasset and his team have for the Game, their dedication to the cause. I have also seen what this would mean to developing nations and have seen the messages of support from the global rugby family. Rugby sevens is the perfect fit for the Olympic Games.

Jonah Lomu won 63 caps for New Zealand in a career that started when he burst onto the international rugby scene during the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, he won a gold medal representing the All Blacks in the sevens tournaments