Happy Olympic Day!

The Big Read

Obstacle racing is all about doing things no sane person would want to do

mikepoloneckAmong the stalls in the booming main hall of the ExCeL Centre during Virgin London Marathon week was one espousing a rapidly growing variant of the increasingly popular sport of Making Life Brutally Difficult For Yourself – that is, obstacle racing.

You could imagine the banner over the Reebok Spartan Race stall reading: "Introduce yourself to a world of pain." Or perhaps: "Be bad to yourself. It will be worth it."

Obstacle racing is all about doing things no sane person would want to do – it is effectively a commando assault course, with all the accompanying mud, sweat and tears, with sadistic add-ons.

Would a new sport at the Olympics match the success of snowboarding and curling or suffer the fate of cricket and croquet?

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckAs wrestling, singled out for potential exclusion in 2020 by the International Olympic Committee, seeks to retain its grip on the Games of which it has been a part since the ancient days, speculation is now rising within Olympic circles – or should we say rings? – over which newcomer might manage to capitalise on the chance of joining the biggest sporting show on earth when it is hosted  by Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid.

Will karate get the gig? Tokyo would certainly be delighted at that turn of events if it was successful in its Games bid. Or will squash, now ticking more boxes than a market researcher, manage to court success at the third time of asking?

Pickering hoping to fulfil Olympic dream at Sochi 2014 after London 2012 hopes put on ice

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckThere is a familiar sense of routine to the year for Craig Pickering right now as he prepares for another summer as a top class sprinter. Beyond it, however, there now lies a sense of rising excitement as this 26-year-old looks forward to resuming his other sporting life - as a member of the British Bobsleigh squad aspiring to Olympic medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Pickering, from Crawley in Sussex but now based with the Marshall Milton Keynes Athletics Club, has already achieved more than most athletes would hope for in their career.

"First priority is always to make the judo more spectacular" says Vizer after London 2012 success

By Duncan Mackay

Duncan Mackay 2If Marius Vizer was looking to pick the brains of a couple of political heavyweights to get some tips for his campaign to become the new President of SportAccord then he had the perfect opportunity during London 2012.

In what was a stunning picture opportunity for the head of the International Judo Federation (IJF), Russian President Vladimir Putin showed up at ExCeL to spend his only day at the Olympics  in London watching judo, and was accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"Olympism is born together with wrestling" says new FILA President as fight to save sport starts

By Duncan Mackay

Duncan Mackay 2Certain days will always reverberate through history and for Nenad Lalovic he will forever remember where he was when he received news of the day that wrestling was dropped from the core programme of Olympic sports, a decision which, in the short-term at least, has dramatically changed the direction of his life.

"I can remember all of it," the Serbian recounts to insidethegames. "The 12th of February. I was in my office in Belgrade. I was working my affairs and was not looking at the internet or anything. Then one friend from Switzerland sent me an SMS, 'Did you see what happened?' Then the whole world went down for me."

Making Hay while the sun doesn't shine - BOA winter sports guru aiming high at Sochi 2014

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckMike Hay knows what it takes to perform supremely well at Olympic level. After a competitive curling career in which he helped Scotland win five European titles and two world silver medals, he turned to a coaching career in which, most gloriously, he guided Rhona Martin and her team of Scotswomen to their never-to-be-forgotten performance at 2002 Salt Lake City, where they came from the brink of an early exit to win the first British Winter Games since Torvill and Dean's 1984 ice dancing triumph, making the front and well as the back pages in the UK and attracting a home television audience of more than five million.

"Never run on an empty tum" says Michel Roux Jr. But – Dave Bedford – that doesn't mean beer and a curry.

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom head and shouldersIf it is indeed true that you are what you eat, then all those who gathered for the Virgin London Marathon's media lunch at La Gavroche last week would have stepped back out into the late afternoon chill of Upper Brook Street better and more cultivated individuals. Who knows, for a few minutes it might even have been the case.

The annual conjunction of running and food at the establishment of Michel Roux Jr, who is preparing to run London for an 18th time this year, always brings into consideration the important question of how marathons are best fuelled.

We are creative, we are innovative and we protect the legacy of Baron Pierre de Coubertin says modern pentathlon President

By Tom Degun

Tom Degun ITG2Depending on whether you believe rumours or not, which can always be a dangerous thing at even at the best of times, modern pentathlon is whispered to be one of the sports currently in real danger of being kicked off the Olympic Games sports programme.

At this stage, they are one of a number of sports which appear to be in a similarly precarious position as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board prepares to meet to discuss the situation next month.

That vital meeting in Lausanne on February 12 and 13 will see the Executive Board discuss which of the 26 sports that were part of London 2012 should be removed from the core programme and added to the seven who are currently bidding to be part of 2020.

With three very different Candidates bidding for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics it is an exciting time for the Olympic Movement

By David Owen

David OwenIt has been an exciting week. The Candidature files of the three cities vying to host the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games have landed. This means that, for the first time, it is possible to compare the detail of the three rival projects. If, that is, you are prepared to sift through nine dense, if showy, volumes.

Don't worry: I've done it so you don't have to, and the first thing I would say, if my red-rimmed eyes do not deceive me, is that, though it is a short shortlist, it is a very varied one.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Baron Pierre de Coubertin

By Philip Barker

Philip Barker head and shouldersThe man who changed the face of world sport forever was born 150 years ago on New Year's day.

His name was Pierre de Coubertin  and he was the driving force behind the revival of the Olympic Games. Last summer, London 2012 paid their own tribute by asking his great grand nephew Antoine de Navacelle to carry the Olympic Torch, at the very spot where the 1908 Olympic marathon had finished.

"It is a fantastic opportunity that I have been given to carry the torch on his behalf " said De Navacelle. "London and Paris are very much concerned with the same story because Pierre de Coubertin came to England in his youth."

The devil is in the detail for England's success at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom head and shouldersJessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Alistair Brownlee, Mo Farah. How good would it be for England if all four of those Olympic champions were able to turn up at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, now less than 600 days away? (All these competition countdowns...it's getting like Christmas shopping days...)

Answer, of course, very good. And all the signs are that this dream-list could become reality once Scotland welcomes back the version of Games it last hosted in Edinburgh in 1986.

England's experience at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games – despite the dire prognostications about dengue fever and dirty rooms – turned out to be largely positive as they were narrowly beaten by the hosts on the final day to the runners-up spot behind Australia, the perennial – sorry, quadrennial – leaders of the medal table.

Future of taekwondo in good hands as appointment of IOC member Aïcha Garad Ali targets gender equality

By Lauren Mattera

Lauren MatteraSince former World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) President Kim Un-Young, successfully placed taekwondo as an official sport into the Olympics in 2000, after being a demonstration sport for the 1998 Games in Seoul, the martial art has had its fair share of ups and downs.

A sport criticised for its Korean dominance, shouldering fears over its safety, carrying the opinion that it is a poor spectator sport and the unforgettable controversy surrounding its transparency created during the Beijing Games.

But the re-election of President Chung Won Choue in 2009, along with the growth of worldwide participating athletes, the increase in global WTF Federations, the efforts of the technical committee to introduce the Protector Scoring System (PSS) and an overview of their rules, taekwondo has worked hard at evolving as a fair, exciting and media-friendly sport – deeming it is as one of the most popular sports of this summer's Games.

London 2012 film stands alongside Olympic greats

By Duncan Mackay

Duncan Mackay head and shouldersBud Greenspan, who along with Leni Riefenstahl was undoubtedly the filmmaker who has done more than anyone to bring the Olympics to life on celluloid, was an unabashed fan of the 17 days of glory.

"They're two weeks of love," he once told an interviewer. "It's Like Never Never Land. Like Robin Hood shooting his arrow through the other guy's arrow. It's a privilege to be associated with the best in the world. How many times are you with the best in the world in something? They bring things forward that they don't ordinarily do."

For Greenspan, an unforgettable New Yorker who in later years always wore large, dark-framed glasses atop his shaved head because, his partner claimed, it was the only way he could remember where they were, the Olympics was a labour of love from the moment he discovered it when, as a 21-year-old, he delivered news of the 1948 Olympics in London to the folks back home by dialling in long distance to report what he had seen.

Not even the sky is the limit for Sochi 2014

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom50In the inky blackness of the Krasnaya Polyana mountains at night there is discernibly what looks at first glance like the constellation of the Plough. On second look, it is no such thing – merely a similar pattern of twinkling lights on a dormant crane.

When daybreak arrives, the crane swings back into action as the remorseless business of transforming the landscape into one capable of hosting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games continues. The organisers are not so much reaching for the stars – although, uniquely, their Torch Relay will reach outer space at one stage in its journey – as constructing them – setting about the task of building a Games, and in effect a small city, from scratch.

The scale of the ambition is awesome, almost brutal. And in addressing the World Press Briefing for the Olympics and Paralympics this week – an event held deep within that mountain range wherein the Alpine events will take place in just over a year's time – it has been articulated both by the Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, and the President of Sochi 2014, Dmitry Chernyshenko.

POW Games memorabilia is a true reflection of the Olympic spirit

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomThe doors to the biggest exhibition of athletics memorabilia are now open in Barcelona as part of the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) Centenary celebrations.

Items from 256BC to the present day have been assembled from all around the world for the six-week display in the Museu Olímpic i de l'Esport Juan Antoni Samaranch, next door to the 1992 Olympic stadium on Montjuïc.

All the names you would expect to see are featured. There are medals won by Britain's fabled middle distance trio of Steve Ovett, Seb Coe and Steve Cram. There is a bronze of the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi. There are spikes worn by Alberto Juantorena, and by Don Quarrie. There is a programme from the match that produced the Four Minute Mile at Iffley Road, Oxford, signed by Chris Brasher, Chris Chataway and Roger Bannister. There are shoes worn by Yelena Isinbayeva.