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The Big Read


The story of the first Lord of the London Olympic Rings

By Philip Barker

Philip Barker_London_2012_Olympic_May_2012When London organised the Olympic Games for the first time in 1908 they had less than two years to get ready. So they needed a man of the calibre of Lord Coe to head the Organising Committee. They found one in William Henry Grenfell (pictured below), later Lord Desborough of Taplow.

He was a talented runner, not as brilliant as Coe, but certainly good enough to represent Oxford University over three miles in the 1876 match against Cambridge at Lillie Bridge in West London. He was elected President of the university's Athletics Club, but it was on the water that he shone as a sportsman and had the rare distinction of also being elected President of the Oxford University Boat Club. He rowed in the fabled 1877 boat race which finished as a dead heat and later crossed the Channel in an eight.

Pin trading: more than just a hobby – it's a proper business too

By Tom Degun

tom degun_team_usa_media_summit_15-05-12I must admit I don't overly get the whole pin-badge collecting thing.

That said, I have a few that I know are particularly special – not least a small gold International Olympic Committee (IOC) pin kindly given to me by International Boxing Association (AIBA) President C K Wu. But pin collecting is still a subject I don't know all that much about.

From my relatively small time in the Olympic world, I have encountered frenzied pin trading on just three occasions. The first was at the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010 when I was genuinely bemused when I gave somebody the pin I had acquired in my free media bag (after they had politely asked for it) and was given three pins in exchange. It was later, when I dropped into the Athletes' Village and found a host of pin collectors frantically swapping, that I realised my earlier experience wasn't as strange as I had thought it was.


LaShawn Merritt: I'm not a drug cheat, that isn't me

By Tom Degun

tom degun_team_usa_media_summit_15-05-12The fascinating story of America's LaShawn Merritt, the Beijing 2008 Olympic 400 metres champion that dramatically fell from grace after testing positive for drugs, has been told many times and in many different ways.

To quickly summarise, the outrageously talented sprinter from Virginia dominated almost every competition at junior level, including the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) 2004 World Junior Championships, where he won three gold medals and set two junior world records in the relays.

Unlike many others, Merritt was able to translate his promising junior career into success at senior level and he truly announced himself on the international stage when he won silver at the IAAF 2007 World Championships behind team-mate and rival Jeremy Wariner.


From Russia with love: five outstanding Russian Olympians relive their mostly glory days in London

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom_17-11-11The hushed and swanky surrounds of the Grosvenor House Apartments in Park Lane offered a suitably smart venue for five of Russia's most illustrious Olympians this week.

Invited over by VisitBritain to do what Russian tourists do best for the best part of a week, 2008 Olympic silver medallist and former world number one tennis player Dinara Safina and 1996 Olympic 800 and 1500 metres winner Svetlana Masterkova have been out and about around the capital in company with Alexei Nemov, the all-around gymnastics champion in 2000, Maria Kiseleva, three-times Olympic synchronised swimming champion and Buvaisar Saitiev, the three-times Olympic free-style wrestling champion.

From raising money to activating maximum brand exposure Olympic sponsors are harnessing power of pins

By David Owen

David OwenThe Olympic pin craze, I get: having whiled away many childhood hours with my stamp collection - which briefly and, with the benefit of hindsight, rather worryingly, diversified into postmarks and, yes I admit it, locomotive number-plates - I can understand the zeal with which people all over the world set about accumulating these shiny mementoes of an undeniably special event.

What I could never quite grasp, until asked to tackle this article, was why some Olympic sponsors took the whole business so seriously.

I mean, were they hoping to sell more, say, Coke – or electricity – to hardcore pin-collectors?

Outspoken, unpredictable and genuine: Dave Bedford, London Marathon's race director, will be a hard act to follow

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom_17-11-11Like the two winners of the first London Marathon in 1981, Dick Beardsley and Inge Simonsen, David Bedford and Hugh Brasher will be hand-in-hand during next week's 32nd running of the event. Not literally, perhaps – but figuratively.

Bedford, who joined the London Marathon in 1986, takes the final step this year towards relinquishing the position of race director which he has carried out so spectacularly well in succession to Brasher's father Chris, who established the event with John Disley and stepped up to the position of Life President in 1995.


It'll take more than an Icelandic ash cloud to halt the power of SportAccord

By David Owen

David OwenRemember Eyjafjallajökull?

Anna Hellman does.

The Icelandic volcano caused some of her most stressful days as executive director of SportAccord Convention, which – as Hellman and her colleagues prepare for the 10th anniversary edition from May 20 to 25 in Québec City, Canada – is firmly established as one of the key events in the international calendar for sports decision-makers.

South African sports owes East London a "huge debt of gratitude" says Sam Ramsamy

By Tom Degun

Tom Degun_Innsbruck_2012For Sam Ramsamy, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be particularly poignant.

The 74-year-old from Durban is one of the most respected and powerful figures in sport, praised widely for shaping dramatically South African sport and respected in his position as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board member.

Ramsamy was one of the most high-profile anti-apartheid campaigners for the latter part of the last century and served as chairman of the South Africa non-racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) during the apartheid years of 1976 to 1990.

Steve Backley shows us how to unleash "The Champion in All of Us"

By Mike Rowbottom
Mike RowbottomWith just over four months to go until the third London Olympics and Paralympics get underway, there are already 59 British competitors who are able to set their sights clearly on how they will perform in the biggest event of their lives, having been officially selected.

For many others, the next few weeks will be suffused with nerves, and uncertainty. Listening to the reaction of Jo Jackson the other day to her Olympic selection was instructive. Given her previous performances in the pool at the Olympics and world championships, she looked – on the face of it – an obvious choice to represent her country in the home Games.

But injury and a persistent problem with asthma had hampered her preparations, and her relief upon actually making the team was palpable. As she said, people had been wishing her luck for London 2012 for months, making the assumption that she would be there – an assumption she could not allow herself to share.

From the Apprentice to rising star in the IOC, Angela Ruggiero is one to watch

By Tom Degun

Tom Degun_Innsbruck_2012The Organising Committee for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics can consider themselves extremely fortunate that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has named a Coordination Commission of huge experience to help the South Korean city with their preparations for the Games.

The 11-person Commission will be chaired by Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg, who was part of the Coordination Commission for the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

She is also part of the Commission for Sochi 2014, which is still in working mode.

Chronicles of a Canadian pinhead

By Andrew Kollo

Andrew Kollo_head_and_shoulders
My love affair with Olympic pins started during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.

My mother's uncle was a boxing judge at the 1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles and 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. I had been regaled with stories of my extended family's involvement with the Olympic Games.

My uncle - through marriage - Ferenc Puskás played football for Hungary in the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games, where they won the gold medal.  My uncle Puskás gave me one of his Hungarian Olympic football uniforms.

I was 10 years old when I attended the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games.

Blur have helped bring London 2012 live events into sharper focus

Mike Rowbottom_17-11-11The sights and sounds of London 2012 are getting closer and closer. Soon – very soon – the BBC Big Screens already set up in 22 cities around the British Isles will fill with live Olympic and Paralympic action, and the squares and streets and parks around those screens will teem with activity and music.

In the last few weeks, some vivid details have begun to emerge as to how the Games will connect with the wider, non ticket-bearing public.

For BT London Live, ironically, it is Blur who have given one of their iconic projects a hard edge.

Despite RFU experience, Steele is anything but bitter as he begins new role

By Tom Degun

Tom Degun5When John Steele was officially unveiled as chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust on January 23, it is fair to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised.

There was certainly no doubting his credentials for the position, given that Steele boasts a hugely impressive career in sports administration, but it is no secret that he departed his last role as Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive on a rather sour note.

That particular ending appeared a great shame to a man that took the RFU top job in September 2010 following an extremely successful five years as chief executive of UK Sport.