Happy Olympic Day!

The Big Read

Visa aim for Higher, Stronger, Faster in London 2012 build-up

By David Owen

Only two companies are top-tier sponsors of both of the world’s most powerful sports bodies, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA. One is Coca-Cola; the other is Visa.

So an obvious question for Colin Grannell, executive vice president partnership marketing at Visa Europe, is why both?

Sitting in his office near Paddington station in west London, Grannell - who will be part of a panel discussing the "Perfect Event" at next month’s Global Sports Industry Congress - addresses the subject with a combination of clarity and insight that is the product of a 20-year career with the payments technology company. 

Delhi dismays and delights on eve of the Games

By Mike Rowbottom in New Delhi

One of the more prominent posters advertising the merits of the imminent 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi proclaims: "A stimulating and exciting amalgamation of colours, taste, sights, sounds and contrasts!"

Doubtless the South African who reportedly discovered a snake in his room at the Athletes’ Village found the contrast between what he was expecting and what he was experiencing to be stimulating rather than exciting.

But Delhi is indeed full of such contrasts.

Raising a glass for Munich's Olympic and Paralympic bid

By Mike Rowbottom in Munich

altMany things are evident as you stand at the top of the newly-constructed ski jump overlooking the quintessential Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen - not least the courage required to slap your skis onto the smooth, narrow tracks that dip steeply towards the rearing take-off point so far below, and the awaiting landing point even further below that, a green rectangle bordered by a toy stadium.

There are no sand traps for dubious competitors to veer onto in the manner of out-of-control lorries. This progress, once entered upon, is irrevocable.

In just such a manner, the Munich bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, which would be divided between the city and this artfully picturesque town an hour’s drive from it, is off and running, set on its ultimate landing point of Durban, where the International Olympic Committee’s session on July 6 next year will deliver its decision.

BOA has raised its game to make difference to Olympic sport claims chief executive

By David Owen

I was starting to see it as one of life’s, or at least accountancy’s, great mysteries.

Why should a deal between two parties as ineffably British as the British Olympic Association (BOA) and LOCOG, the London 2012 Organising Committee, be denominated in US dollars?

For days on end, nobody could furnish me with a convincing answer.

But when it came, the explanation afforded a small but revealing insight into the intricacies of British sport’s administrative landscape.

Campbell predicts that Sainsbury’s UK School Games will create lasting legacy

By Mike Rowbottom

For 1,600 young athletes, this weekend is going to be unforgettable - and in some cases, invaluable.

The 2010 Sainsbury’s UK School Games which are being held in Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland until Sunday, offer a generation of aspiring competitors the opportunity to experience the big time, and the instruction they might need to make that big time themselves at some point in the future.

The Games kicked off with an opening ceremony at Gateshead Stadium hosted by BBC Sport presenter Jill Douglas, who was joined on stage by Winter Olympic bob skeleton gold medallist Amy Williams. Also in the audience were Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener, half of the quartet which won sprint relay gold at the 2004 Olympics, and Gail Emms, who won world gold and Olympic silver with her badminton partner Nathan Robertson.

Keep an eye on Delhi, a British London 2012 champion could emerge there

Could it be Jeffrey Lawal Balogun, the Jeffrey-cum-lately of the domestic sprinting scene?

Might it be Tom Lancashire, bold and increasingly determined over the middle distances? Or Hannah England, another to have moved up in class over 1500 metres? Or Louise Hazel, a heptathlete of huge promise?

What about Lawrence Clarke, last year’s European Junior 110m hurdles gold medallist? Or Laura Samuel, the recent world junior triple jump silver medallist? Or Niall Brooks, the European Junior 800m silver medallist who narrowly missed out on a podium place in the recent World Juniors finishing fourth in a lifetime best performance?

The inspiring story of how Haiti's young footballers overcame tragedy to stand on the brink of Olympic glory

By Tom Degun in Singapore

Haiti's footballers, who travelled here to the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics cloaked in tragedy and sadness, are riding a massive wave of sympathy to stand on the brink of winning the most unlikeliest gold medal of these Games.

The country's boy’s footballers brought some much needed joy to their earthquake-stricken nation as they remarkably defied the odds to book their spot in the boy’s final with a 2-0 win over Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.

The Caribbean country made global headlines at the start of the year after a devastating earthquake ripped it apart and left their sports system, along with everything else, in tatters.

Sugar coated words from Jacques Rogge but Youth Olympics do taste sweet

By Tom Degun in Singapore

So it has begun.

The inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore was officially declared open President S.R. Nathan last night (August 14) and then with a flick of his wrist, the nation’s young hero Darren Choy, the 16-year-old two-time junior sailing world champion charged with leading the home medal charge at the Games, lit the spiralling Youth Olympic flame high into the night sky.

The event’s preceding Choy’s lighting of the flame were no doubt spectacular and on the stunning setting of the Marina Bay, the world’s largest floating stage, an extravagant firework display, thunderous drumming, a legion of young dancers of all ages and fire breathing dragons - which were admittedly metallic - marked a new chapter in the history of the Olympic Movement.

Halsall hoping for sweet tears at London 2012

By Cathy Wood

As one of the fastest sprinters in world swimming the last thing you want, when you’re already in the spotlight, is an embarrassing scene from your mother.

For 20-year-old Fran Halsall, the cringe making moment came last summer, at Swimming’s World Championships in Rome, just after the then 19-year-old had won silver in the 100 metres freestyle.

For Mum, Diane, a civil servant from Southport, it was all too much. She began to blub.

Jenkins hoping to remember her lines in London 2012 dress rehearsal

By Cathy Wood

Ask anyone lucky enough to have been at the men’s Olympic triathlon at Vouliagmeni in Athens in
2004 to recall their lasting memory of that day and you’ll probably be surprised by the result.

Chances are they won’t remember it was a New Zealand one-two across the finish line or that the five-lap cycling circuit included a hill with an 18 per cent grade in parts.

What stayed with many long after the event had ended was the heart-warming moment a British athlete ran in his bicycle shoes more than a mile uphill, in the searing August heat, to find a replacement back wheel after another competitor had crashed into, and crushed, his.

The triathlete in question was Marc Jenkins.

Dame Kelly Holmes is guiding new generation of British middle-distance hopefuls

By Mike Rowbottom

A group of female athletes are lying on mats by the running track attached to Tonbridge School, in Kent. They are being taken through core exercises, designed to strengthen the body, by Tonbridge’s famous favourite daughter - Kelly Holmes.

Dressed in black shorts and crop top, Holmes, who turned 40 this year, still has the lean look of a competing athlete, although she insists that nowadays, with her commitments to the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust and her work as President of Commonwealth Games England, she hardly gets time to train.

Chris Holmes out to make history again at London 2012

By Cathy Wood

Spend any time at the home of the London Organising Committee and you quickly learn this is a world governed by acronyms.

So there's LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) and OCOGs (Organising Committees of the Olympic Games), the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and  IPC (International Paralympic Committee), IBC (International Broadcast Centre),MPC (Main Press Centre) and ABC.  Well maybe not ABC, an American broadcasting company, but you get my point.

So it comes as something of a relief to discover Chris Holmes, Director of Paralympic Integration, has a title not easily shortened (then again DOPI could catch on) and a remit that's pretty easy to understand.

Expect the unexpected at European Championship Trials

By Mike Rowbottom

As Britain’s leading athletes set about gaining their places for the European Championships at the Aviva European trials and UK Championships in Birmingham, here’s the question: Who’s it going to be?

Because every year someone, in some event, pops up with something gloriously unexpected. And that uncertainty adds immeasurably to the anticipation of this annual examination of athletics credentials.

Taylor hoping to help British sport speed to success at London 2012

By Mike Rowbottom

Graham Taylor didn’t get where he is today - UK Sport’s recently appointed Head of Coaching - by being imprecise.

Before being annexed by the man to whom he will be reporting, UK Sport’s director of Performance, Peter Keen, Taylor had more than 20 years of experience in top class motor sport, much of it as a race engineer in Formula One and World Touring Cars.

Fearless Winckless set to continue her incredible journey in new BOA role

By Cathy Wood

Spend any time around Sarah Winckless at Eton Dorney Lake - the venue for the rowing events at London 2012 - and rowers gravitate towards her.

Old and young, international and recreational, short and tall they want to say hello and share their experience of rowing on the river that had such significance during Winckless's racing career.

It's not just her stature - 6 foot 3 inches - or sheer physical presence, it's her pleasant, put-you-at-your-ease, I-know-what-it's-like attitude that draws them in.