The Big Read

History favours Germany at Winterberg FIBT World Championships - but Britain, Russia and Latvia have other ideas

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesHistory favours the hosts as the German track at Winterberg prepares to hold the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation's (FIBT) World Championships for the fourth time from tomorrow until March 8. But history may yet be made by three Olympic champions from Great Britain, Russia and Canada - respectively Lizzy Yarnold, Alexander Tretiakov and Kaillie Humphries - if their outstanding form holds over the next fortnight.

Every competition held during the three previous Championships at this unique Bobbahn venue has resulted in a gold medal for Germany - and in the most recent hosting, 2003, in gold, silver and bronze.

According to some observers, history may not be the only thing favouring the hosts this year as they have tweeted pictures from trackside showing the German competitors - but no others - getting in some early practice on their home track.

The evolution of the Cricket World Cup

By Philip Barker

Philip BarkerCo-host nations New Zealand and Australia have launched the 11th Cricket World Cup in fine style with emphatic victories. For both it was the opening salvo in a programme of 49 matches in a competition lasting a month and a half. Only the FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup can lay claim to a larger footprint. It was all very different 40 years ago when the first such tournament was held in England. Contested by only eight teams it was all over in a fortnight.

One-day domestic cricket had been introduced in the sixties to combat falling attendances in the traditional longer forms of the game, but the authorities were slow to move on the international front. It was not until 1971 that an official one-day international was played in Melbourne at the suggestion of legendary Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman. This was simply to try to recover revenue after a five-day test match in Melbourne had been washed out, but crowds were large and the idea caught on. In 1972 the International Cricket Council (ICC) agreed to stage a "World Cup as soon as practicable" but when they got down to the fine detail they fought shy of using the words World Cup. Instead what took place in 1975 was officially known as "The International Cricket Championship."

The main concern for organisers was the notoriously fickle British weather. It was perhaps as well that the tournament was sponsored by insurance brokers Prudential. Days before it was due to start, players had been forced to seek shelter from snow during a county championship match in Derbyshire. As it turned out, there was no cause for concern. Not a second was lost to bad light or rain. The first tentative steps at marketing to promote "The Greatest Summer of Cricket" came with the use of the Disney character Jiminy Cricket and a specially designed logo. All the teams met The Queen at Buckingham Palace but even so, the build up was distinctly low key by modern standards.

Wiggins awaits his turn at cycling's revived world hour mark as Dennis steps up for latest record

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesEddy Merckx, five-times winner of the Tour de France and acknowledged by many of cycling's cognoscenti as the most accomplished rider the world has ever known, described it as "the hardest ride I have ever done."

A fortnight ago Australia's professional rider and double gold medallist at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Jack Bobridge, described it as "a bit like dying."

What are these two champions talking about? Challenging for the world hour cycling record, that's what.

Kasper awaits the Vonn Effect as the Vail Beaver Creek Alpine World Ski Championships prepare for take off

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom. sorry, but there it is. ©insidethegamesAs competitors and spectators gather in Colorado for the Alpine World Ski Championships which are due get underway tomorrow, Gian-Franco Kasper - President of the International Ski Federation (FIS) is looking forward to the Vonn Effect.

The presence in Vail/Beaver Creek of Lindsey Vonn, who last month equalled and then broke Annemarie Moser-Proll's 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup victories, will intensify the focus on a sporting event which is second only to the winter Olympics in terms of prestige.

Not least because the outgoing American has come back this year from a serious knee injury which prevented her competing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

History is made as Austria and Liechtenstein's joint venture shows the Olympic Movement how to share

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesThe programme for the 2015 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF), which gets underway today comprises eight events. But there is one other - unofficial, but overarching. The making of Olympic history.

For the first time since this biennial competition began 22 years ago in Aosta, Italy, it is being hosted by two countries - Liechtenstein and its neighbouring Austrian state, Vorarlberg.

This will be new territory for an event taking place under the Olympic flame, and as such the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has endorsed the idea of the sharing of future Games through its recent Agenda 2020 deliberations, is taking a particular interest.

The Equatorial Guinea 2015 Africa Cup of Nations is going to be quite an experience

By Brian Oliver

Brian OliverThe first significant moments in modern African football had far less global impact than the sight of a middle-aged man dancing with a corner flag in Italy in 1990.

In the late 1950s there was the creation of the continent's governing body, the expulsion of apartheid South Africa (long before the Olympic Movement and other sports took action), and the start of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The first World Cup win by an African side in the finals - Tunisia against Mexico - was in 1978, and four years later Algeria famously beat West Germany 2-1. When FIFA staged what has now become the Under 17 World Cup for the first time in China in 1985, Nigeria won it: the first African triumph in a FIFA competition.

The "diamond" sport of handball prepares for a polishing in Qatar

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesAs Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani rose, suited and jubilant, to acclaim the success of Doha's bid for the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Monaco two months ago, he may have experienced a sense of déjà vu.

Just under four years earlier the secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee had celebrated in similar style as his country secured the vote to host the International Handball Federation's (IHF) 2015 World Championship, having campaigned under the slogan: New Times - New Start.

That victory was the first of a dizzying series of sporting successes for this oil-rich Gulf state, which followed up its handball coup by securing the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.

Celebrating a century of the Olympic Movement in Lausanne

Philip Barker ©ITGIt has never staged the Olympic Games, but Lausanne in Switzerland is about to celebrate a century as the "Olympic Capital." Even the city railway station is adorned with the five Olympic rings.

It was in 1915 that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) first established their headquarters on the shores of  Lake Geneva -known locally as Lake Leman - for the first time.

Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin was IOC President at the time. He had been planning the move to the Swiss city since 1907.

Angelina Jolie's latest directorial effort celebrates Louis Zamperini - Olympian, war hero and Unbroken spirit

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom ©ITGThe film critics have not been universally kind to Unbroken, Angelina Jolie's World War Two epic, which has recently opened in the United States and United Kingdom. It will not matter. Millions will watch this largely faithful, entirely well-meaning take on the extraordinary life of 1936 Olympian Louis Silvie "Louie" Zamperini, who died on July 2 this year aged 97.

It is a measure of Zamperini's life that being an Olympian was one of the lesser parts of it. The main features, so far as Unbroken is concerned, are his subsequent War exploits, which include ditching into the Pacific in a stricken plane, surviving 47 days in shark-infested waters before being taken prisoner by the Japanese and brutally mistreated in a series of camps.

Jolie's second film as a director, which stars British actor Jack O'Connell, shares its tagline - Survival. Resilience. Redemption - with the book of the same name from which it was adapted, written in 2010 by Laura Hillenbrand, whose earlier book Seabiscuit, about the thoroughbred American race horse which flourished in the Depression years, was also made into a film.
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