The Big Read

Cycling is now leading sport in anti-doping, says UCI President Cookson

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesNearly a year on from replacing Pat McQuaid as President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Brian Cookson maintains that, under his guidance, cycling is now "the leading sport in terms of anti-doping".

The Briton's appointment - by a vote of 24-18 in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence on September 27 - brought an end to the controversial eight-year reign of his 65-year-old opponent, a period that was scarred by doping scandals, most notably involving American seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and by allegations of corruption.

Will Scotland say "Yes" to end era of British Olympic sport as we know it?

Philip BarkerIn 2012, "Flower of Scotland" rang around the Olympic Stadium as a children's choir performed traditional music from all four nations of the United Kingdom at London's Olympic Opening Ceremony.

When Team GB entered later, the flag was proudly carried by four-time Olympian Sir Chris Hoy. Already the most successful Scot, victory in men's keirin and team sprint gave him an unprecedented six gold medals in a stellar career, the most bemedalled British Olympian of all time. Now a special locker at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow contains his cycling kit. It is of course, painted gold.

Sir Chris was not the only Scot to shine in 2012. Rower Heather Stanning was born in Yeovil but grew up in Lossiemouth. She attended Gordonstoun school before joining the army and won Britain's first gold medal of the Games in the pairs with Helen Glover. Later in the week, Glaswegian Katherine Grainger partnered Anna Watkins to an emotional victory in the double sculls. Grainger's Olympic career began a dozen years before. She won three silver medals and then at last came gold. "I'm prepared to go around the country until people are sick of the sight of me and my gold medal," she said.

President Graça gets rocket science right as FIVB uses Volleyball World Championship in Poland as "launch pad" for Rio 2016

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike Rowbottom at the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw ahead of the Opening Ceremony for the World Volleyball Championships ©insidethegamesThe Volleyball Men's World Championship currently underway in Poland has been described by Ary Graça, President of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) as a "launchpad" for the sport towards the Rio 2016 Olympics. On that reckoning, the flight of the good ship volleyball appears to be straight and true to the heart of Brazil - which probably appreciates the sport as much as any other country in the world.

There was an element of fantasy attached as Graça took up his current position in September 2012 - the FIVB Congress at which the vote took place was held at Anaheim's Disneyland Hotel. Needing a 50 per cent plus one majority, the then 69-year-old Brazilian recorded 103 out of the 204 eligible votes to become the fourth President in the Federation's history following Paul Libaud of France (1947-1984), Rubén Acosta of Mexico (1984-2008) and Jizhong Wei of China (2008-2012).

Since that triumphant moment in the United States, Graça - a former player who has most recently served as President of the Brazil Volleyball Federation - has attempted to revolutionise the sport after what he sees as a long period in which it has pursued some misguided strategies.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup - new brand, new beginning

Paul OsborneThere are few World Championships in the world bigger than that of basketball's. In fact, there may be only one - the FIFA World Cup. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) wants to change that, however.

Since its debut in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1950, following the growing success of basketball at the Olympic Games, FIBA has been looking at ways to expand, improve and cement the Championships as a major player on the international sporting calendar.

From its initial growing pains through teams' unwillingness to participate, to its eventual expansion into the realms of professional stars and its current 24 team format, the Championships have created a global brand throughout the world of basketball.

The story of Rosemary Mula - the most dedicated volunteer in the world

Brian Oliver head and shoulders ©Brian OliverThe gold and silver medallists in the triple jump at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne both left their mark, in their own way, in sporting history.

In the second round there was a huge shock when Vilhjálmur Einarsson broke the Olympic record with a leap of 16.26 metres. His lead lasted only two rounds but Einarsson, in finishing second, became Iceland's first medallist and was thereafter known as "the silver man". He was so popular for his achievement that he was five times voted Iceland's sportsperson of the year. He later became a headmaster and a talented landscape artist.

The Brazilian who beat him, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, had artistic tendencies too. In 1959 he played the role of Death in the film Orfeu Negro, which took an ancient Greek legend and set it in a twentieth-century favela. Orfeu Negro won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

Caviar vol-au-vents were not on the menu, but 10 years on, the Athens 2004 legacy is a lot more positive than organisers are generally given credit for

By David Owen

David OwenA world-weary sigh invaded the cafeteria. An Olympic media veteran was contemplating another slab-like cheese (or was it spinach?) pie. "In Moscow they gave us caviar vol-au-vents," he groaned with Chekhovian whimsy.

The Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games did not get everything right. But given the unseemly rush to be ready, and persistent doubts over whether an economy the size of Greece could truly cope with the monstrous scale of a 21st century Olympics, they were an unmitigated, enchanting triumph.

Britain went briefly badminton-potty; the footballers of Iraq inspired their war-weary nation by winning through to the semi-finals precisely 252 days after the capture of Saddam Hussein; and, in the open-air pool, we thrilled to the exploits of Thorpe, Phelps, Van den Hoogenband, Lochte, Hackett, Katajima and Peirsol in a men's swimming competition for the ages.

Thirty years on from Coe's unique Olympic defence, and 60 years on from Bannister and Landy's Miracle Mile, those great deeds still resonate

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesSignificant anniversaries of two great foot races fall either side of this weekend - races won by two Britons who, through their performances on these and other occasions, have earned timeless renown in world athletics.

Tomorrow will be exactly 30 years since Sebastian Coe became the first man to defend the Olympic 1500 metres title as he finished just under a second clear of his domestic rival, world champion Steve Cram, following one of the most remorseless demonstrations of willpower ever witnessed on the track.

And Thursday (August 7) marked the 60th anniversary of what has come be known as the "Miracle Mile" at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, a race in which Britain's Roger Bannister, who earlier in the year had become the first man to break four minutes, showed similar determination to overcome the challenge of John Landy, the Australian who had bettered his landmark time a month later.

A tribute to the Olympic Movement's fallen

By Philip Barker

Philip BarkerThe city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina has sweet and bitter memories for the Olympic Movement. In 1984, the XIV Winter Games proved a fortnight of tremendous charm and wonderful sport. Tragically, civil war soon ravaged the city and at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch was forced to make a plea for peace at the Opening Ceremony.

Happily, tranquillity has now returned to the region but the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, had unleashed World War One, the most terrible conflict the world had ever seen. Tomorrow marks the centenary of when Great Britain declared war on Germany, with fighting continuing until the November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day. Millions died, many were sportsmen and at least 160 had competed in the Olympic Games.

Hungarian fencer Béla Zulawszky was killed in action in Sarajevo itself. He had won silver in the sabre at the London Olympics of 1908 at the age of 39. A career soldier in the army of the Austro Hungarian Empire, he had reached the rank of captain and was killed in action a day after his birthday in October 1914. His team mate Béla Békessy also died on the front in 1916. He had competed in foil, epee and sabre at the Stockholm 1912 Games where he had won the silver medal.

How Hollywood ensured a happy ending for the Olympics

By David Owen

David OwenToday the Olympic Movement is well established as the most powerful, and one of the best-resourced, sports organisations the world has seen. But it has not always been that way.

Thirty years ago, political pressure and inept commercial management had weakened it to the point where its very existence was under threat. What then enabled the Five Rings to check out of intensive care and embark on the path to complete recovery? A few things, but one of the most efficacious tonics was without doubt the unexpected success of the Games the 30th anniversary of whose Opening Ceremony falls on July 28: Los Angeles 1984.

Earlier this year, insidethegames was privileged to be granted an extended interview by the man chiefly responsible for Tinseltown's unlikely Olympic triumph. Peter Ueberroth's personal Olympic odyssey took him from the lobby of a bank where he opened an account with $1,000 (£589/€745) of his own money to the cover of Time magazine. As a plot line, it might have been scripted by Hollywood. In the annals of sports business management, it is the equivalent of Diego Maradona's virtuoso performance - OK, minus the Hand of God incident - at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, or perhaps the barefoot Abebe Bikila winning the Olympic Marathon in 1960 in Rome.

Page 1 of 21