The Big Read

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.

Centenary looms for Christmas Day of 1914 when football, briefly, brought warring nations together

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesChristmas Day 2014 will mark the anniversary of extraordinary events along parts of the line between British and German forces in Northern France during the First World War as soldiers from both sides created their own brief truce, during which they exchanged gifts and engaged in impromptu games of football before resuming their business of mutual slaughter on Boxing Day.

It was one of the most memorable examples in history of sport's transcending power to unite.

Meanwhile, Manchester's National Football Museum has just opened a new exhibition, taking place from December 19 to September 15, looking at the role of football during the war. The Greater Game - Football and The First World War details Christmas truce matches and commemorates the sacrifices made by players during the conflict.

Fernando Aguerre is California Dreaming - but surfing looks increasingly ready to catch the Olympic wave

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesThe International Olympic Committee's (IOC) recent and much heralded Agenda 2020 deliberations in Monaco have done nothing to discourage Fernando Aguerre, President of the International Surfing Association (ISA), about the prospects of his beloved sport riding a wave into the Olympic Programme.

The clear horizon indicated by the decision to abolish the cap of 28 sports in the summer Games has set this 56-year-old Argentinian-born entrepreneur dreaming - California dreaming, naturally.

With an indication expected this week over the United States' intentions of bidding for the 2024 summer Games - and with two Californian cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles, reckoned to be favourites for potential nomination from the four possibilities - Aguerre, born and raised in the coastal city of Mar del Plata but now resident in the US coastal city of San Diego, is hoping against hope...

Small country, but big changes ahead as Monte Carlo hosts IOC Session for third time

By Philip Barker

Philip Barker ©ITGThe International Olympic Committee's (IOC) 127th Session will be the third time the Olympic family has gathered in Monaco, the smallest member of the Olympic Movement to host a full meeting of the IOC.

This "Extraordinary" session at the Grimaldi Forum is for members to vote on President Thomas Bach's blueprint for the Olympic Movement  "Agenda 2020". Now, though, the troubled trail towards the Winter Olympics of 2022 seems certain to cast a long shadow. Stockholm were the first to withdraw followed by the Polish city of Krakow and Lviv in Ukraine.

Oslo went through to the Candidate City phase of the contest but pulled out after losing domestic support. Only the Kazak city of Almaty and Beijing now remain, the smallest field to contest any Olympic host city vote since 1981.

Kendall may be "slightly loopy" but she is doing a lot for athletes, women and surfers

By Nick Butler

Nick ButlerBarbara Kendall turns and swivels around on her chair during our interview in Bangkok following an Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Athletes' Commission meeting.

"We've sent a questionnaire to every National Olympic Committee about the issues facing athletes today, but less than half have replied," she outlines, pausing for dramatic effect.

"But in Oceania, every single one has."
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