The Big Read

Influential actor in Olympic Movement looks ahead to "Oscars of sport"

By David Owen

David OwenIf anyone is in a position to comprehend what International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is seeking to achieve with his reform-minded Olympic Agenda 2020 initiative, it is Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the 35-year-old Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC).

Since his election as only the second ANOC President in Moscow in April 2012, the 50-year-old member of the ruling family of Kuwait has been overseeing a far-reaching programme of reforms that are reinvigorating the body responsible for protecting and advancing the interests of the 200-plus National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Changes have included updating the constitution - ensuring for example that a General Assembly would be held every year, overseeing a soon-to-be-completed move of ANOC's headquarters to new modern premises in the Olympic capital of Lausanne, and establishing nine commissions and working groups charged with identifying and solving pressing issues facing NOCs.

The Pyeongchang 2018 backstage story

By Terrence Burns

Terrence BurnsWe are a little less than four-years away from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

This is a story, just one of many, of their bid's path, culminating in victory almost three years ago in Durban, South Africa.

Much is being written and read in the current media about prospective bid cities for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A lot of the commentary pertains to "consultants". Much of the commentary is ill informed or naive at best, or wrong, spiteful and even defensive at worst.

Brendan Foster - on sporting inspiration, and why he wants one million more running by 2020

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesIt is - although he finds it hard to believe - 40 years since Brendan Foster christened the new track for which he had campaigned so tirelessly at his local Gateshead stadium by setting a world 3,000 metres record there.

Those who witnessed the efforts of the local hero as he drove himself on to cross the line in 7 minutes, 35.1 seconds, head rolling with the effort, will recall the spectacle. It was inspiring.

Forty years on, Foster - who ended 1974 as European 5,000m champion and BBC Sports Personality of the Year - is still attempting to generate inspiration within the sport which has shaped his own life.

Bowling's image crisis, and what needs to be done about it

By Zjan Shirinian

Zjan ShirinianLuis Suárez and bowling have something in common, it turns out. Bear with me here.

Image might not be everything, but it counts for an awful lot. Suárez's Jaws-like shoulder-gnawing at the FIFA World Cup last week simply added to his bad-boy image, the perception he has a short fuse and he bites before he thinks.

I have no idea if the Uruguayan international has any skills on the bowling alley, but the pins might - if they could talk - express some sympathy for him.

As they celebrate their centenary, how the Olympic rings have become the most famous symbol in the world

By Philip Barker

Philip BarkerBaron Pierre de Coubertin certainly hit on something special when he designed the Olympic rings. He had been looking for a symbol to reflect the Olympic idea  ever since he had persuaded the sporting leaders of the world to revive the Games back in 1894.

June 23 is Olympic Day so this is an appropriate time to celebrate the five famous linked circles which were revealed to the public 100 years ago. They are now one of the most instantly recognisable symbols in the world.

Hockey searching in every quarter to strengthen its global reach, says FIH chief executive Kelly Fairweather

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike  Rowbottom ©insidethegamesHockey was a wow at the London 2012 Games, selling the third most tickets - 630,000 - after athletics and football, with the matches taking place in an atmosphere of high excitement.

So imagine how those charged with its international destiny felt when, in February of the following year, the sport found itself on a shortlist of five sports under consideration to be voted off the Olympic programme, ending up in the final three with wrestling and modern pentathlon.

The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board decision to vote wrestling off the list of core Olympic sports was reversed seven months later by the IOC, but shock waves reverberated throughout the Olympic sporting world - and hockey was well and truly shaken by the turn of events.

It is time for Kosovo to be accepted by the Olympic Movement

By Nick Butler

Nick ButlerWalking around the National Sports Centre in the heart of the Kosovan capital city Pristina last week, I spent a few moments engrossed in the plight of two young wrestlers training.

In a facility where enthusiasm and camaraderie accounted for shortages in equipment and resources, one wrestler was clearly smaller and technically inferior to the other.

Time and time again he charged forward and was duly flipped, thrown or driven into the school gymnasium-style mat. But he refused to be disheartened and surged forward again only to suffer the same result.

Nassau awaits dramatic highs and lows at the inaugural IAAF World Relays

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesThere are numerous compelling reasons why nearly 600 of the world's leading athletes from 43 nations will converge on Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, next weekend (May 24-25) for the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays event.

In terms of dollars, the IAAF has provided 1.4 million reasons for this trip to the Caribbean in its prize fund, with $50,000 (£30,000/€37,000) on offer to the winners of each of the 10 events, and an additional $50,000 (£30,000/€37,000) being due for any world record-breaking performances.

Entrants include 2013 World Championships individual gold medallists LaShawn Merritt of the United States, Kenya's Asbel Kiprop and Eunice Sum, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and Christine Ohuruogu of Britain.

To Tokyo 2020 and beyond as World Baseball Softball Confederation sets out to conquer the universe

Gary AndersonAs baseball and softball's first official family get-together draws to a close in the sunny seaside resort of Hammamet, Tunisia, the newly ratified World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is gearing up to launch a two-pronged attack on the international sporting arena and the key message that has pervaded the two-day inaugural Congress is the possibilities that can be achieved as a unified force.

While those may ultimately include Olympic participation, the key to the success of both sports is growth and development at all levels, according to the infant organisation's maternal head, Low Beng Choo.

Before being elected as the WBSC's first full-time secretary general here at Congress, the Malaysian occupied the role on an interim basis as the two sporting cousins of baseball and softball began the process of, if not singing from the same hymn sheet, then sharing the same hymnbook. Now, less than 18 months on from when the merger of the International Softball Federation (ISF) and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) was first agreed in December 2012, wedding rings have been swapped, the bells have rung and both have walked down the aisle glove-in-glove.
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