The Big Read

For a century Asian sport has been a shining beacon for unity and progress

By Nick Butler

Nick Butler in the Olympic StadiumJust two years after the inaugural Asian multi-sports event in Manila, teams from Siam and Malaya were forced to abandon their journey to Shanghai for the 1915 Far Eastern Games such was the danger of submarine attack during the ongoing First World War.

China, Japan and the Philippines however chose to ignore this danger and compete anyway and a trend of using friendly competition to overcome adversity has defined Asian sport ever since.

Unrest, through the Second World War and trouble in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East today, has indeed choreographed an Asian century which has strived for harmony within this discord.

Getting people running: a big goal shared by world Governments, federations - and parkrun

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckGetting people running is an aspiration being pursued with increasing purpose all around the world as Governments seek to set their sometimes all-too-solid citizens on the path to fitness and health.

That aspiration is widely shared - both by the big federations and organisations which put on athletics events, and at grass roots - as we are witnessing in the growing phenomenon of ideas such as parkrun, which now has more than 760,000 registered runners across 10 countries.

When the Cardiff delegation heard the good news in Monte Carlo two months ago that their city was confirmed as host of the 2016 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Half Marathon Championships, they acknowledged that one of the key factors was their intention to build upon the idea put forward by the host of this year's event, Copenhagen.

President Ivo Ferriani taking international bobsleigh and skeleton on some new twists and turns

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomAt the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics, Ivo Ferriani - then coach of the French bobsleigh team - made a bet with the driver of the four-man bob, Bruno Mingeon. If Mingeon managed to win a medal, he, Ferriani, would run through the snow by the course in his underwear.

Mingeon won bronze. Ferriani kept his promise.

Fourteen years later the Italian put himself on the line on another Olympic bobsleigh course - the Sanki Sliding Centre which will host the action at the imminent Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Cooperation is key as Universiade Movement moves forward, says FISU President Gallien

By Gary Anderson

Gary AndersonIt may seem like a simple concept - the best ones usually are - but for the man at the helm of the worldwide university sports movement, the need for greater cooperation and a more synchronised approach to the staging and delivery of major international multi-sport events will be a key focus going forward as International University Sports Federation (FISU) President Claude-Louis Gallien and his extended "FISU Family" pack their bags in Trentino and look forward to Granada 2015 and beyond.

The theme of cooperation and compromise can perhaps sum up the staging of the 26th Winter Universiade here in Trentino too, as they were a Games patched up and stuck together like a last-minute Christmas present, due to the 18 months given to Trentino 2013 President Sergio Anesi and his colleagues, to ensure the winter sport extravaganza went ahead after the failings of original host Maribor.

Never mind the handicap, feel the performance - Ottobock moving on towards another Paralympic quarter-century

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomThe next 25 years will witness all manner of change within the Paralympic Movement, but if Professor Hans Georg Näder has his way, one element at least will remain a constant - the commitment to the Movement of the company of which he is President and chief executive, Ottobock.

Formed in 1919, the company has offered a growing range of wheelchairs, prosthetics and associated products for people with limited mobility, and after a quarter of a century's association with the Paralympics, for which it was the first partner, Näder has pledged that the relationship will be maintained for the next 25 years at least.

"Since Ottobock's first involvement in the Paralympic Games in 1988, they have grown into one of the Paralympic Movement's most loyal, trusted and reliable partners. Their support has been instrumental to the growth of the Paralympic Movement," said Sir Philip Craven, the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) President.

Edinburgh next stop for Bekele as he approaches the strong, strange challenge of the marathon

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomAs Vladimir Nabokov once wrote: "The more you love a thing, the stronger and stranger it becomes." The émigré Russian writer was very possibly not referring to marathon running when he gave voice to this perception - but it expresses the sense of complexity which this distance evokes among its serious protagonists.

Ethiopia's multiple Olympic and world champion Kenenisa Bekele is not yet among that number, although he plans to be by next Spring, when he will make his debut over 26 miles 385 yards.

Like the man who succeeded him as Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion in 2012, Britain's Mo Farah, the small but powerful Ethiopian is extending his ambition from the track to the road in a serious fashion next year, and although he is currently non-committal about where he will choose to make his first foray into the event, it is not impossible to believe that he will do so in London, where Farah - having teed himself up by running half the distance this year - will make his full marathon debut.

Glasgow World Cup 2013 is the latest reflection of gymnastics' endless flexibility

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckGymnastics is showcased once again in Glasgow this coming weekend (December 7) as World Cup competition returns to the city which is now vaulting to the top as a venue for the sport, with the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships on its list of future engagements.

And there is a particular spring in the step of gymnastics internationally in the wake of this year's decision by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Executive Board that it would move up - along with aquatics - to join athletics in the top tier of sports when it comes to receiving television revenue money from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Under the revised formula announced by the outgoing IOC President Jacques Rogge, the aquatics world governing body (FINA) and the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) joined their athletics counterpart, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in Group A.

Rowing is in good hands as Rolland serves his apprenticeship before taking up the oars

By Nick Butler

Nick Butler Olympic Stadium 2 July 24 2013 1In recent years there has been a penchant for athlete administrators in sport, but in the case of Jean-Christophe Rolland he is merely following tradition in a rowing organisation that is oozing with ex-sportsmen.

First there was Thomas Keller, who served as President for 31 years until his death in 1989. Also an accomplished skier, Keller won a rowing bronze medal at the 1950 European Championships and only missed out on competing at the Melbourne 1956 Olympics because of the Swiss boycott protesting the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Then there was triple Olympian Denis Oswald, who won a bronze medal, also for Switzerland, at Mexico City in 1968.

It is he who Rolland has been elected to replace when Oswald steps down, after 24 years in charge, next July after an initial "transferral" period.

Funding crisis may halt Vanuatu women's beach volleyball player's Rio 2016 quest

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckMiller Elwin grew up on Mota Lava Island, one of the most northerly in the archipelago which forms the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Her island had one truck and two telephones. When she was 17, Elwin, already an accomplished beach volleyball player, left her homeland for Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila in order to further her career.

It was the first stage of a journey which Elwin dearly hopes will conclude with an appearance at the Olympic Games - a journey which she is now making in partnership with Henriette Iatika, three years her senior, with whom she recently finished ninth in the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World Championship. That journey, however, will come to an abrupt end next year if no extra sponsorship can be found, the team's head coach, Lauren McLeod, has told insidethegames, and her concerns have been echoed by Debbie Masauvakalo, President of Vanuatu Beach Volleyball.

In 2008, a year after they had started playing together, Elwin and Iatika won a historic gold at the Oceania Championships, beating the defending champions, Tahiti, in three sets. The Oceania women's title had always been shared previously between Australia, New Zealand or Tahiti. It was also the first time that Vanuatu had won an Oceania title in any sport.
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