The Big Read

For Gröbler, gold is the one true goal for British rowing at the Olympics

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike RowbottomJürgen Gröbler has just made a strange noise. It's a bit muffled, as if someone has attempted to smother him. But there is pain there too. A definite touch of "aarghh!"

The man who has earned such golden success as British Rowing's head coach since 1992 is responding in his own slightly alarming way to an alternative London 2012 scenario - one where he had not taken the hard decision to switch his two top men from the pair to the four after three vain years of trying to beat the New Zealanders in a move that was designed to make a home gold for the men's team more of a banker.

History records that Gröbler's decision paid off. Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed, having had to give best to the omnipotent pairing of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, returned to the boat in which they had won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and helped defend that title for the home nation.

Lillehammer 1994 showed that size isn't everything in the Olympic world

By David Owen

david owen 2014Size isn't everything - even in the Olympic world.

Arguably the best illustration of this came 20 years ago this month, when the Olympic cauldron was lit closer to the Arctic circle than ever before in a small Norwegian town of 22,000 people.

Over the next 16 days, little Lillehammer laid on one of the most atmospheric and efficient Olympic Games - Summer or Winter - of the modern era. Sports Illustrated called them "the fairy-tale Games...They could not exist. Reality cannot be this good."

Thirty years on, Torvill and Dean are bringing Bolero back to Sarajevo

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckUnlike Jay Gatsby, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have made a habit of successfully repeating the past, and will do so again as they mark the 30th anniversary of their ice dance gold medal performance at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics by reprising their famed "Bolero" routine in the Bosnia and Herzegovina capital.

The British pair will skate once more to the torrid, sinuous musical composition of Maurice Ravel's, to what Dean describes as "the rising beat that was taking us over", after accepting an invitation from the Mayors of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo.

They will thus return to the arena renamed as the Olympic Hall Juan Antonio Samaranch following the death of the former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President in 2010, but which was known back in 1984 as the Olympic Hall Zetra.

David Wallechinsky's books on the Summer and Winter Olympics are pure gold

By Mike Rowbottom

mikepoloneckHow might David Wallechinsky have felt upon hearing that the Sochi Winter Games would contain 12 new events?

One could imagine the man who has written those two set texts of sporting reference - The Complete Book of the Olympics and The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics - giving a sigh of resignation as he learned of the latest obligatory addition to his ongoing magnum opus.

One could imagine him cursing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for their ever-growing Topsy of a Games, with its never-ending expansions and alterations.

Kevan Gosper: A wise IOC head who would be as much at home in Davos as Lausanne

David OwenOne of the wise heads of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently moved upstairs to honorary status on attaining the age of 80.

Kevan Gosper's autobiography, published just ahead of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was titled An Olympic Life - and that is exactly what it has been for well over half a century, right back to 1956 when, at 22, he anchored the Australian men's 4x400 metres relay team to a silver medal at his previous home Games in Melbourne.

Gosper was elected an IOC member a few months after Jimmy Carter took over as United States President in 1977, the year of the Sex Pistols and the unprecedented third Grand National victory by Red Rum. He was an IOC vice-president from 1990-1994 and again from 1999-2003. He chaired the IOC's Press Commission for 25 years.

Daryl Goodrich, the tea-drinking Olympic film-maker whose new work is captivating visitors to the renovated Olympic Museum in Lausanne

By David Owen

David OwenIt is now nearly a decade since the London 2012 campaign revolutionised the art of producing films to support the candidacy of cities and countries competing to host sporting mega-events.

Two films from the campaign are seen as classics of the genre. Since the appearance of Sport at Heart, in which David Beckham famously wrestles with a crossword and a building-site worker, hi-viz jacket and all, pole-vaults into wet cement, no bid film seemingly has been bereft of humour. Meanwhile anyone who doubts the lingering influence of Inspiration, the film actually shown to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on the day of the 2012 host-city vote in Singapore in July 2005, need only compare it to the basketball film used successfully by Tokyo last year, at the same critical juncture of the 2020 campaign.

Not surprisingly, Daryl Goodrich, the British filmmaker who teamed up with producer Caroline Rowland on both London 2012 masterpieces, has been much in demand in the Olympic Movement since then.

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.
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