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Martin Gillingham: The organiser of the Atlanta Olympics must modernise Augusta

Martin 2520Gillingham1_13Few with a golfing bent will disagree that this weekend is one of the three most significant of the year – it’s the Masters at Augusta.

A stunning location, challenging course, and the world’s best golfers playing for perhaps the globe’s only prestigious and fashionable green jacket.

It is an event that has produced countless wonderful stories, none of which is better than that of Ben Crenshaw’s second Masters victory in 1995.

Anyone who has read the “Little Red Book” will know of Harvey Penick’s contribution to golf teaching and how he has a genuine claim to be regarded as the greatest coach any sport has ever produced.

Penick had first placed a golf club in the hand of Crenshaw when he was just six. He was the only coach Crenshaw ever had and died in the week before the ’95 Masters.

Crenshaw was in the Augusta field that year but was in the midst of the worst slump of his career. He’d missed the cut in three of his previous four tournaments and not broken 70 for two months.

At 7.30 on the day before the Masters started, Crenshaw left Augusta and flew 950 miles to carry his coach’s coffin to his grave. Four days later, with tears welling in his eyes, Crenshaw holed out on the 18th green at Augusta to win by one shot.

“I believe in fate,” Crenshaw said. "I don’t know how it happened. I don’t.”

It is a touching tale with few, if any, peers.

Despite all of the above, the Masters is an event which infuriates me as much as it inspires. There is the harmless stuff like the blue dye in the water and obsession with trivial tradition like the Augusta committee’s insistence on referring to “patrons” rather than fans or spectators.

More sinister is Augusta’s autocratic rule over its “guests”; a junta-like policing of the media which once saw a television commentator permanently excluded for referring to the patrons as “a mob” and another for having described the course’s notoriously fast greens as looking as if they’d been “bikini-waxed”.

Though things are a bit more relaxed now than they once were, words critical of Augusta will be hard to find this weekend.


altThe tone for what the Masters has become was set by a fellow called Clifford Roberts, Augusta National’s first chairman, whose own demons moved him in later life to take a moonlit walk on the vaunted course before putting a gun to his head, pulling the trigger, and falling dead into one of its famous water features.

To add to the authoritarianism and mystery that Roberts’ legacy brings, there is also an uncomfortable history that, until relatively recently, saw the club embrace the notion of racial segregation with something bordering on enthusiasm.

It is an enduring hypocrisy that at the same time as South Africa was excluded from international sport because of its apartheid policy, so the sporting world would focus its attention for one week every year on a golf club in America’s south where for the first 40 years of the tournament’s history the only black faces to be seen inside the ropes were caddies and outside them were litter-pickers and waiters.

The Augusta club had no black members and the tournament no black players. That, in spite of the fact, that at least two qualified by winning events on the PGA tour. It was only when Lee Elder teed up in 1975 that the Masters’ unofficial whites-only policy was ended. Until then, the committee had used the Masters’ status as an invitation-only event to exclude them.

Thankfully, Tiger Woods, who was born in the same year as Elder’s ground-breaking appearance, has done much to advance the cause of non-white golfers. He goes for a fifth Masters title this week when he will no doubt be watched from the old white clubhouse by one of the club’s handful of black members. They are a token minority but, bear in mind, 20 years ago there weren’t any at all.

The current club chairman is Billy Payne - he of Atlanta Olympics fame - and now, more than ever, pressure is on him to drag Augusta out of its parallel universe and into the one the rest of us occupy.

Some might say there’s more chance of that happening than a woman winning the Masters.

Pragmatists would no doubt settle for Payne inviting a female to take up membership at his club.

Augusta took more than half-a-century to allow its first Afro-Caribbean to cross the threshold. I wonder how much longer it will be before a lady is invited to take the same step?

Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.

Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta. 




Duncan Mackay: Why Chicago has history on its side

  altBy Duncan Mackay - 6 April 2009

Chicago has been putting on quite a show here the past couple of days. Videos featuring Barack Obama and basketball legend Michael Jordan, dancers, high school bands, cute young children waving placards claiming “We back the bid”, even a giant rabbit...anything, in fact, that they hope might give them an edge in the race to follow London and host the 2016 Olympics.


Tonight, they are wheeling out the closest thing the United States has to royalty when Oprah Winfrey will attend a private dinner for the members of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Evaluation Commission. Mike Roberts, the vice-chairman of Chicago’s bid, has called the television talk show host the “most influential person in the world.”


Coming from the former chairman and chief executive of McDonald’s that kind of hype should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. Chicago may still have some way to go before they match what London did four years ago when they were bidding for the 2012 Olympics and the Evaluation Commission visited the capital and officials arranged for them to have a private dinner with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. But, nevertheless, an Obama-Winfrey double act is not a bad one if you are trying to impress the IOC.

Curiously, the one card that Chicago appears reluctant to play is how more than a century ago they were cheated out of hosting the Olympics. In 1901 they were originally awarded the 1904 Olympics, which were the first time the then fledging event had been due to be staged outside Europe, and began planning to welcome the world.

But it clashed with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis and the organisers there would not accept another international event being held in the same time frame. The exposition organisation began to plan for its own sports activities, informing the Chicago officials that its own international sports events intended to eclipse the Olympic Games unless they were moved to St. Louis. The IOC finally decided to let President Theodore Roosevelt arbitrate the question, and he chose St. Louis. It was a decision that Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, went along with.

altSt. Louis organisers repeated the mistakes made at the 1900 Olympics in Paris. Competitions were reduced to a side-show of the World's Fair and were lost in the chaos of other, more popular cultural exhibits. David Francis, the president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, declined to invite anybody else to open the Games and, on July 1, 1904, did so himself in a scaled-down short and humdrum "ceremony".


Chicago's proposals for the Games were revolutionary at the time. They included one of the first proposals for a domed stadium and the organising committee recruited prominent local citizens, including civic leaders and diplomats, to help them put them on.


John MacAloon, a professor at the University of Chicago, believes that the course of Olympic history was changed dramatically by that decision to move the Games to St. Louis. "Had Chicago not given up its hard-won rights to the 1904 Olympic Games the history of the modern Olympic Movement would surely have been different," he said. "As it was, the Greek authorities had to step in with the 'interim Olympics of 1906' in order to save the nascent Olympic Movement from the disaster of St. Louis, caused by Chicago's decision to forsake the 1904 Games."

European tension caused by the Russo-Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis kept many of the world's top athletes away. There were only 687 competitors, most of them from the United States, though Canada sent a good-sized contingent. Only 12 countries were represented.


Things will undoubtedly be very different if Chicago beats Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo to the right to host the 2016 Games. This is Chicago's third bid to host the Olympics since those ill-fated events of 1901. But previous attempts to host the 1952 and 1956 Olympics both failed.


There is an discernable feeling in the air here this time, though, that Chicago's time has come. The election of Obama has helped lift the city's self-esteem and it is demonstrating a new-found confidence as the world's attention focuses on it. If someone from Chicago can become the first black leader of the planet's most powerful country then surely anything is possible, seems to be the mood among people here. And Chicagoans would probably feel a sense of poetic justice if it is the US President that swings it their way more than a century after one of his predecessors had helped take it away from them.


Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.com. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years. He has correctly forecast the winner of the last four Olympic Games.


This city would really embrace this event. I hope we get it.
By Helen Stevenson, Chicago

6 April 2009 at 16:37pm

I want to be on the IOC committee...wined and dined - fly around
the world to be fawned and treated like royalty.
City leaders will rape and pillage their own citizens to impress
you...they spend lots of money (in Daley's case millions) by
taxing their citizens to impress you - for a couple days.
Lack of protesters? The IOC had been warned and then said (on the
news last week) they were used to protesters and basically ignore
There has to be a better way to have the Olympics than this
unfair debacle to innocent citizens...maybe a plan and then a
By Who are the IOC?

6 April 2009 at 16:42pm

Is this for the Winter Olympics? It's freezing here.
By David G, Chicago

6 April 2009 at 16:45pm

Even the gods don't want the Olympics here - glad we had lousy
weather for their trip - Daley is paying no attention to the
citizens of this city, he's just doing whatever he feels like and
the taxpayers will bear the burden 
Chicago, IL
By Lady Chicago

6 April 2009 at 16:53pm

The Olympics will provide thousands of jobs immediately upon
award. 20% of all construction workers are unemployed. Once the
current crop of bildings under construction finish this number
will skyrocket. Also affected are all material suppliers,
transporters and on and on. If we are concerned about money,
let's put people back to work and not on unemployment.

So far, it has all been financed by private donations- not tax
By 2016 supporter, Chicago

6 April 2009 at 16:57pm

The Olympics is one of the biggest marketing venues in the world.
The Games attract people around the world and among them are
potential residents, future students, business dealmakers, etc.
The Barcelona Games is a great model for Chicago. After 1992, the
city still enjoys the benefits from the games, especially tourist
money and population growth.
By Olympic fan, Chicago

6 April 2009 at 21:57pm

Why do people keep referring to Chicago being in the Mid-West
when it is clearly not.
By Confused Brit

9 April 2009 at 22:51pm

Ever wonder about why we call things what we do? For example, we
all know the Far East, but why is there no Far West? Seems like
Hawaii would be in the Far West.

And why is Chicago in the Mid-West? Mid-West should be CO, WY,
MT, maybe even AZ. Illinois should be Mid-East at the most, but
certainly not Mid-West. And for that matter, how come there ain't
no such thing as Mid-East?

These are things inquiring minds wonder about.
By Collier, CA

10 April 2009 at 09:32am

That whole mid-west thing has me puzzled as well.

C'mon. It's either mid, or west. Get over it.

I'm with you, Collier. Chicago? North, if anything.
By Steve Bricks, South Los Angeles

10 April 2009 at 09:34am

I think it's one of those things that just goes back so far it
doesn't make sense any more. In the early days of our nation,
Illinois probably seemed like "the west".

Reminds me of the old story about the founding of Chicago. Some
northern Atlantic guys got together and said, "you know, I just
love the sub-freezing temperatures and floundering snow drifts
here, but it just isn't windy enough for me" and so they headed
for Chicago.
By Nigel, Toronto

10 April 2009 at 09:52am

It's probably about as logical as why your little island in the
middle of nowhere insists on calling itself "Great" when it
clearly isnt.
By Proud American

10 April 2009 at 10:10am

Scene: a bus, San Diego

Local lady: So where did you grow up?
My (Hong Kong-born) friend: The Far East.
Local lady (to another local lady): Hey Dawn, he's from New

It all depends on your perspective
By true story

10 April 2009 at 20:14pm

The term West was applied to the region in the early years of the
country. In 1789, the Northwest Ordinance was enacted, creating
the Northwest Territory, which was bounded by the Great Lakes and
the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Because the Northwest Territory
lay between the East Coast and the then-far-West, the states
carved out of it were called the "Northwest". In the early 19th
century, anything west of the Mississippi River was considered
the West, and the Midwest was the region east of the Mississippi
and west of the Appalachians. In time, some users began to
include Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri in the Midwest. With the
settlement of the western prairie, the new term Great Plains
States was used for the row of states from North Dakota to
Kansas. Later, these states also came to be considered Midwest by
The states of the "old Northwest" are now called the "East North
Central States" by the United States Census Bureau and the "Great
Lakes" region by some of its inhabitants, whereas the states just
west of the Mississippi and the Great Plains states are called
the "West North Central States" by the Census Bureau. Today
people as far west as the prairie sections of Colorado, Wyoming,
and Montana sometimes identify themselves with the term
Midwest.[7] Some parts of the Midwest are still referred to as
"Northwest" for historical reasons – for example, Minnesota-based
Northwest Airlines and Northwestern University in Illinois – so
the Northwest region of the country is called the "Pacific
Northwest" to make a clear distinction.
By Let me google that for you

11 April 2009 at 01:02am

Mike Rowbottom: On his fond memories of Alain Baxter

  altBy Mike Rowbottom - 5 April 2009

As British skiing comes to terms with this week’s retirement through injury of its most successful competitor, Alain Baxter, many tributes have been paid to the 35-year-old Scot who is popularly known as ‘The Highlander.’



According to Britain’s head coach, Mark Tilston, Baxter "has shown that skiers from these shores can compete and beat traditional alpine nations."



Mark Simmers, chief executive of Snowsport GB, commented: "His fourth place in a World Cup in Sweden, an overall world ranking of 11th and claiming Britain’s first Olympic alpine ski medal, speak volumes of Alain’s mercurial skiing talent."


But for an imprudent and unwitting snort on an American version of a Vicks inhaler, which turned out to contain the drug metamphetamine, Baxter would have kept the bronze medal he won with such astonishing dash at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.


As it is, his career will always have a wistful feel to it. If only he’d packed a British version of Vicks he would have been OK. He’d skied the best he’d ever skied – he should have used Odorono…


It’s a pity you don’t get Olympic medals for being a great bloke, because if you did, Baxter would have been nailed-on for gold. And as he now reaches the end of the slippery slope I would like to advance some reasons why he remains one of my favourite sportsmen.


Reason No.1. Not every athlete, when faced with a lack of cash, would decide to raise funds by producing a nude calendar of themselves, as Baxter did last November to assist a winter Olympic campaign at the 2010 Vancouver Games that he will not now embark upon.


No matter. He showed initiative, daring even; and he didn’t – quite – show what all Highlanders have up their kilts.


altReason No.2. His decision to dye his hair in the form of a white and blue Scottish saltire before the Salt Lake Games – done, in his own words, ‘for the craic’ rather than to make any political statement about his country of birth as he represented Great Britain. His method of rectifying the matter when the autorities cut up rough – rather than dyeing his hair back to a normal colour, he simply coloured in the white cross blue, but so badly that you could still see it. That was endearing, even if it gave him the look of a woad-daubed ancient Briton as he took to the slopes above the jewel in the Mormon’s crown.


Reason No.3. He plays shinty, regularly, for his local club Kincraig.


Reason No.4. In 2005 he won the British TV Superstars event, beating, among others, John Regis and Du’Aine Ladejo. "It was good to kick the arse of some of the summer boys." he said. Top marks there.


Reason No.5. The cars. Skiers, well British skiers, don’t ever get to be part of the Baby Bentley brigade. But they have their own automotive fun. Listen up, Rio Ferdinand. When Baxter began competing in Europe aged 18 his ride of choice – well, of necessity – was a beat-up VW Passat with a hole in the back. He and his mates, travelling in dilapidated convoy, would sleep in their cars and get changed for competition in the car park as the other teams were strolling out of their hotel after breakfast. "It was not professional,’ Baxter recalled, "but it was fun." Words that deserve to live long and loudly.


Reason No. 6. On the morning after Baxter had won the first Olympic skiing medal for Britain, a TV crew came to his room to interview him. After what he described as a ‘massive night’, Baxter had had only an hour’s sleep and found himself inconveniently without any clothes on when the crew arrived. There was further inconvenience when – in what now seems like an unpleasant premonitory experience – his medal could not be found. Baxter did the logical thing, checking to see if it was around the neck of his brother, Noel, who had crashed out on the sofa. It wasn’t. But it was in Noel’s jacket pocket, soaked in beer.


altReason No.7. I confess I had had a small part to play in Baxter’s massive night. I didn’t careen down the slopes with him, but I might have given him a little push near the top. Salt Lake City not being replete with drinking holes, visiting members of the press who did not follow the Mormon code of teetotalism made it one of their top priorities to find a venue that fitted their bill. The Dead Goat Saloon, full of dark beer and blues music, was like a piece of New Orleans that had been wrenched up in a twister and deposited on the arid plain of Utah.


And it was to this dingy haven of delight – there were even pool tables upstairs with hardly anyone on them, I ask you - that the British team’s press officer led Baxter three hours after his startling performance on the ice-hard switchback of a slalom course at Deer Valley. There was an element of tension about this supposedly informal appearance, however. The press officer was dedicating himself with Olympic fervour to the task of preventing his new medallist being hassled, pressured,questioned or even approached


Our unastounding decision to buy the bronze medallist a drink was cautiously allowed by the officer, although he was beginning to take on a set expression, reminding me of a teacher in charge of a school outing that was about to spiral out of control.


People kept coming up to Baxter, bothering him, wanting to say hello and have his autograph. Could you believe the nerve of these people? That needed careful monitoring. Then came the TV crew, bearing down upon the glorious Scotsman at the bar. Our officer stepped up to the mark like an Englishman. "No! Leave him alone! He’s just trying to have a quiet drink! Just leave him! Go on!"


The Reuters cameraman faltered, before being ushered forwards by none other than Baxter himself. "No it’s fine," commanded the Highlander with a wave of his mighty arm. Come on." As our officer busied himself with some suddenly urgent paperwork the cameraman began to rove around the medallist, the light above his lens illuminating the first of what would be many beers held in his beefy hand.


A young lady celebrating her 21st birthday requested an autograph on a certain part of her body, but Baxter sensibly elected to write his name on a beer mat. Amiably, and just a tad awkwardly, he accepted a succession of congratulations before settling down to watch a replay of his performance on the TV in the corner of the bar.


It might have been his finest hour. Bloody Vicks.


Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now freelancing and will be writing regularly for insidethegames 



It is nice that Alain is receiving the credit he deserved but
never received during his career. It is only now that he is not
there that people will begin to realise how good he was. Good
luck Alain.
By John Renwick, Inverness

6 April 2009 at 16:37pm

Does somebody there have a thing about Alain Baxter? You seem to
take every opportunity to use a nude picture of him.
By Curious, Edinburgh

6 April 2009 at 20:05pm

James Hoad: From pitch to aspiring podium via the wall of death

  altBy James Hoad - 4 April 2009


I spent 10 years in Watford FC’s academy as a goalkeeper, before I was released in 2007. I was determined that I was going to be a professional football player – it was all I’d ever wanted to be.



That all changed the day when the manager turned around to me and told me that my future wasn’t at that club any more and I wasn’t going to be offered a contract. Of course the reality is, more lads are going to be released every year than are going to go pro. At that time, the thought of taking up another sport never crossed my mind.



Less than a year later, I was working on a building site, doing a job that I didn’t really feel I had a future in, when I got the letter through the door about Pitch2Podium. I didn’t think much of it at first, but it was my mum that actually put it under my nose and said: “Look at this James, you should do this.” You get so many letters through the door these days, but when I actually read the letter from UK Sport and the EIS, it really appealed to me.


I decided to go along to the talent assessment day in London last July. I didn’t really know what to expect or what might come of it, but went along with the attitude that I had nothing to lose and should give it a go. When I got there I soon noticed that some of the people testing us were actually coaches and sport scientists from Great Britain teams, which made me realise that this could be a serious opportunity. I missed being involved in a full time training environment and this seemed like a realistic route back into high performance sport.


So I did the tests and gave it my best shot. They really put me and the other 15 or so lads through our paces - sprints, cycling tests, strength tests, and a bleep test - some of these tests we were familiar with from football, but some were completely new. We were told we would be contacted for trials with specific sports if we had done well in the tests on that day. I wasn’t training at the time or even playing any sport, just working, so I wasn’t sure how well I had done or whether I would hear any more from them.


A few weeks later, I got a letter from the Pitch2Podium team saying that I had been selected for further assessments in three Olympic sports – bob skeleton, hockey and cycling. I had a bit of a giggle when they said bob skeleton - I’d never even heard of it! But they must have known what they were talking about, because I went to the University of Bath , where they have a dry-land push track and I found I was pretty good at it. I loved skeleton from the first time I tried it. I could feel my push technique improving with practice and my times were getting faster too.


altIn November, a few of us were taken to Italy to try the sport out for real on the ice. It’s one thing being able to push off down a short dry-land track, but doing it on ice is completely different. They needed to know whether we could connect with the ice. We spent a week at the Olympic track in Cesana, It was scary the first time, so fast, and another lad went first and he looked horrified. Afterwards he said he couldn’t handle it and sat out for the rest of the week, but I just couldn’t wait to do it again. It was like a fish to water for me and I’ve been hooked ever since!


After Italy we had a couple more training camps in Bath, practicing the starts and then I got the news that I had been selected to go to a three week training camp in Norway. I was the only athlete there from the Pitch2Podium scheme, so I’m really proud to have made it this far. It was great to get more sliding time on the ice and meant that I could do more work on steering and controlling the sled at high speed. I’ve also been learning how to prepare the sled, which helps you understand the equipment you are using and how it affects the time you are getting on the track, which can only make you a better all-round slider.


The coaches and senior athletes I have worked with from British Skeleton have been fantastic - the advice and feedback they have given me has been second to none. They know where the sport is going, how the equipment is changing, how the tracks are changing, how you can adapt to this - so it’s great for me as a novice to have access to these experts at this stage in my development in the sport in order to get the best out of myself.


altSkeleton and football are certainly very different sports; football is a team sport, and skeleton, although you’re part of a team, is very much an individual sport. Only you on the track and only you that will stand on the podium with the gold medal around your neck - that really appeals to me.


I know if I do well it’s my achievement. Equally, if I don’t do so well, I’ve only got myself to blame. I know that if I put the work in, I will see the benefits.


Despite the differences between the sports, I’ve been in full time training before with football, so I think this has really helped me adapt to this new sporting environment and that’s why I’m picking it up so quickly. If I get selected to go full-time with skeleton, I know what to expect because I‘ve been there before – it won’t be a shock.


Having been released from football and missed my opportunity there, I think I appreciate more what a great chance I’ve got here. I’m going to make the most of it and do everything I can to stay involved with the sport and become a full time athlete.


I can’t wait to see if I’ve got onto the programme – if I have it will make my year, my life even! I’ll find out any day now. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to make something of myself and not waste all those years of training in football. Pitch2Podium is a fantastic scheme, not just for ex-players like me, I think Great Britain will really benefit from it in future Olympic Games.


Pitch2Podium is a talent transfer programme run by UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport, in partnership with the major football and rugby authorities. Pitch2Podium has just begun its second search for talented players who may have what it takes to be an Olympic champion. For more information please visit www.uksport.gov.uk/pitch2podium.


Good to see young James has not allowed the setback of being
released by Watford to stifle his ambitions. I wish him all the
success and I'll be looking out for him in Vancouver.
By Hornets fan

6 April 2009 at 16:35pm

Martin Gillingham: Why athletics needs to change

altBy Martin Gillingham - 2 April 2009

Two days, above all others, have convinced me that athletics has to change. The first was the second evening session at the Olympic Games in Beijing.



The night of the men’s 100 metres final. Seminal moment in the sport ‘n all that. But as great as the race was, it was the only track final of the night and was scheduled three-and-a-half hours into the programme. Usain Bolt was worth the wait, but …


The second was at the climax of last month’s European Indoor Championships in Turin. Now, if there’s one form of track and field that I would use to sell our sport to kids it is the vibrant, all-action, environment of a two-hour indoor meeting where world-class athletes, almost close enough to touch, dash round a banked track at dizzy speeds.

To sprinters it may seem like the sporting equivalent of the fairground centrifuge but to newcomersw to the sport it’s the nearest they’ll get to having world-class athletes chasing round their living room.

Turin wasn’t quite that exciting but what it did throw up was one of the most stunning single athletics performances of recent years. A previously undistinguished fellow called Sebastian Bayer of Germany had already won the long jump when he prepared for his final leap. Yet he reached out to 8 metres 71 centimetres to improve the European indoor record by 15 centimetres and came to within eight centimetres of Carl Lewis’s 25-year-old world mark.

It was the longest ever sea-level jump by a European (indoors or out) and 15 centimetres farther than the 29-year-old German outdoor record which had been set by an East German in winning the Olympic title in Moscow. It was truly Beamonesque.

Problem is, Bayer’s jump came, to use movie parlance, after the credits had already begun to roll. The track programme had finished and the only reason the majority of the crowd had stayed was because they were celebrating a medal ceremony featuring two Italians. Even if you hadn’t already left it’s possible you’d have walked out unaware of Bayer’s achievement.

Athletics has to address the way it presents itself. Four-hour night sessions featuring one track final have to be consigned to the dustbin and jumps like Bayer’s have, wherever possible, to be showcased.

And to be fair, the powers that be have already started addressing the problem.

Last month, the world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), announced that from 2010 it will package its evening sessions into more compact three-hour bundles and ensure that the content is more attractive. Lamine Diack’s people did, however, reject a proposal that the outdoor World Championships be cut from nine days to six. The IAAF want their showpiece to extend over two full weekends.

Now that may bed good news for those of use who get hired on a day rate but for the paying punter who expects to see half-a-dozen track finals in each of Mr Diack’s more keenly packaged evening sessions, forget it. You, I suspect, shall continue to be short-changed.

And it’s not only the IAAF who have been making changes. This summer’s re-branded European Cup, now the European Team Championships, will see some altogether more groundbreaking innovations.

Twenty-two years ago at Crystal Palace I recall an innovative David Bedford adopting a devil take the hindmost event at his IAC Grand Prix meeting. Bedford’s feature was a cycle race and an intentional diversion from the regular running fodder.

In June at Leiria, though, it will be adopted as part of the mainstream programme; the last-placed runners in distance races with five, four and three laps remaining being told to step off the track. It’s a ruse to rumble the sort of slow, tactical affairs that have turned some European Cup races into borefests.

The most significant amendment in the field in Leiria involves the long and triple jumps. There, competitors will get a maximum of four jumps each. The first two rounds will be qualifying rounds to eliminate half of the 12-athlete field. The third round will see another two competitors drop out leaving four to go into the final round. Now here comes the controversial bit – because once the final quartet are established the slate is wiped clean, previous marks erased, and the final round used to determine positions one to four.

Purists and critics will no doubt tell us how terribly unfair this is because, almost inevitably, the longest jump in one or perhaps all four of the horizontal jump events in Leiria, won’t win. In fact, it’s highly likely that the best jumper on the day won’t win either.

But then, as we are frequently reminded, life isn’t fair. So why expect athletics to be any different?

What we can be certain of, though, is that a format that ensures the last four attempts of a 34-jump competition will determine the top four placings, and command our attention even if it is a slightly contrived climax.


Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.


Martin, as ever, makes some interesting points. I think there is
no doubt that the sport has to modernise if it is to have a
future in the 21st century, however much that saddens me.
By Track Fan, Oregon USA

3 April 2009 at 10:29am

Athletics has prospered for more than a century, it is still the
top sport at the Olympics, the world champs will be the most
important event of the summer. Usain Bolt proved that at its
highest level it can still be compelling. We need for the sport
to have more people like Usain rather than just messing around
with the sport at the margins.
By Ronald Mayer, Switzerland

6 April 2009 at 16:47pm

Don Porter: The Olympics is the pinnacle for softball

altBy Don Porter - 1 April 2009

Everyone on the International Softball Federation team was truly delighted by the interest shown by convention delegates and the international media covering an event that helps shape the agenda for world sport.



You know, one of the great things about SportAccord is the number of Olympic legends you see walking the floor and shooting the breeze. This time around they included Sebastian Coe, the UK middle distance gold medalist who now runs the London 2012 organising committee and Frankie Fredericks, the great Namibian sprinter. These are busy guys with important jobs but at SportAccord they can relax because they are among friends – they’re part of the family.



I know that’s how Jessica Mendoza and Michele Smith, two-time Olympic softball medalists felt when they spent time at our booth. As softball Olympians they were certainly at home, among people they share so much with.


That’s down to the fact that the Olympic Games remain the pinnacle of any softball player’s career. They may plan their lives from game to game but appearing at an Olympic Games remains their overriding ambition, winning Gold their enduring dream.


That was true not just of Sebastian Coe and Frankie Fredericks and the vast majority of Olympians but it’s certainly true of every aspiring softball player. For them, the Olympic Games remain the greatest stage of all.


From Denver the focus of the BackSoftball team’s attention shifted many thousands of miles to the west and the Oceania National Olympic Committees’ General Assembly in New Zealand. This time out I was back at our world headquarters while our sport was ably represented by Ms. Low Beng Choo, our Deputy Secretary General (Malaysia) and Danielle Stewart (Australia), who was a bronze medal winner at the Beijing Games.


The fact that BackSoftball’s team in New Zealand was an all-female affair reflects our structure and commitment to inclusion at every level. In fact, most of our team in Denver were also women. We have always stressed that softball is among the most inclusive of games, open to both genders and people of all ages and ability levels. But that commitment goes way beyond simply playing the sport. The fact that 33 per cent - and soon to be more - of our Executive Council is female shows that this is a truly open sport that welcomes the contributions of every members of its community, irrespective of gender.


The presence of Danielle Stewart in New Zealand also underscored the global nature of softball. You know that the ISF now has 127 members - and that doesn’t just mean nations where softball is played from time to time but here there are established and recognised competitions and development structures.


And 2009 is a big international year for our sport with our players taking part in events all around the world. The ISF XII Men’s World Championship will be contested by 16 nations in Canada from July 17-26 while the Youth Softball World Cup for girls ages 16-and-under will be hosted by the Czech Republic from August 9-16.


In addition, softball is an important part of numerous major multi-sport events, including the World Games and World Masters Games among others which also take place this year.


So with SportAccord behind us and a busy schedule ahead, the BackSoftball campaign will be stepping up the pace as we work to persuade the International Olympic Committee to include our most Olympian of sports in the Games programme for 2016.


Even in such a busy year we never lose sight of what makes softball so special and it seems to me that every one of the reasons I am so committed to the sport is a strong reason for its inclusion in the Olympic Games. Ours is a truly global, inclusive, and drug free sport that champions participation and supports its athletes, coaches, and administrators throughout the world.


I keep looking for more boxes to tick and while we’ll never stop working, I think we pretty much have the full set. But you know what? What really matters is the softball athletes, and anyone who had been around those who visited at us during SportAccord will have seen their excitement at being part of an event which unites the Olympic Movement and the world of sport. This is their world and where they belong, alongside all the great Olympians down the years. When it comes down to it, We Are Family!


Don Porter is the president of the International Softball Federation


It was disgraceful that the Olympics voted softball out in the
first place. It would be an even bigger scandal if they now
ignored the claims of reintroducing it after Don has worked hard.
I hope that if they do vote it back into the programme that they
have the good sense to tell London to include it in the 2012
By Softball fan, Tuscon, AZ

6 April 2009 at 16:34pm

Martin Gillingham: The Englishman causing a backlash against South Africa in London

altBy Martin Gillingham - 25 March 2009 

 In 2004, a bunch of South Africans waving wads of cash and fronted by the jaunty former Springbok captain Bobby Skinstad arrived on our shores telling all ‘n sundry they were preparing to take English rugby by storm and set up a team under the working title London Tribe. 
The new club was to be based at the home of Queen’s Park Rangers and the target was to tap into the ready-made fan base within the capital’s fast-growing saffa community. The Tribe was to be a fully professional outfit funded by one of the world’s richest men (another South African) and to accelerate the new club’s rise up “the pyramid” the idea was to buy out a struggling second division side and then rename and relocate it.
But within weeks of willing sellers having been found the bid was blocked by Twickers.
Totsiens Mr Skinstad.
Five years on, those with memories of Skinstad’s conquest will have you believe a similar mission has been embarked on. The business plan is much the same – buy control of a club, stock it with a handful of top-flight South Africans and tap into the corner of Wimbledon that is forever Vereeniging.
This time, though, the club is already in the top flight. Saracens are 50 per cent owned by a Johannesburg investment firm with similar interests in two of South Africa’s leading sides, the Bulls and Western Province.
In the last three months, Saracens have put their own men in charge - both on and off the field - and told at least 15 of the current squad they won’t be required next season.
Cue a backlash.
The current coach, former Wallabies boss Eddie Jones, has left while the newspapers have had a field day with tales of jumbo-loads of Springboks being parachuted in and plans to relocate one of England’s oldest clubs to south-west London. As for the new coach – well, it would be safe to say he is not the most loved.
The new director of rugby is Brendan Venter who was once described by World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson as “one of the most hypocritical, cynical, dirty and underhand players I have ever played against. I can't stand anything about him. He is a bad loser and a bad winner, an all-round horrible person.”
The new chief executive is Edward Griffiths who, I can assure Matt, is a rather more virtuous and decent fellow. For starters, despite being referred to as a “South African” by normally authoritative media sources in this country, he is, in fact, English. And that’s not a bad start where this tale is concerned.
altGriffiths does, though, boast a stunning cv from his time spent in South Africa during the Eighties and Nineties. He’s been the sports editor of the country’s leading newspaper; chief executive of South African rugby; head of sport at the national broadcaster; biographer of some of the country’s most famous rugby legends; and even a key player in South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 football World Cup. He’s Barwick, Baron, Coe, Lee and Slater all rolled into one.
Griffiths was the spinmeister behind the Springboks’ successful 1995 Rugby World Cup campaign. Joel Stransky’s drop goal may have been the stroke of genius that won the cup on the pitch but Griffiths’ slogan “One Team, One Country” scored a fair few points off it. If ever a game of footie has transcended sport, the Ellis Park final was it.
Over the past few weeks Griffiths has been channeling his PR skills at turning round the headlines sparked by the upheaval at Vicarage Road. And in time he will be judged by his claims that Saracens is not in the midst of the sort of South African takeover that will see Afrikaans become the most prevalent mother tongue in the dressing room.
At the root of the backlash and sensational headlines lies an ugly English parochialism. The message is clear: we don’t care much for South Africans and certainly don’t want you meddling around with our Premiership.
To their detractors, Saracens is mutating into the London Tribe. The truth is that they are not. More than any other team in England over the past decade Sarries have demonstrated that foreign talent alone doesn’t guarantee success.
Yet Saracens need to change. They are currently mid-table mediocrity, haven’t won anything for years, and stand to lose £3 million this season.
So what if Sarries’ Springbok contingent may move into double figures? They are, after all, the world champions and gave England a mighty hump as recently as the Autumn. And what with current England Test players like James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer fleeing for France ahead of the new season, perhaps we need a bit of extra class in the Premiership.
Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.



The English are probably fed up keep beating by the Boks without
the same thing happening to them in the Premiership!
By keyna rivera rodriguez, Durban
25 March 2009 at 13:44pm

Hi Martin,

I enjoy your blogs - always very informative.

I just wondered what you thought about rugby sevens being in the

Tom Price
By Tom Price, Auckland
25 March 2009 at 16:25pm

Oh what fun it is to see the English sweating...They deserve
everything they get.
By Cape Town rugby fan
26 March 2009 at 03:27am


Dame Kelly Holmes: Crossing the void

altBy Dame Kelly Holmes - 24 March 2009

Nothing, but nothing, will ever compare with the nerves and excitement I felt when I stood on the start line of my Olympic finals. But today, as I host the first of my new Trust's events for retiring athletes I do feel a certain sense of anticipation.


Goodness knows what would have happened if I had not won those two gold medals. With other successes in Athens in cycling and rowing, anything less than then a gold would have relegated me to a few lines in the sports pages, with athletics writers lamenting the loss of track and field's golden age.



But fortunately for me, my fate was different and I overcame all the "nearly" moments of an injury dogged career to stand on the rostrum as a champion and instead of "if only", I achieved what I had been hoping to do all my life: become Olympic champion. Actually more than even I could have dreamt of. I became a double Olympic champion.


As I stood on the podium, it really was the culmination of everything, the highest point in a journey that took years to reach, through which I gained many different skills, experiences and insights into what it takes to be your best, and learned finally how to triumph in the face of adversity.


Since that day I have continued to use these skills and begin to forge a new career. I have been lucky. Opportunities have come my way and I have been able to begin that transition through the twilight world of not being an elite athlete anymore, but not quite knowing what you are either is pretty tough.


It's a hard process because you lose your identity and as an elite performer like I was, there are literally hundreds of others who worked just as hard as me but whom don't always get the opportunities you do if you are in the limelight. Many get used, (and a few get abused!) In little deals or bits of work here and there, but all share the same struggle of post career blues.


altThese sports people know so much, have huge amounts of different experiences, strong characteristics and skills that can be of hugh benefit to others and yet when they finish competing many have an enormous void to fill in their lives. I have talked to a lots in many different sports about this, learning from their own stories. And for every person I have spoken to, the journey from elite performer to a new life is a tough one: emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially.


To me it is a travesty that we have not made the most of these people's skills in a systematic and developmental way and that is why I have set up the Dame Kelly Holmes (DKH Legacy Trust). It's core purpose is to harness expertise and talents of retired and retiring sports performers to realise the talents in others; in sport, in education and for some, in business.


We are providing general support, professional career development and mentoring opportunities for these ex-sports performers as they grapple with finding a new pathway and future, a new life, a new sense of identity, that builds on who they are and does not leave their ambitions gathering dust in the trophy cabinet.


We have got off to a good start, bringing on the support of BT who as 2012 Olympic sponsor have decided to invest in my Trust and support the Backing Talent programme we have been running already, a project which has already enabled some retired performers to work with up and coming talent in East of London.


But today is a first, where we are bringing together over 50 ex-performers for a two day conference focused on helping them find and harness their own talents. We are working with many National Governing Bodies of Sport, various business to develop ways that will enable more retiring sports stars to play a role in a range of ways, and I am delighted that Jennie Price from Sport England is supporting us.


So, we are on the start line. Has it been easy getting here? No way! Are we ready? Oh yes! Will we last the race? I don't give up that easily remember!


I believe our retiring sports people can play a big role in sport and in inspiring young people and that is my part in giving back to my peers and also to the world of sport which, because of my own journey helped me become who I am today.


Dame Kelly Holmes won the 800 and 1500 metres gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She also won the bronze medal in the 800m at the Sydney Games in 2000. She is now the chair of the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust. More details can be found at www.dkhlegacytrust.org.


A fascinating insight into what happens the cheering stops and
athletes have to return to the real world. Kelly is to be
commended for trying to help those who have never scaled the
heights that she did. Good luck Kelly!By Bridgett Bradley, USA

25 March 2009 at 10:51am

I think everything that helps harness the lessons learnt by
people like Kelly can only be good. I have seen her at a couple
of functions since Athens and she is an inspiration.By Yvonne Lowry, Darlington

25 March 2009 at 12:04pm

Kelly certainly seems to be a lovely person, doing this when it
would have surely been easier for her to just settle back and
think that financially she would be okay for the rest of her
life. I think it sums her up as the lovely, wonderful person she
is.By Marian Lodge, New York

25 March 2009 at 13:37pm

Certainly alot of parallels to former rock/pop stars......"when
the lights go down". The difference is what can be learned from
the commitment an athlete makes. Quite the dichotemy if they knew
what they were facing. I wish her the best of luck.By Jeff Dockeray

26 March 2009 at 15:26pm

I am a current athlete who attended the dkh Legacy conference
this week, it was a great event and has given me some ideas and
inspiration for what to do with the experiences I have had as a
sports performer when I retire from my sport.
Thanks Kelly !By Helen Clitheroe

27 March 2009 at 10:46am

Paul Gains: Canada aims to top the medals table in Vancouver

altBy Paul Gains - 22 March 2009

With less than a year until the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) is sticking by its ambitious goal of topping the medal table.


Chris Rudge, the COC’s Coventry-born, chief executive officer, says the country’s athletes are well on track to achieve this goal.
“We set a goal of being number one at our home games,” he declares, “And that wasn't a goal set by merely saying ‘wouldn’t that be nice.’
"[Five years ago] we did a thorough analysis at our recent Games Salt Lake City which included significant in-depth discussion with all our winter sports federations, a look at the depth our our teams and then having them tell us where they could drive their program in 2010 if we got them the resources they need.
“There was a belief that if we got them everything they needed there was a chance we could be number one in the world. We have monitored it regularly. The first litmus test was Torino where we moved from 17 medals to 24 medals and moved up to third place, one medal behind the Americans.”
Canada has the dubious distinction of hosting two Olympic Games, the 1976 Summer Games and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary and coming away without a single gold medal in either, the only host nation to endure such failure. It’s a shameful label of which Rudge is well aware.
“I wouldn’t say it hangs over our head,” he says, “It’s certainly not something anyone in this country is proud of. We have talked about it. The whole country is aware of it. We have put it out in front of the market and we have used it as a catalyst to get more support for the team.”
“We have any number of speed skaters, who will be touted as potential gold medal winners, as we do in sliding sports, skeleton and bobsled. Our freestyle skiers are at the top of the world. Certainly our curlers and hockey players will be looked upon as being capable of delivering gold medals. Certainly, within those you are going to see gold medal potential. And, our figure skaters have come on very strong. We are pretty strong across the board.”
altCanadians are nothing if not passionate about their hockey. When the national men’s team failed to medal at the 2006 Games in Turin and were humiliated by nations such as Switzerland in the opening round, it raised controversy. It was terribly humbling, particularly to those Canadians who feel Canada could enter two teams and win two medals.
“There’s a large percentage of Canadians, if not the majority, who would be happy if we won the two gold medals in [men’s and women’s] hockey and two in curling and nothing else rather than obtain our objective of being number one,” Rudge concedes with a laugh.
Through the Federal Government initiatives such as Own the Podium the sports have received unprecedented funding to help them toward their individual team goals. It was this programme that allowed Luge Canada, for instance, to hire German coach Wolfgang Staudinger two years ago. He has introduced new optimism into the national team.
“Things have changed in every aspect of program,” says Tim Farstad, chief executive of Luge Canada. “Physical training, different off-season methods, different methods to set up sleds to make them fast, and different training methods, he gets the athlete to train a lot more runs than they would normally do on a daily basis. He’s taken some of the methods that the very dominant Germans are using and put it into our group.”
Farstad is eagerly awaiting another key development in the push towards Vancouver 2010. The entry ramp at Canada’s Olympic Park’s Ice House in Calgary, needs to be extended in order to replicate the run athletes will use in Vancouver. At present it is long enough for only one or two paddles whereas five or six is required during a race. Thanks to a variety of partners they are now looking over engineering drawings and work is to be done in May.
With pressure on the COC to deliver upon its promises one wonders if the individual sports, given all the components on their wish list, also feels pressure. Luge Canada athletes have never won either a World Championship or Olympic medal.
“No, we don't feel pressure we are just trying to do exactly what we have always try to do and that is try to win medals,” Farstad claims. “We haven't done that before. We think we are on the path to have our best chance to do that. But we would love to pitch in but we don't feel pressure to make them win in 2010.
“Our job is to put our athletes in the best position we can with the help of OTP by bringing in coaches like Stauding and, with the home track advantage, and all these things lining up we are putting our athletes in the position to challenge for the podium. If we put it together on the race day I think we have a chance. That’s something we have never been able to say before. It’s pretty exciting.”
This new attitude, Canadians hope will be consistent across all sports and take the nation to the top of the medal podium.
Paul Gains is a Canadian-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Time, the New York Times, Toronto Star, GQ and  many other publications around the world. He covered the recent Beijing Olympics for CBC Television and was the athletics news editor for the 2004 Athens Olympic News Service.



Go Canada!By Karen Schutlz, Toronto

25 March 2009 at 10:52am

I enjoyed this piece. It is nice to read on an international
website about our team's chances in Vancouver. I remember
Montreal and the 1976 Olympics. They were a bit of a disaster all
round really. I hope we avoid that fate this time.By Marian Carrillo, London, Canada

25 March 2009 at 10:53am

Duncan Mackay: I have been here before

altBy Duncan Mackay - 21 March 2009

I am currently in Berlin covering the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council meeting, which is being held in the Inter Continental hotel and its feels like I have been transported back in time.



That is because the last time the Council met in this city was at this very hotel in October 2003 and top of the agenda then was Dwain Chambers. A couple of weeks previously I had exclusively revealed the news that the British sprinter had tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid THG and his name was on the lips of everyone in the sport.



Fast forward six years and nothing has changed, it appears. The question in the hotel lobby everyone - from Sebastian Coe, who is a vice-president of the IAAF to the journalists covering the meeting - is: "How do you solve a problem like Dwain?" His newly published book, Race Against Me, has been like a hand grenade dropped on the sport.


The lurid description about the extent of his drug-taking in the years between 2001 and 2003, and how easily he avoided detection have upset many. So have his allegations that half the United States team that competed in the Olympics at Beijing last year had either taken drugs or were still using them. Then there are the personal attacks on leading figures like Coe, Colin Moynihan and Niels de Vos.


altHe has certainly not set out to win friends and influence people. Which is fine - this is after all his story and his version of what happened - except that Chambers still wants to have a future in the sport. And it is therefore no surprise that those people running athletics are not exactly falling over themselves to help him achieve that.


The IAAF are particularly upset because they feel that they have done everything they can to help rehabilitate the disgraced Briton. Lamine Diack, the organisation's President, even spoke out on behalf of Chambers last year when UK Athletics were trying to freeze him out and they have allowed him the opportunity to give back the prize and appearance money he fraudlently won while he was taking drugs on a pay as he earns basis.


Their argument is if Chambers, as he keeps claiming, now wants to be a force for good why does he keep conjuring up such unhelpful headlines for a sport that is struggling to retain the hearts and minds of the public, jaded by so many drugs scandals involving its heroes?


The final straw was insidethegames' story last week that Chambers has resumed a working relationship with Victor Conte, the man who had supplied him with the cocktail of drugs in the first place. Chambers claims that they are determined to put right what they did wrong and are now working on a revolutionary new technique that involves him alternately breathing low and high oxygen air through a hypoxicator in a techinque that causes the body to begin creating its own Erythropoietin (EPO), the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.


People are naturally suspicious of how Chambers is now managing to run faster now than he did before when he had enough rocket fuel in his body to power him to the moon. No other athlete coming back from a drugs ban has managed that before so it is natural that people want to know how come Chambers can do it. He can have no complaints about that, especially now he has again started working with Conte.


The ironic thing is, that the amount of people here who have actually read the book that has got Chambers into so much new trouble, is a very small minority indeed. Coe, for example, whose private life is the subject of so many pages had not seen a copy until I showed him mine. I hope that the money Chambers received for writing the book is worth the aggravation it is now causing him.


The only thing we can certain of is Dwain Chambers' name will still be on people's lips for a while yet.


Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.com. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years. He was the writer that exposed Dwain Chambers as a drugs cheat

Dwain ought to understand that if you do a kiss 'n tell you can't
then expect to cuddle up with the one you have kissed and told
By Tanya Mills, Glasgow

21 March 2009 at 13:20pm

I met the guy and bought the book. Having sat on the fence for a
while, I was completely won over by Dwain. He is totally
approachable and upfront and the book is a revelation in more
ways than one! I think the hypocrisy with which Dwain has been
treated, while others have been given the wink-wink-nudge-nudge
treatment is disgraceful. He is a phenomenal athlete and a nice
guy who made a bad mistake but one that he's learned much from
and moved on, which is more than you can say for his critics. I
look forward to see him competing again soon.
By Dwain fan, St Albans

21 March 2009 at 13:51pm

One thing that has come to the foreground for me is the level of
hypocrisy and dissembling in the sport. Chambers has become a
whipping post , while others have slipped quietly under the
radar. UK Athletics have conveniently turned a blind eye to these
athletes, while continuing to wipe their feet on Chambers. What
happened to equity and fairness of treatment? I bought the book -
it's a real eye-opener.
By Kris, Bristol

21 March 2009 at 16:21pm

I read Dwain's book and found it to be thought-provoking. It does
make you look at things with different eyes. It seems to me that
they are preparing to shoot the messenger because they don't like
the news he is telling them.
By Jon Bailey, Birmingham

21 March 2009 at 16:55pm

Perhaps if the press stopped writing about Dwain Chambers drugs
at every opportunity they get it might not be such a big story.
Then we could all get on with it.
By Wolfgang Kuntz, Zurich

22 March 2009 at 08:34am

If Diack doesn't want Chambers to associate with Conte why
doesn't he just ban him? Surely that is in his power. This circus
is getting very boring now and I agree with Wolfgang that it is
being fuelled by the press.
By Marti Dibteth, Sydney

22 March 2009 at 19:22pm

Sadly, it appears we now watch sport for entertainment and to be
amazed - perhaps we don't really want to know the magician's
secrets or that our films/opening ceremonies (?!) rely on
"performace enhancement" aka special effects.

We still want to believe in heroes and those who can beat the
odds. Perhaps that is why there is a ground swell of popular
opinion behind Dwain - he has become the representative of
"everyman". The flawed hero that the establishment have come to
"hate" who in spite of all that is thrown at him keeps on going.

Perhaps their worst nightmare is that he keeps winning not only
races but newspaper copy.

Conte or not, let him compete, pay his dues to the IAAF and
either prove that it can be done clean - a win. Or simply lose
enough races so that the situation will go away for the
establishment (another win?)

Time to put the pin back in the grenade - the only explosion
should be on the track.
By Dr Rob Dawson

23 March 2009 at 19:18pm

David Sparkes: We will do all we can to get water polo to London 2012

Recent cutbacks at UK Sport have meant there is a massive financial hole to fill if Britain is to qualify two teams for the water polo tournament at the London 2012 Olympics.

We are working on it all the time and are speaking to the parents of the players who have offered to try to raise money, which is fantastically helpful. We are also liasing with the British Olympic Association, London 2012 and UK Sport on their Team 2012 project which we hope will yield something.

Then there is our recent sponsorship deal with British Gas - we will put some of that money into water polo. We are looking at other ways of bridging the gap and British Swimming is determined that we will do everything we can to get enough money to get the two teams to London.

But, I’m going to say this, categorically, our piroirity is the women’s water polo team. That is because the women are closer to the medal zone. On that basis we want to support them. They are doing well. There are only eight teams that will compete in London and, frankly, the women are more likely to succeed. The men, because it is a professional game in Mediterranean Europe and standards are so high, they are not so far advanced. I think they could have been there and it would have been close if they had had the opportunity to have the full funding.

But when your funding has been cut by 75 per cent the reality is that you have to make some tough decisions. We will do our best for the men but what I am saying is that when the chips are down it is the women that are getting the priority. The men know that and they understand that.

I think if we could raise around £3 million between now and 2012 we might stand a fighting chance of getting both teams to London. The hole is currently £4 million but I think with a bit of smart work we can do it. The task to deliver two teams to London is enornmous, it really is on a 75 per cent in budget. It is a really tough ask, I know that.

We are going to take some of the money we are due to get from UK Sport early and we are going to put some money of our own into the programme. But we have to be careful because what I do not want to happen is to get to 2010 and fall off the edge of a cliff. So what I am going to try to do is eke out the money a little bit and, as more hopefully flows into the system, we will do everything we can to move it along.

I think water polo is a great game. It is perhaps not as well known in Britain as some of the other team games but we invented the sport and we won the Olympic gold medals in 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920 - the first four occasions the sport was contested at the Games. We have a fantastic record in the sport. It is a game that we should be competing in in at London in 2012. There is no question in mind of that.

It is disappointing that we are in this position but I understand as to why where we are here. It is our job now to challenge and we will do it. One way or another, we will do it, I promise you of that.

David Sparkes is the chief executive of British Swimming. Since taking over in 1994 he has built up to the sport up to a position where it now employs 300 people and has an annual turnover of £32 million.


The news that I have just read about Nick Hume resigning is a
disaster. He had steered the programme brilliantly and we were
beginning to make real progress. I hope UK Sport is happy with
By Disillusioned sports fan

21 March 2009 at 13:22pm

It is now time for David Sparkes to show that he really means it
when he says "We will do it" meaning getting both teams to the
games. The men need his wholehearted support and encouragement
rather than constantly being told that the women are better than
them. Is he trying to break their spirit in the hope that many
will drift away leaving him looking blameless? If the men aren't
there in 2012 then the revolution will undoubtedly happen. So
sorry Nick Hume has gone too.
By Concerned

21 March 2009 at 13:51pm

As ususal British Sport is upside down and its own worst enenmy!
We seem to be more concerned with administration and management
than by performance and looking after our athletes. The Water
polo program began brightly with 2 world class coaches, great
facilities and a fully committed support team. 2 years later,
following best ever performances from the junior teams and
creditable early performances from BOTH squads, the well
respected mens Head Coach is long gone, moral is at an all time
low, the programme is directionless and without the world class
support needed to push it on. The right decisions have not been
made. British Swimming need to be honest with the athletes and
themselves. Make a commitment and do it properly, put their momey
into the athletes not the adminstrators, accept nothing but the
best. Quickly.

22 March 2009 at 18:41pm

Is the Olympics the be all and end all?

I realise for some the attendance at the olympics will be the
supreme pinnacle of their career but what of the future? The next
generation of British Water Polo is being totally decimated,
ignored and bled dry. No funding, no strategy, no competition and
no support. The legacy of the olympics for water polo will be
less than nil, it will be totally detrimental.

A long term strategy needs to be formulated and put into action
now. We need a future for water polo and not just a quick all
consuming foray at a 'free entry'. Take the money and build a
future not a straw house.

The present situation is such: spend on the olympics and have no
future, or spend on building the future and have a long and
prosperous one.

To paraphrase: Never before in the field of sport have so few
been so detrimental to so many.
By What Future

23 March 2009 at 23:46pm

At last someone with some sense (What Future)

We need to look to the future of waterpolo in the long term and
not just to 2012. If we can get teams into the Olympics all good
and well, but not at the expense of the sport throughout Britain.
There are players who need support in all 4 countries who train
week in week out because they love the sport and want to be the
best they can. Through lack of funding in many regions athletes
and clubs have had to curtail their aspirations and development.
The athletes who are the future following 2012 are being ignored
and put on the back burner in the hope of getting a team to the
Olympics. Do we in all honesty have a chance of a medal or do we
need to put all our efforts into building a secure future for the
sport? A sport where everyone involved benefits and we end up
building teams that are competitive in Europe and at World level
before thinking of tackling the Olympics simply because we have a
'free entry'.
By name

24 March 2009 at 16:39pm

Every aspect of water polo, from mini and junior level right up
to the Olympic programme needs financial support. It's no good
funding the foundations of a sport if there is not a well run and
well financed pinnacle to aim for. The athletes in both GB squads
deserve the chance to play in the Olympics, they are doing it
because they are proud to be British and want to represent their
country in the greatest sporting event in the world, they are
obviously not doing it for the money!
By Build a Legacy

24 March 2009 at 19:22pm

as usual us brits just bend over and take it up the
proverbial....!!!we all know sparkes could`nt give a monkeys
about water-polo.please remind me??is this  OUR OLYMPICS.our
chance to incite young people away from booze,junk food,drugs and
no sport,towards respect and self-esteem.the olympics should not
be money and medals,but participation and mutual respect.
WHY is BRITISH SWIMMING NOT making up the funds necessary to
allow both our teams to be competitive for 2012.uksport was never
the only source of income!!!certainly before the bid was won the
asa funded the national junior and youth teams, WHY NO
david sparkes if you are not capable of doing your job FULLY
you should step down and stop filling YOUR pockets
it is a BIG shame water-polo cannot become independant of the
burocracy that has become the asa/b.s.
disrespectfully yours
the father of a disillusioned athlete
By father of a passionate

24 March 2009 at 20:48pm

I totally understand the sentiments expressed above. It is very
concerning that there seems to be no athlete pathway for the
young people who will benefit from the money being poured in at
the grass root level. The whole thing is topsy tervy and sadly
the athletes are at the bottom of the pile. I just hope that Mr
Sparkes will read and take notice of all the comments. Somehow I
doubt it.
By Concerned

25 March 2009 at 11:12am

What Future is more or less bang on with comments about the
Olympics. Run properly by the right people, with realistic
funding, the sport could compete at the highest level - it's just
that it will almost certainly take longer than 3 years. This
obsession with 2012 has started to have a negative effect. Some
people have just been seduced by the prospect of getting
themselves or their kids to these Olympics. As it happens, just
pumping more money into the current system to be administered by
the present regime wouldn't be the answer. Either way the whole
thing is a complete shambles. There is every likelihood that the
sport will fall apart post 2012 even if 2 teams compete. In the
meantime Mr. Sparkes is embarking on his own personal PR
campaign. When his voice was really needed in December and
January, the silence was deafening. The stuff above is just
nonsense. It's got to the point where if he said it's Wednesday
today, I'd check the calendar.
By Ged

25 March 2009 at 19:20pm

Right, let us ask the question; Mr Sparkes, The ASA, British
Water Polo, are you the today people or the tomorrow people? The
Today people are here today, gone tomorrow. The Tomorrow people
are here today and tomorrow, and the next day and forever. Mr
Sparkes you are not a figure head and the ASA/British Water Polo
are not a get-together, you are a responsible person and an
organisation to promote and benefit the sport you represent, SO

The abject failure to produce a strategy for the longevity of
water polo is appalling. The lack of support and funding at grass
roots level, at regional, at national academy and youth level is
disgusting. The ‘O’ event has become all consuming: it is the
panacea to nothing and the endemic problem to everything.

I realise people may think I’m being negative but I’m a realist,
I’m for the future of water polo, I’m for success and a sporting
prosperous future. The flash in the pan isn’t worth it. Let us
build and create a brilliant future. Let us invest in an
infrastructure for all our athletes, current and future, to
enable us to compete on the international stage now and forever.

Let us lift our heads out of the abyss and look at the prospects
and possibilities. We have funding, not for an Olympics but
possible for a future. Let us use this money to build the
infrastructure and from this spring board we can launch ourselves
to a higher level. We can and will compete with the best of the
world, but it can only come from the best of foundations.
By What Future

26 March 2009 at 02:23am

Firstly I would like to congratulate British Swimming on their
recent sponsorship deal and I hope a small proportion of it will
find its way to help the GB Mens Team to the Olympics in 2012 as
well as the Ladies' Team.

Some young men have completely put on hold their personal plans
for the immediate future to move to Manchester to pursue their
dream of taking part in their Olympics - they have struggled
financially and now to have the prospect of the rug being taken
from under their feet is just not fair.
How can we as a nation that brought Water Polo to the Olympics
now not send two teams to our home Olympics?  It is absolutely
disgraceful and now we have lost Nick Hume who at least was
trying to put water polo back on the map.

Water polo is so poorly funded that recognition of it as a sport
barely exists in Scotland and yet there are Scottish players in
the Junior GB squad - it they had the facilities available to
them that exist in some centres in England there could be so many
more.  Recently an Edinburgh University squad made it to the
finals of the BUCS Championships - not many of them had even
played in a 30m pool before!

Please can we raise the awareness of water polo by getting two
teams to our Olympics even though it may be already too late for
many of our young men who play the game passionately and want to
put their time into the game even through refereeing or
By Mother of another disappointed player

26 March 2009 at 17:15pm

In response to What Future, although I totally agree with the
need to build foundations and have a long term strategy to keep
British WP competitive at the highest international level, we
NEED 2 teams in the Olympics. The only way to promote the sport
and get more people playing it is to get exposure at the top
level (eg national team) at the olympics. Obviously our only
realistic chance of ever competing in an Olympics (with the
current lack of awareness and support) is 2012.

Once the immediate future building to 2012 is secure then we can
start focusing on building to 2016 and beyond. Furthermore, by
actually having 26 players (men and women) training and
eventually competing at the heighest level, we will then have
gained the experience and knowledge for the potential of 26
future coaches. Because they have achieved and been supported by
the sporting community they will hopefully want to give something
back and, most importantly, be able to coach our future players
to the standard required to keep us at the top of international
water polo.

Without people with the knwoledge and the willingness to give
back as coaches of the future then all our young athletes are
doomed to never reach the top.
By A realist!!

26 March 2009 at 22:41pm

Sparkes is clearly just making the right noises in his own
personal PR campaign and doesn't actually give a stuff about the
sport. He is all words and no action. When are we actually going
to see some changes? Professing that BS have no money to give
water polo is rubbish...what happened to the funds WP used to get
before UK Sport got involved? All he has done for years is make
decisions that have screwed the sport over and I KNOW he's just
waiting for the men to get fed up with the situation and leave
and give up, leaving BS blameless in the eyes of the masses...

The only reason the women's team have been given priority is
because there are less teams playing therefore of course they
will be closer to the medals. What kind of selection policy is
that? How does that teach our future generations that commitment
and hard work equal success? BS have just taken the easy option
as usual and found a perfect excuse to cripple water polo for
By NewB.S.CEOneeded..

26 March 2009 at 22:51pm

The mens team do not accept being classed behind the womens team
merely because there are less teams in the womens competition.
The gulf is bigger between the top nations in the world in the
womens as it is with the men, who have some serious candidates
with potential to enter highly paid professional leagues. Just
look at the age of the lancaster team who dominate british water
polo and have threatened to upset some serious names in European
competition. Sparkes is either misinformed in this respect or is
bending the truth.

In reference to the comments of “what future”, they seem to be
naïve in thinking that the future of water polo will be secured
by investing this (small amount of) money in grass roots water
polo. Much more money has been spent over the years, but without
the top class performers and professional attitudes/leagues that
are present in Europe, there is only a certain level which can be
reached. This is why we must ensure we compete at the highest
possible standard in 2012 and establish that base of world class
players. The 1.45m allocated from uk sport is obviously done so
with 2012 in mind, going totally against the performance criteria
set out would result in withdrawl of the funding.

I would be particularly interested to see/read how david sparkes
would respond to the rumour that he has been offered higher
status in FINA by Russian, german and Italian federation members
to ensure that there is no british mens team in 2012 so that
their own country’s participation is not put in jeopardy…

If we were to get a mens team to 2012 and perform admirably, I
would be amongst the first to congratulate mr sparkes, but at the
moment what real action have we seen?

Thoughts welcome.
By stand up

8 April 2009 at 16:56pm

There is a vast difference between threatening to upset some
serious names in Europe and in actually achieving it. Maybe those
in Waterpolo should have been spending money more wisely in
previous years instead of taking trips further afield such as to
New Zealand/Canada etc. Surely becoming competitive in Europe and
proving our worth in competitions on the Continent, would be more
beneficial to many of our players. As National Squads, we are
unable even to come top against some of the European club sides
playing at the moment, far less their National teams. A visit to
the European A championships last year made evident the gap that
has to be bridged to compete at the same level as other European
countries. GB waterpolo needs to be sent on a fact finding
mission to the Continent to see how they manage to achieve such
standards. Money is obviously an important factor, but so is good
management, organisation, coaching and people who want to take
the sport forward for all players, not just the chosen few. Other
countries must be doing something right to have so many quality
teams and players. Money can't be the only factor. Maybe we need
to admit we got it wrong somewhere along the line and move on!!
By EUPolo

19 April 2009 at 11:47am

My young son has discovered water polo and thoroughly enjoys the
sport . How many others are in a similar situation, but if not
encouraged by the organisations who should be funding young
players developement what hope have we got as a country to
compete in future national and international competitions . Does
it have to come down to who stands more chance of winning medals.
Encouraging young talent could be the future. Raise awareness
fund 2 teams in the Olympics and give hope to new and existing
By parent of a new player

23 April 2009 at 16:57pm

It's an unfortunate fact that water polo are not supported by
their own federation. Those who make the decisions at the top
level in British Swimming have consistently made bad decisions
that will affect any progress we will make as a sport. It's all
very well saying that they will set up these superclubs but
what's thepoint if there's no national team to aspire to? The GB
Mens's team have effectively been told that after September they
will be cut financially....we need to get the spotlight back on
to British Swimming and put pressure on them to explain their
reasons having publicly commented that they're doing all they can
to support the men's team.
By New B.S.CEOneeded

7 May 2009 at 08:04am

I'm getting a bit fed up with all the negativity about the
British Gas sponsorship. It's good to see that BS is doing its
bit to help WP earn its £8,000 a year share of British Gas
sponsorship over the next few years by re-branding its national
teams as British Gas teams (powered by British Gas). Formerly
referred to as the GB Senior Womens team, the British Gas Senior
Womens team (powered by British Gas) is now to be referred to as
the British Gas team.
And if you see a team preceded by the abbreviation BG instead of
GB, it's not a mistake. It's a British Gas (water polo) team
(powered by British Gas). Just wanted to clear that one up.
So, there you are - 9 mentions which is 2 more than the BS news
feature on the womens team (sorry, British Gas team) on 11 May.
(Make that 10 mentions). Beat that.
Just to help observers of other sports who may get confused - the
Nationwide team is the one that plays football and was formerly
known as England; the Vodafone team (also formerly known as
England) will be competing for the Ashes and the O2 team (also
formerly known as England) will hopefully be competing for
something like the 6 nations.
By Ged

15 May 2009 at 17:29pm

£8000 out of, was it 15 million? wow thats outstanding ged you're
right! most of them money will go to swimming who already have
far more than enough to get them to 2012 and way beyond, rather
than to the people who actually need it. that will no doubt be
spent on more pointless admin staff in needless jobs. they have
miss adlington to thank for that money, as if you take rebecca
out of the equation it was still a mediocre games for the
swimmers. how can you compare the amount of sponsorship put
towards water polo from british gas with the likes of o2,
vodafone and nationwide? british gas team? you must be joking.
By stand up

20 May 2009 at 17:58pm

Lets forget all about 2012 when the current Waterpolo structure
was put in place the statement was we will be ready for 2016 then
2012 came to London great for the UK but why have British
swimming and UK sport moved the goal posts and said everything
must be done for 2012 its killing the grass routes
By aim for 2016

5 August 2009 at 15:39pm

Sebastian Coe: Investing in success

altBy Sebastian Coe - 19 March 2009

Just over a year on from the launch of the London 2012 Business Network the economic benefits generated by the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games speak for themselves.



Together the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) and Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) will procure contracts worth £6 billion and that means new jobs and new public investment in homes, infrastructure and sporting venues for the capital and the wider UK .
Contracts are going to a diverse group of firms. Some 98 per cent of London 2012 suppliers are UK based with around half based outside of London. Sectors involved with us to date range from IT to architectural services to steel fabricators but that’s not just for large employers. In fact, over two-thirds are small or medium sized businesses (SMEs).
A major component of the London 2012 Business Network is our online ‘business dating agency’, CompeteFor. Over 54,000 companies have already registered on CompeteFor where 1,700 opportunities worth millions of pounds have been advertised on the service since its launch in January 2008. It’s easy to sign up with over 90 per cent of recruits so far coming from the SME sector.
The Government funded ODA still has significant Olympic Park contracts to place, however, the bulk of opportunities are now through their contractors. CompeteFor is already helping companies access this work as direct contractors are encouraged to place new opportunities on the system.
Although the procurement news to date has been focused on the ODA’s build side of the business, privately funded LOCOG is set to start procurement for Games-time goods and services from the 2009/10 financial year onwards as we move from detailed planning to delivery.
There is all to play for as we begin to release hundreds of opportunities for UK companies of all sizes to secure contracts to supply our Games-time goods and services. That’s everything from temporary seating to gym equipment and shuttlecocks!
The 2012 Games is already proving a golden opportunity to ensure growth in the UK economy. That should leave a legacy of fitter British businesses with the expertise of supplying the world’s largest sporting event.
With events like the World Gymnastics Championships, Paralympic World Cup, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and, hopefully the 2018 World Cup, coming to the UK we have a ‘golden decade’ of sport and associated contracts ahead that I hope all CompeteFor firms consider bidding for.
Together we can make London 2012 as successful for business on the bottom line as it will be for athletes at the finishing line!
Sebastian Coe is the chairman of London 2012. He won four Olympic medals during his career and is the only man to retain the 1500 metres title, finishing first at Moscow in 1980 and in Los Angeles 1984. He also set eight world records. He is a vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)  amd a non-executive member of the board of directors of England 2018 Ltd., the England World Cup bid committee




I wish more people would see the opportunities that the Olympics
offer this country rather than constantly try to knock them down.
If this attitude had existed in the 19th century heaven knows how
the likes of Brunel would have got on. We should embrace the
games and, in the words of Kennedy, ask, "Not what they can do
for us, but what we do for them".
By Dan Turner

19 March 2009 at 10:39am

Mike Rowbottom: Squash cannot afford to miss out on the Olympics again

  altBy Mike Rowbottom - 18 March 2009


For those backing the seven sports seeking a way into the Olympics, these are nervy days.
With two spaces currently on offer at the 2016 Games, there will be a collective intake of breath by those championing squash, rugby sevens, golf, karate, rollersports, softball and baseball when International Olympic Committee members cast their votes at their October session in Copenhagen.
By then, however, it will be too late for the sports to alter their fortunes – and Fatalism, the universal anaesthetic, will be at hand.
No, it’s now that the nerves are pinging. With Sport Accord, the annual convention of sporting federations, looming up in Denver, and a crucial IOC executive committee meeting in Lausanne rising Alp-like beyond it, those who are being paid to talk the talk for their sports still have everything to lose.
So let the lobbying begin! Let the PR pour!
Down in W14 this week it was the turn of squash to make its case to the media for joining the Olympic movement.
Squash types can be forgiven a few extra-white knuckles given the sport’s experience of four years ago, when an invitation to join the 2012 party was snatched from their hand after less than the required two-thirds majority of IOC members voted to ratify the prospective newcomer.
Only 50 per cent of the votes will be required this time. And squash simply cannot contemplate the idea of hitting the tin once again.
So it fell to former world No.1 Peter Nicol (pictured), now a director of the Professional Squash Association, to articulate the case for inclusion as he stood amid eerily green lighting next to a court erected at the Queen’s Club in West Kensington, where this year’s ATCO Super Series finals have taken place.
altWith his intelligent face, fresh white shirt and heavy glasses, Nicol has more than a hint of Clark Kent about him. As Superman, he won four Commonwealth gold medals and held the world No.1 ranking for 60 months before retiring in 2006. At 35 he is now stretching himself in different directions as he champions the sport’s quest to earn what he clearly regards as the Holy Grail – a place at the Olympics for the first time.
"We very, very nearly made it into the Olympics in London," he said, adding with what I could just discern to be a grin: "I might have stayed playing for a chance of playing in a home Games…no, I couldn’t have. I would have had no chance. It’s a young man’s sport now."
As Nicol observed, squash has been here before. And the arguments in its favour remain persuasive. It’s healthy – one survey maintains top players lose 1,500 calories in an hour. It’s widespread – there are reportedly over 20 million registered players in a spread of 150 countries.
And there are other succulent stats, such as the fact that the top 16 men and women – all of whom are solemnly pledged to compete at the Games should their bid be successful – include 13 nationalities, many of whom would have the chance of making an impression on the Olympic medal table for the first time.
Another point well made – the sport includes several Muslim women among its leading players, including world No.1 Nicol David of Malaysia. The judges will mark you up for that, Peter…
In terms of delivery, Nicol would be well advised to dispense with a written script – particularly in the sub-aqueous conditions that pertained courtside before the lights went up for the first match of the evening.
Scott Garrett, the Squash 2016 bid team manager, made that point that squash has had more time to consider its campaign this time around. "The message has been honed," he added.
Whether squash ends up at the cutting edge, however, is likely to depend upon how efficiently it manages to present itself to IOC members over the next six months.
Meanwhile the World Squash Federation is considering the introduction of more technical wizardry designed to improve the sport as a spectacle, such as tracking devices on rackets, Hawkeye systems such as those that are already operating in cricket and tennis, and special camera angles designed to enhance TV action replays…
Nicol maintains, however, that criticisms of the way the sport comes across on TV no longer have a basis in fact given the innovations of the last decade or so. "It’s more a matter of perception than anything," he said.
Ultimately, he believes the essentially combative nature of the sport will generate the required support for its Olympic ambitions. "You’ve got two competitors in a confined space," he said. "That makes it very, very exciting. It’s all very gladiatorial."
Interesting line of thought that, Peter. Perhaps a few undecided IOC members might yet be won over by a touch of the Colosseums. Forget rackets and a ball, bring your net and trident. And what about a few lions emerging from a trapdoor?
Okay. That’s going a bit far. After all, it’s only half the IOC votes required this time around. So perhaps just the one lion emerging…


Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now freelancing and will be writing regularly for insidethegames 



Let's all get behind this great sport and force the authorities
to put it where it should be - in the Olympics. Surely it is more
worthy than some of the sports in there. Synchronised swimming?
By Squash enthusiast

19 March 2009 at 10:21am

Nice piece, well presented argument. Keep it up. Paul
By Paul Hope

19 March 2009 at 20:25pm

Squash is surely a shoe-in, it's who gets the other places that
worries me. ... golf - no thanks, rugby sevens - mickey mouse and
roller sports - what are they?
By Simon Lasher

26 March 2009 at 22:05pm

Martin Gillingham: It is time to stop this witch hunt against Chambers

  altBy Martin Gillingham - 18 March 2009

Until quite recently, UK Athletics employed a convicted British drugs cheat on not one but two salaries. A fortnight ago, they picked another for the British team at the European indoor championships, his umpteenth in a red, white and blue vest, since being banned for taking drugs.


Unlike Dwain Chambers, his right to return to the sport and represent his country has never been challenged. In fact, UKA once supported Carl Myerscough's bid to have his British Olympic Association ban lifted in the hope they would be able him to pick him for the 2004 Olympic Games.


The same weekend in Turin as Myerscough fluffed qualification in the shot, Chambers sprinted to golden 60-metre glory breaking the European indoor record and becoming the third fastest man ever at the distance. Chambers had been vilified on his way to Turin, while he was there, and has been ever since he got back.

It is a witch hunt that has become a farce.

Between other less credible and defamatory claims, Chambers, who is not the most articulate of men, says the aristocracy of British athletics are singling him out for special treatment. He says UKA are guilty of hypocrisy. And do you know what? He's right.

Now, before you start getting the wrong impression, I'm no natural Chambers ally. It's just that having spent two years wincing at the alarming inconsistencies in the way UKA has handled its doping miscreants, my human side has moved me to have sympathy with him.

If I had my way, it would be one strike and you're out for life or, at the very least, a four-year suspension for the first drugs offence.

Chambers is an odious fellow. And when he sped across the finish line way ahead of his rivals in Turin it was difficult not to reflect on one of Dwain's preachings that it is almost impossible to reach the top in athletics without taking drugs.

The statement is, of course, hopelessly simplistic. It is also wrong. I'm confident that in my years of competing in, and observing athletics there have been many brilliant and fair champions. Problem is, I suspect there have been a significant number of illegitimate ones too.

Chambers says he's now clean. Should we pause for thought before believing him? Thousands of pounds in the red; a reputation that can't sink any lower; limited alternative career options; a sport that has disowned him – for someone with a crooked bend there's no great incentive for him to go straight is there?

It has also been revealed in the last week that Chambers has continued to mix with the two key men who once guided him down the path of self-destruction, the drugs baron Victor Conte and the disgraced coach Remi Korchemny.

Renewing acquaintances with those two lags hardly suggests Chambers is a man who has turned his back on his past. But then with all in UKA, who a couple of years ago were embracing Chambers and ushering him back to the fold like a long lost son, now disowning him, is it any wonder he's back
exchanging emails with those two undesirables?

Shuffling uneasily in their seats in Turin would have been a host of British athletics officials whose collective creation Dwain is. He's like Frankenstein's monster; for years UKA bigged him up while those with an analytical mind muffled into our mochachinos, suspicious of the bulging biceps, tree trunk thighs and occasional, unexplained cramp attacks on the track.

UKA was part of the machinery that found him, fostered him, funded him and peddled the myth that he was the real deal.

altDwain is as much a figure of fun as he is a brilliant runner. His failed foray into rugby league and his tilt at gridiron have exposed his gift for self-parody.

His first instinct is to blame others before himself and the interviews given in recent weeks by this self-confessed chemical compound on legs have been laced with contradictions and unsubstantiated allegations. He is a true toxymoron.

But where Chambers should be listened to is with his altogether more indiscriminate claims of hypocrisy and double standards within athletics. Dozens of athletes get caught taking drugs but very rarely are the coaches, suits and suppliers associated with the athlete's guilt brought to book with them. Years on, in some cases, such individuals continue to be involved in the sport, their characters and reputations unblemished.

It is even possible the IAAF will find that Chambers' book, which went on sale last week, has brought the sport into disrepute - a process that could set in motion a chain of events leading to his permanent expulsion from the sport.

It is yet further evidence that Chambers is spot on when he says he is being singled out for special treatment.

Athletics remains a sport with a cupboard crammed with skeletons, secrets to hide and an image problem. And that, perhaps above all else, is why there is still so much unease about having Chambers around.


Martin Gillingham represented Great Britain in the 1984 Olympic Games and 1987 World Championships at the 400 metres hurdles. Since retiring from the track he spent 12 years in South Africa where he was a radio talk show presenter and writer for a Sunday newspaper. He returned to the UK in 2003 and can now be heard commentating on athletics for Eurosport as well as rugby for Sky Sports, ITV and Setanta.



I commend Dwain for his efforts to ammend his mistakes. He should
be praised for this alone and lessons to learn from for our young
people but instead this is a blame culture and the media is keen
to idolised those celebraties that choose to do harmful drugs and
take pleasure in being photographed for being intoxicated.
By Lady T

19 March 2009 at 09:46am

As far as I'm concerned, Chambers served his ban and has been
setting about doing things right. I think he has learnt his
lesson and I hope to see him do well in the future- even if some
in Athletics won't give him a 2nd chance.
By Forgiving man

19 March 2009 at 09:47am

I think that Mr. Chambers should just cool himself and stop
aiming at Bolt and run his own race. Mr. Chambers, doping will
make anyone do it, but naturally, it's not that easy or maybe
next to impossible.
The J'can athletes are first class, and Bolt is just a little
above the norm. Another 100 yrs, before you see another like
Usain Bolt, so Mr. Chambers, you will not be there.
By Patrick, Jamaica

19 March 2009 at 09:48am

It is time to stop these columns about stopping the witch-hunt
against Chambers
By Fed up with Dwain

19 March 2009 at 11:20am

I wonder if Martin would have felt the same about Dwain if he had
been someone like Jason Gardener, whose whole career was
overshadowed by drugs cheats, conning him out of not only
appearances in major championships but also potentially several
thousands pounds in prize and sponsorship money.
By Nigel Jones Bristol

19 March 2009 at 13:22pm

I'm a big fan of Martin. He's the best commentator on TV by a
mile. I just wondered, Martin, how many athletes you competed
against you suspected of being on drugs? It would make a
fascinating blog. Jayne x
By Jayne Lee

19 March 2009 at 15:56pm

What utter rubbish. He's a cheat. We should never foget that.
By Annoyed of London

19 March 2009 at 16:14pm

Everybody makes mistakes, but some people won’t let Dwain forget
his. What’s more important is that he’s an amazing athlete who
worked really hard to get where he is, now.
By Sherrelle Gordon, Erdington

19 March 2009 at 18:07pm

Does Martin Gillingham really believe this rubbish he's writing?
Chambers is a cheat and a liar.
By Ed Moses fan, New York

19 March 2009 at 18:49pm

If sport is not about inclusivity, forgiveness and paricipation
then should it be seen as purely about winning, or even simply as

If that is the case then perhaps all is lost.

The message given to our youth in the handling of Dwain's
situation may be doing untold damage at a time when we should be
extolling the health related virtues of participating in sport.

I applaud Martin for his blog because not only is it a reasoned
arguement but it displays, as we all should, an abhorrance of
those who chose to cheat. It is certainly not rubbish.

Was Dwaine any worse than the player that "dives" in the penalty
box and costs a team victory? The driver that deliberately runs
another off the road. The tackler that consistantly attempts to
cause harm?

He broke the rules, he was caught and punished and it should be
time to move on. It would have been the case for most found
guilty of cheating and punished but for those who potentially
self harm by using performance enhancing drugs it seems they are
to be classed differently.

His stance now and his performances could have been utilised to
promote drug free sport, unfortunately we are left raking over
the same old arguements and not moving the debate forwards.

At a time when athletes are being asked to give details of their
"whenabouts whereabouts", be guilty till proven innovent and
potentially give access to medical records. Perhaps the most
"righteous" amongst us should refelect on the potential cost to
us all.

After all sport is really only a game.
By Dr Rob Dawson

20 March 2009 at 13:54pm

Let's be honest. Dwain is being punished for what he said, not
for what he did. Perhaps the fact that he is prepared to tell it
how it really is has rattled a few people in the commentatary box
and who are now involved at the highest levels of the sport? If
he had been prepared to play the game, been a good little boy and
kept his mouth shut and his pen tucked away he wouldn't be
attracting such attention. The truth hurts people. Live with it.
Dwain wasn't doing anything that no-one else did or had done in
the past.
By Call me cynical

20 March 2009 at 14:27pm

Does [name removed] on BBC not know that everyone knows he was up
to it too?
By BBC Hater

21 March 2009 at 00:56am

Tony Ward: Pays tribute to the great John Rodda

  altBy Tony Ward - 17 March 2009

I was deeply saddened to read of the death of John Rodda (pictured), who wrote on athletics for the Guardian between 1960 and 1995. John was the doyen and most respected of athletics writers. His contacts with the sport were at the very highest level as those of us, on the other side of the fence as it were, all too frequently discovered.


I had known John for many years but we came into closer and more frequent contact during my decade- long tenure as Media spokesman for the sport. Those were the halcyon days of the 80s and early 90s when British athletes ruled Europe and in some events the world. John was an exceptional writer; his work was incisive and imbued with tremendous knowledge.



His finest journalistic moment came in 1968 and had nothing to do with athletics. He was in Mexico City for the Olympics when hundreds of student demonstrators were gunned down just before the Games opened. John was the only Guardian correspondent in Mexico and his dispatches from the capital showed that he would have been a top journalist no matter what the field.

He wrote a history of the Olympics with the IOC President, Lord Killanin; he served on the IAAF Press Commission for many years; he covered ten Olympic Games for his paper; he helped Seb Coe make a report to the IOC; he assisted Andy Norman make a presentation to an IAAF Congress that changed the face of international athletics; he knew Olympic politics inside out. John was not only a reporter on athletics but a lover of the sport as well.

His other sporting love was boxing, which he also covered for his paper, writing on some of the great title fights of the second half of the 20th century.

My best memory of John is of the European Championships in Helsinki in 1994. I was walking through the grounds of the Athlete’s Village when my mobile rang. A familiar voice greeted me and then said: “Can you confirm that a British athlete has tested positive?” I couldn’t so I said that I would get back to him. I turned heel and went back to the restaurant where team manager Verona Elder and team doctor Malcolm Brown were in very close conference. They stopped talking. “I know,” I said, “what you’ve been talking about.” It was the celebrated case of Solomon Wariso and a supplement called Up Your Gas and John had obtained yet another scoop.

John’s retirement lunch was held at the celebrated Ivy Restaurant in London. One of the gifts presented to him was a photograph of him sitting next to the then IAAF President, Primo Nebiolo, who was obviously desperately trying to talk himself out of a probing question. The expression, peering over his reading glasses, on John’s face was wonderfully sceptical. He loved athletes but was rightly suspicious of most administrators.

When you think of John it is of a remembrance of times past, of an era when athletics was always in the news. Those days are gone but we will long remember him as, in the very best sense, a fine gentleman.


Tony Ward was the spokesman for British Athletics from 1986 to 1996. He is the author of Modern Distance Running (1964), Linford Christie (1989) and  Athletics: The Golden Decade (1991), which shortlisted for Sportsbook of the Year. He continues to write on the sport at http://tonyward-trackchat.blogspot.com/.



I was lucky enough to follow John as the athletics correspondent
of The Guardian and it quickly became apparent to me of the high
esteem he was held in around the world, both in Olympic and
athletics circles. He was a hard act to follow me.

One of my fondest memories was of how I was once got involved in
a discussion at a press conference with Primo Nebiolo, the
president of the IAAF, about two years after taking over from
John. At one point he turned to Istvan Gyulai, then the secretary
of the organisation and asked him what newspaper I wrote for.

"The Guardian" Istvan whispered to him.

"Ooohhh. A young Mr Rodda."

John was a great journalist and an even greater man.
By Duncan Mackay, Editor insidethegames

19 March 2009 at 12:51pm