Happy Olympic Day!

Duncan Mackay: insidethegames is bigger, brighter, better

Duncan Mackay
altToday we unveil a brilliant new look for insidethegames that means we are bigger, brighter, better.

It now contains even more features and news to ensure that our readers continue to be given a unique, first hand look behind the scenes into the world of London 2012, the Olympic Movement, the Commonwealth Games, the FIFA World Cup and the bidding process and the multi-billion pound business that surrounds them. 

Everyone here at insidethegames is very excited about them and believe they are making a brilliant product even better.
When we launched insidethegames in October 2005 it was as a weekly newsletter. The first issue featured the exclusive news that David Higgins was set to be announced later that day as the chief executive of the newly-formed Olympic Delivery Authority. We have been leading the way ever since.
Our unique mixture of exclusive stories and in-depth features meant we soon established a loyal readership. But it quickly became apparent that so much was happening in the build-up to London 2012 that a daily service was needed. The site has now evolved into an unrivalled news portal updating all the latest stories as they happen - and we have now expanded our remit a long way beyond just London 2012.

Since launching insidethegames Glasgow has been awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games and England has announced that it is bidding to bring football's World Cup back to this country for the first time since 1966. That is why the site includes a host of features that are a must read for anyone who has any interest not only in the Olympic Movement but also the Commonwealth Games and global industry of bidding for major events, including the increasingly tense race to host the 2016 Olympics and football’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

This can often mean up to 15 stories a day being placed on the site and our archive now contains more than 6,000 stories dating back nearly four years - a unique source of information. You will be glad to know that we have now upgraded our search engine so it is more efficient and faster than ever before, meaning the information that you need is only ever just a mouse-click away.

But that is not all. We have added several other exciting features. I am particularly proud of the new sports section which means that every one of the 26 sports that will make up the London Olympics now have their own page which has every bit of information you could possibly want to know in the build-up, including its history, a guide to the venue for 2012 (2016 will be added on October 3 when we know who the Host City is along with information on rugby sevens and golf if they are added) and a comprehensive diary so you can plan what to follow leading up to the big events. But best of all is that it allows us to carry even more news from around the world of sport. So if your particular passion is, say, handball or wrestling, you now know there is a website that is guaranteed to cover your sport.

Other innovations include a new expanded blogs section. We have some really top names lined up to write exclusively for us over the next few weeks, including Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Kelly Holmes. We start off today with Ade Adepitan, who feels especially close to the London Games as he is from Stratford.

It is appropriate that we should start with Britain's best-known wheelchair basketball player because the Paralympics is an area where we have big plans to increase our coverage as we feel this is an area that is currently neglected. Joining us today is Tom Degun, a talented young writer who recently graduated from the University of Bedfordshire with a BA First Class honours degree in Sport, Media and Culture.

Tom, who is keen rugby player and qualified fencing instructor, will be our new Paralympics Correspondent and will be providing unrivalled daily behind-the-scenes coverage on the issues and personalities that will shape the Games in three years time. Check out his exclusive interview with Dame Tanni Grey Thompson that is published on insidethegames today. 

Tom joins a list of world-class contributors that includes David Owen, the former sports editor of the Financial Times, and Mike Rowbottom, who covered the Olympics for The Independent for 16 years, who both help ensure that insidethegames will not be beaten for quality writing. It is no surprise therefore that insidethegames is now recognised as the authoritative independent guide to London 2012 and the Olympic Movement.

We today also launch our new regular poll that gives you the opportunity to let us know what you think. The first question we ask is “Which Candidate City should win the right to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games?” Whoever it is, insidethegames' team of ace reporters and photographers will be in Copenhagen later this month to cover the build-up to the IOC Session before the decision is announced on October 2 to ensure you are kept fully updated on the campaign to decide whether Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo are chosen to follow London.

You can sign up for our free daily e-alerts simply by filling in a quick simple form here. Why pay for inferior information when you can read the market leaders for free? At insidethegames, we believe that quality writing and ground-breaking new stories is priceless.

We have many more exciting features lined up over the next few weeks that we believe will make insidethegames even better and consolidate our position as the number one source for Olympic news on the web. We thank all our loyal readers who have been with us since we launched. And we welcome our new readers. Together we shall share the exciting journey up to London 2012 and beyond.
For further information and to send any materials of interest, please email me at [email protected] 
Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.biz. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years, being the only British daily newspaper writer to correctly predict in 2005 that London's Olympic bid would be successful.

Ade Adepitan: London 2012 is starting to feel real

Duncan Mackay
altHaving experienced competing in two Paralympic Games and commentated on a third, it’s incredible to think such a magnificent event will be right here in London in just three years time.

I’m so glad it’s coming to the UK because I know the support and investment that is going in to it over the next three years will ensure the British public and the athletes taking part will not want to be anywhere but part of London 2012.
Hitting a milestone such as three years to go really puts it into perspective that the Paralympics is coming to London and it will be in my manor! I grew up in Stratford, and when I go home I drive past the site and can see the stadium growing all the time. You can already see the structural work coming together and the roof going on the aquatics centre - it’s starting to become very real.
As the infrastructure comes together so do the British teams.  They have had some amazing achievements in both Olympic and Paralympic sports. 
We’ve had some great athletics results recently.  I watched the World Athletics Championships as I’ve got some really good friends who were competing out there. The British team are looking stronger and stronger each year.  Bringing home six medals and a haul of top eight finishes makes them an exciting prospect for 2012, they can only build on what they’ve achieved.
And who can ignore the phenomenon that is Usain Bolt - not only is he an incredible athlete but the joy that he has in his sport is brilliant. He is definitely the best thing that has happened to athletics in a long time, so let’s hope he keeps it up to wow us all right here in London. 


I also recently commentated at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester which saw the British Paralympic team return from Beijing with a massive medal haul only to do it all again, sealing their reputation as one of the best teams in the world. 
The competition is probably one of the most important events that we have in the Paralympics, aside from the actual Paralympics itself. It gives British athletes the chance to test themselves against the best in the world on home soil every year - an opportunity that other countries will not have had in the lead up to the Games. It gives us a fantastic taste of what’s in store for London 2012. 
In the last ten months since Beijing, more and more of the public have become aware of the success British athletes across all sports can offer in 2012 - people want to know more about their local sporting heroes and have the opportunity to watch them every year, get to know them and get right behind them as London approaches. 
Whatever anybody says, however many Olympics or Paralympics the athletes may have been through, I don’t think anything is going compare to the reception that they are going to get in East London. 
Beijing was a great experience and what made it even better was the backing from the Chinese fans - they were 110 per cent behind their athletes.  I must big up my old team the wheelchair basketball boys for achieving their bronze. They now have a real chance at gold here in London and I know Britain will match that home support from last year in three years time. 
It would be amazing to back the whole British team from the commentary box in 2012 - this really is a once in lifetime opportunity to show the world how great London is and how passionate we are about both Paralympic and Olympic sports.
Ade Adepitan is a BT Ambassador.  BT is the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and title sponsor of the BT Paralympic World Cup.  For more information click here.

Georgina Harland: Competing on home ground will spur Britain on

In a way it feels quite strange that there is a Modern Pentathlon World Championships starting on Thursday in London and I am not going to be taking part in it.

I used to thrive on competing in front of a home crowd and in fact managed to medal at pretty much every international event I took part in at home, including the last time the World Championships were held in the UK in 2001. I was delighted to come away with a bronze medal.

I cannot begin to explain the feeling of competing on home soil, with all the support from the crowd, even being surrounded by the home volunteers and officials makes a difference.


They say you should always treat major competitions like any training session, so as not to get overwhelmed by the experience. This is so much easier to do when you are competing in familiar surroundings – it can really work to your advantage.

Of course the pressure of a home crowd and environment can also be a contributing factor to your performance – just the slightest distraction can really throw you off - but in my experience the positives far outweigh the negatives. For British athletes, gaining experience of this unique competitive environment and how to make it work to their advantage ahead of the London Olympics in 2012 should not be undervalued.

Although I am sad not to be competing (this is the most important event in the modern pentathlon calendar to take place since my retirement), I am really looking forward to experiencing the world championships from an official’s point of view. Since my retirement last year I have taken on the role of chair of the International Federation’s (UIPM) Athlete Committee.


In this capacity, I will be attending various meetings throughout the Championships, as well as acting as a liaison between the athletes and the event organisers to ensure the they are well looked after, and have everything they need to put in their best possible performance.

Although this role means I have to be somewhat impartial, I will of course be hoping for success for the British team. It’s hard to predict how they’ll do as the athletes have a new format to contend with, but Beijing Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell is in great form and definitely one to watch this weekend.


We have great strength in depth in the women’s team; Katy Livingston was seventh in Beijing last year and won bronze at last year’s World Championships, Mhairi Spence has proven she can medal at major championships and Freyja Prentice is an up and coming athlete showing fantastic potential and could surprise everybody.


The men’s event will be fiercely competitive, but Sam Weale and Nick Woodbridge are both very talented athletes who have both shown they can make the podium, and with the support of the home crowd anything could happen.

There will undoubtedly be a certain nostalgia as I watch the events unfold this week but at the same time I certainly won’t envy the gruelling training regime that the athletes will have undergone to prepare for the event – amazing how quickly you forget all that!


For once I will be able to sit back, enjoy the competition and show my support. I’m sure the crowds at Crystal Palace this weekend will create a fantastic atmosphere for the British team, in what is sure to be a truly world class competition.

Georgina Harland won a bronze medal in the Modern Pentathlon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens . She is now chair of the UIPM’s Athletes Committee, a member of the UIPM’s Executive Board and a participant on UK Sport’s International Leadership Programme. This blog appeared on UK Sport's website.

Tim Woodhouse: The gloves are on?

altThe Olympics certainly pack a punch when it comes to shining a light on issues within sport. The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision regarding women’s boxing, which will be made today, is no exception.

It will probably surprise many to know that women have been boxing from as early as the 1720s. Back then, it was bouts in London, but over the years it won a place on the world stage with the women’s World Championships; so why then has it taken nearly 300 years to get women in the Olympic ring? And what does this say about gender equality in sport?
The fact of the matter is, men have had a huge head start and there’s still a long way to close the gap.
Today, women hold just one in five of the top jobs in British sport, investment in women’s sport lags far behind men’s and as little as two per cent of national sports media coverage is devoted to female competitors and teams. In Beijing last year 165 gold medals were available to men versus 127 to women.
So as much as the Olympic Games help shine a light on inequality, they also offer a rare opportunity to tackle the problem. Hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games provides a unique opportunity to address historical discrimination against women at the highest levels of sport. The IOC Executive Board has the opportunity to approve more gold medals for women in a range of sports including boxing, canoe/ kayak, cycling, and shooting, and I sincerely hope they do.
At the same time, they have a responsibility to ensure that they do not weaken the standard of competition in those sports or to devalue what it means to be “Olympic Gold Medalist”. Therefore it would be absurd to suggest that within each sport there needs to be exact parity of medal opportunities, however across the whole programme of Olympic sports, there can be no legitimate reason not to ensure gender equality of medal opportunities and athlete quotas.
The IOC has another responsibility which I know it takes very seriously, and that is to use the Games to inspire young people across the world to participate in sport and to become physically active. In many countries across the world, obesity levels amongst young people are a growing concern and it is very disturbing that recent figures show that in Britain girls are only half as active as boys by the time they’re 16.
I believe that this is partially due to the fact that girls grow up seeing only men’s sport in the press and on TV. The one time this changes is every four years at the Olympics, which makes it even more vital that the IOC do everything in their power to ensure that women’s sport is given as many opportunities at that level as the men.
The Olympic Movement has come along way since Baron Pierre de Coubertin stated that women’s only role in the Games should be to “crown the victorious men”. But the recent controversy over the IOC’s continued opposition to the inclusion of female ski jumping in the winter Olympics has shown that the battle to ensure that the Olympics are equally inspiring to girls, as it is to boys, is not over yet. I hope that the decision regarding women’s boxing indicates positive change.
The IOC President Jacques Rogge has stated that his ultimate goal is “50-50 participation”, and he has a chance to make good progress for London 2012, but it seems that whatever the Executive Board decides there is still work to be done.
Tim joined the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) in May 2008 to boost the organisation’s capacity in helping National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport to deliver their activities in ways which attract more women and girls. He has had a long career in sport including an MA in Sports Development from the University of Gloucester. Tim is a keen hockey player for the Burnt Ash 3rd XI, and hasn’t accepted that he cannot make the 2012 Olympic squad yet.

Matt Smith: Baseball's future brighter without the Olympics

altThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board announced last week that golf and rugby would be put forward for entry to the 2016 Olympics. The decision ended baseball and softball’s hopes for an immediate return to the Olympic fold after a previous decision in 2005 removed the sports from the 2012 London Games.

While supporters of the bid tried to remain optimistic, most baseball fans had little confidence in the IOC’s willingness to listen to the sport’s argument, despite the best efforts of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). Last week's events lend credence to the belief that baseball never really stood a chance.

The IOC made vague statements about golf and rugby being sports that stress fair play and respect for the Olympic values, but it’s obvious that their commercial potential was what won the day. Like everything else, the Olympics is now guided by money rather than genuine sporting interests.

Rugby is a great sport and can certainly use their new-found Olympic status to expand into many new territories. The rugby sevens format gave them a clear advantage over their fellow bidders. Few will care that the Rugby Sevens World Cup is being scrapped as a consequence of its inclusion in the Olympics and they can market it as a unique event. I would strongly refute the claim that rugby currently has more global appeal than baseball though, even if that might be hard for many Brits to believe. No doubt both sides could produce statistics to back their position, so we’ll leave that as a disputed point.

As for golf, most people without a vested interest in their Olympic inclusion would agree their selection is a total joke. Just like football and tennis, it is a sport that already has a well-developed professional world circuit. There is no valid reason for them to be Olympic sports, other than the fact that their popularity will bring in the punters and make the IOC money. The Olympics should be about much more than that. Local baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash projects will continue to have severe difficulties in obtaining relatively meagre funding as non-Olympic sports, while golf will get the financial boost. That’s tough to take, particularly as the sport was nearly eliminated in the first round of voting.

Politics were always going to play a big part in this decision and golf’s later round renaissance looks pretty suspicious. The IBAF were gracious in defeat, congratulating the winning sports and praising the efforts of the other four bidders (karate, roller sports, softball and squash). However, their President Harvey Schiller couldn’t hold in feelings of disappointment at the process. “According to some of the voters, many were informed not to push for baseball," he said. "The programme commission supported rugby and golf to be added. We never did get all the votes we thought would come. Why? I really don’t know except for the probability that the IOC leadership wanted new sports."

altThe simple fact that baseball and softball were kicked out of the Olympics didn’t give you much confidence that the IOC would be predisposed to taking them back. That’s been proved by this selection process. The IBAF addressed many of the issues in their bid that the IOC had claimed were behind their original decision, such as the lack of involvement of Major League players and MLB’s previous lack of an effective drug-testing programme. That didn’t make a difference, supporting the view that the IOC simply used those factors as an excuse to remove the sport in the first place.

The IBAF were fighting a hopeless battle. The only criticism you could make of their bid is that it was weakened by the inclusion of women’s baseball, rather than using the previous combination of men’s baseball and women’s softball. However that wasn’t the IBAF’s fault. The International Softball Federation (ISF) decided to go it alone and refused to change their mind even when the IBAF appealed to them late in the process.

As neither sport made it, you could say that the ISF’s decision was wrong. Having said that, if golf had somehow been knocked out in that first round then softball may have been the sport to have picked up the second spot. You can certainly see the benefits to softball of being an Olympic sport completely in its own right. At the very least it would have allowed men’s fastpitch softball teams to dream of an Olympic appearance.

From a general standpoint, having one sport in and one sport out could have caused many problems. In countries where both sports are developing, working together gives them the best chance to move forward. It’s difficult to know quite how the work of a body like BaseballSoftballUK would have been affected if only one sport had made it, but it might not have been a positive development.

That’s a potential problem that we will not now face. Last week's decision now means we can all move on and plan the best way for both sports to progress outside of the Olympic framework. MLB have been quick to extol the virtues of the World Baseball Classic, claiming that they “will work hard to make it even bigger and better in 2013 and beyond”. Yet while the WBC is a great event and undoubtedly can help to promote the sport, it doesn’t carry anywhere near the prestige or level of opportunities afforded by the Olympics for developing baseball nations.

From the British Baseball Federation’s (BBF) perspective, secretary John Walmsley has lamented the decision but spoke of the work they will continue to undertake to grow the sport in the UK. “British Baseball will continue working to develop and strengthen the sport domestically, especially at youth levels in schools and in universities, as well as within existing baseball clubs," he said. "We are working with organisations such as Little League to improve access to the sport for children and we are building durable relationships with the International and European baseball federations. The future bodes well for baseball in Britain, although re-inclusion in the Olympics would have further strengthened that position”.

Walmsley’s comments are a good point on which to end. Yes, the IOC’s decision is disappointing and will have repercussions, but baseball and softball’s qualities remain undiminished. The fact that the IOC never truly appreciated them, and still doesn’t today, does make you think that maybe, just maybe, the sports’ futures could end up being brighter without half-hearted Olympic support.

Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. He has been a keen baseball fan since 1998 and started blogging about the sport in 2006.

Andy Thomas: A look behind the scenes at British Equestrian

My role within the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is lead practitioner for human science and sports Medicine. Basically I am the Human Physio (i.e I don’t treat the horses) but co-ordinate all aspects related to rider performance.

My role has two main objectives firstly the prevention treatment and management of injuries and secondly to enhance the riders performance and technical ability on a horse by addressing specific weaknesses and imbalances that a rider might have.


Riders typically suffer with back pain most commonly but they also subject themselves to quite a lot of trauma either by falling off or horses kicking or standing on them!

I look after all the disciplines eventing, dressage and Para-equestrian dressage and the show jumpers. Each discipline has its specific injuries. Eventers suffer the most trauma and generally walk with a limp! Dressage riders suffer more with their backs and show jumpers with groin problems.

I work very closely with the whole team, coaches, vets, doctors, horse physios and farriers. If the rider has injuries it affects the way they ride which then can affect or influence injuries of the horse so we have regular meetings particularly in the build up to a major championship. I have been lucky enough to work in many different sports at elite level. Working with riders is so different, one of my hardest tasks has been to convince them they don’t need to live with pain. They generally don’t complain unless one limb stops working or is pointing in the wrong direction!

I was part of the team taken to Hong Kong last year for the Beijing Olympics - what an experience. I was very impressed with our team. The riders, coaches and support staff worked fantastically well together. We are lucky to have such a team and this will be one of our strongest reasons for future success. All our riders and support staff believe that Team GBR will bring home the medals in 2012 and will work very hard to make this happen.

I spend most of my life now in a lorry. A mobile physiotherapy clinic driving from one end of the country to the other occasionally stopping off to drag a rider on and sort out their problems  - mostly physical. I am very caring in my nature with an emphasis on pain relief however some of our riders who don’t do their exercises need a gentle reminder now and again and faint screams can sometimes be heard.


At the moment I am seeing our key riders in our dressage and show jumping teams just to make sure they haven’t got any niggles or problems fortunately they are all fit and well so providing they behave they should appear at Windsor in the European Championships looking like highly trained athletes.

Andy Thomas is the lead practitioner for human science and sports medicine at the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). The FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships are held at Windsor Castle August 2009 25-30. This article first appeared on UK Sport.

Larry Eder: Semenya is victim of a witch hunt

altThe great media guru, Marshal McLuhan once said: "The medium is the message." In the Cold War, sports replaced atomic war, at times, as the way the United States and the Soviet bloc promoted the benefits of their political systems.

The ends justifies the means, a lovely rationalisation for everything from water boarding to saturation bombing, was another phrase used at the time, and for matters of this discussion, history seems to be repeating itself.

In this day and age, sports is a medium used by marketers, to get their messages across. In the modern world, with over 500 television stations on the average home cable television, sound bites are all that most causes, countries and events get to push in front of a public over-saturated, over-satiated and naturally cynical to the intrusiveness of various media platforms. One can not go into a restroom without finding advertising, and in some places [Las Vegas], televisions have invaded even the posh restroom.

I recently spent nine days enjoying, like the thousands of fans who entered the Berlin Olympic Stadium, the best jumpers, sprinters, throwers and distance runners that the global village of two hundred plus participating countries had to offer. From Usain Bolt to Kenenisa Bekele, to Blanka Vlasic, the World Championships celebrated what is best in our world, and what is best in our sport.

When the event, like the women's high jump, got down to the basics, one athlete jumping against the other, a universal language was created, that no Croat, Russian, Spanish, German or English speaker could misunderstand. The competition was fierce, the emotions honest and results up in the air until those last, final attempts. What more can one ask for in our sport?

Alas, modern sport mirrors modern life. Symbols, messages, mediums, rationalisation abound in modern life. Some good, some not so good.

Consider the curious story of Caster Semenya, the gold medalist in the women's 800 metres. While it is hard to gather all of the facts, here is what we can confirm: 13 months ago, Caster was eliminated in the early rounds of the World Junior Track & Field Championships, having run 2min 11.98sec for 800m. Three months later, Caster won the World Youth title in 2:04.3. In July 2009, Caster ran 1:56.72, decimating the world junior women's record for 800m. Last week, Caster ran 1:55.45, another world junior record, to take gold in the World Championships. This was a meteoric rise, to say the least.

The World Championships of track & field are the most important event, per our global federation, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in our sport. Every two years, this nine day festival of global sports takes place, and to much acclaim. The 2009 version was one of the best I have attended [I have been accredited for nine], and the performances were...well, nothing short of amazing.

The story was leaked that Caster Semenya has a testosterone level, per testing requested by the IAAF, of three times that of a normal women. In an Associated Press story, the South African federation claims that there was never a request for gender testing. Who is fibbing here? Well, read on...

An article on this website, the prominent sports news website that follows all things Olympic, wrote about the huge crowd meeting Caster Semenya in South Africa yesterday on her return home. In the crowd, were leaders of all the political groups in South Africa, including Winnie Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela. Also noted in the crowd and speaking as the Athletics South Africa leader, Leonard Chuene.

Chuene suggested that racism had a part to play in the treatment of their "little girl". Winnie Mandela went so far as to threaten South African media on how they cover the debacle. The lines in the sand were drawn. Anyone who challenges Caster being a girl is anti-ANC, the African National Congress. Nice way to shut up critics. Wasn't this the tactic used by the former South African Government who supported apartheid? Wasn't this was the same media that played such a huge part in the dismantling of apartheid? Well, memories are self serving for some, I guess.

Niccolo Machievelli, a thoughtful observer of the life politik 600 years ago, once noted that all relations have politics, and such is the curious and now, sad case of Caster Semenya. His comments are prescient still today.

It has become quite apparent that the South African federation will use any means necessary to ignore the requests of the IAAF. They want their gold medal, and the life of a teenager be damned. What has happened? Using gender testing is now being equated with racism. And there is so much that we do not know about gender and its various effects.

For the definitive piece on the Semenya affair, I ask the thoughtful reader to read today's blog by Pat Butcher. This column is, in my mind, a quite definitive piece on the whole debacle, and is a great example of Butcher's strength-writing about difficult subjects with some humour and much wit [think John Cleese at times].


So, here is how I see it: I see an 18-year-old kid, away from home, scared, running in front of 50,000 people, and winning a major title. The kid has been raised as a girl, per her father, and no reason to not believe him. Caster Semenya, who has, again had this meteoric rise to fame, must have been confused by the lack of warmth exhibited by the crowd during the award ceremony and the questions at the interview area - Semenya was whisked through the interviews faster than Usain Bolt ran the 100m. Her experience in Berlin is just, well, sad at best, cruel at worst.


Chuene, who has called those asking about Caster's gender "racist", should be eating some of his words. Liame Diack, a black Senegalise, and President of the IAAF, was the man asking, quite discreetly, for gender testing. Diack, it has been noted, chuckled about the racism comment, having dealt with sports politics all of his life. It now appears that Mr. Diack is now personally getting involved in this debacle, hoping to end the scrutiny and get some closure for the young athlete.

Gender issues have been part of our sport for over 70 years. Just google Stella Walsh. The 1932 winner of the 100m, was murdered in a burglary in 1980, and at the time, it was found that she was actually male, but had lived as a women all of her life.

This is becoming a witch hunt. In the middle ages, women accused of witchcraft were tied to a chair, dropped in a pond with weights. If they floated up to the top [hardly], they were declared witches, if they stayed down, and consequently drown, they were not witches. If Caster is proclaimed a women, she gets hurt, if she is proclaimed a male, she gets hurt. This has become, under the lights of the media worldwide, a witch hunt, and a young teenager's life is at stake.

Gender abnormalities are more common than most of us would have thought - Butcher's piece in globe runner covers the topic quite well. This issue has come up before, and the IAAF, the federation of the athlete and athlete in question have worked the issue outside of the eyes of the media and public. Some times, and in cases of gender abnormalities, I would suggest that discretion is the best mode of operation.

In the end, this story seems to be about a federation, bereft of medals, wanting one more medal. I sure hope that is not the case, because, no matter how this works out, a life has been horribly harmed. And that life belongs to Caster Semenya.

Consider for a moment the average American teenager. I was part of the staff of a high school dorm for five years in my college years. I remember kids being depressed over problems with acne, breakups with girls, or not making the football team. Those were painful times.

How does one help a kid who might not be what she or he was raised as? And worst than that, the entire world knows? At the end of the day, the curious and sad story of Caster Semenya could have been avoided, and the people who were supposed to protect her, are, in my opinion, the one's to blame. 


Larry Eder is the President at Running Network LLC and Group Publisher at Shooting Star Media, Inc.

Chris Holmes: Paralympic inspiration will be catalyst for change

altBy Chris Holmes- 28 August 2009

I was 16 when I went to my first Paralympic Games in Seoul, 1988, as a member of the swimming team and it really was an unbelievable experience.


 By the time I left, with two silver medals tucked in my bag, I’d been lucky enough to compete in front of 10,000 fans and rubbed shoulders with athletes from more than 100 countries in the Paralympic Village.


That event, so early in my career, expanded my horizons like nothing else had ever done before.


That’s because the Paralympic Games has the ability to create lasting change for athletes and spectators alike.


Now, in my new role as Director of Paralympic Integration for the London 2012 Organising Committee, I intend to focus on the importance of this unique, and uplifting, event by setting myself three main goals.


First, I want the country to celebrate the cultural and historical significance of the second biggest sporting event in the world.


The Paralympic Games are different, and rightly so.


Achieving this means ensuring better awareness, knowledge and understanding of all 20 sports in the Games, not just the obvious ones like swimming and athletics.


This will involve better education on our part as well as enlisting the help of the media so spectators are better informed. Once that’s happened it will mean the skill and dexterity of elite level disability sport will be clearer. And that will make watching Paralympic sport more interesting and exciting whether at home on the TV or sitting in one of the many 2012 competition venues.


It also means making sure we explain the classification system in a simple, clear way. This is the system used in Paralympic competition to determine a competitor’s level of disability and to ensure a level playing field for all.


It’s a bit like boxing really. You wouldn’t put junior-welterweight Ricky Hatton up against super-middleweight Joe Calzaghe. It’s no different in disability sport. It has to be a fair contest.


Second, I want to ensure every disabled child is inspired enough to get involved in, and has access to, the same sporting opportunities in schools that non-disabled children have.


altAchieving this aim will require the help of some of our existing Paralympic heroes, like swimmer Ellie Simmonds and cyclist Darren Kenny (pictured) who continue to be inspirational and affable role models. We also need co-operation from schools and PE teachers who will need to learn, and embrace, teaching sport to kids with a variety of disabilities.


And finally I want sports coaches and clubs to be confident enough to include all disabled young people in community sports activities in the same way non-disabled kids are.


Reaching this goal will mean working creatively with a variety of partners across sport and education as well as making sports facilities truly accessible, both practically and from a welcoming point of view, to the disabled community.


This is an opportunity that’s not going to come around again in my lifetime which is why there is much to do in the next three years.


The London Paralympic Games of 2012 will, undoubtedly, be inspirational but we will have failed if we don’t go beyond that to create more opportunities for disabled kids.


It’s not the responsibility of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to change everything but it can be a powerful catalyst to get the ball rolling, just as Seoul in 1988 started to change life for me.


The London 2012 Paralympic Games will be a defining moment for the disabled community in this country. Along with my colleagues I intend to do all that I can to ensure a brighter future for disabled people in this country.


Chris Holmes is the new Director of Paralympic Integration for the London 2012 Organising Committee. He won nine Paralympic gold medals at four Paralypic Games including six at Barcelona in 1992, a feat never equalled by another British Paralympian. He was awarded an MBE for services to British sport in 1992. He is also a Patron of ‘Help for Heroes’ and a Patron of the British Paralympic Association.

Larry Eder: Putting the fun back into athletics

 altBy Larry Eder - 19 August 2009

This is my eighth World Championships that I have covered as a member of the media. I am fascinated with how the events are marketed and how competitors try to get their piece of the action.


 Outdoor advertising is huge in Berlin. Samsung has strong Outdoor on major streets and around Berlin. On the streets around the major official hotels, there are street flags, some promoting the World Championshipss 2009, others promoting the IAAF (International Asociation of Athletics Federations) sponsors.


Adidas has been promoting their icons and product around the city. My favorite advert of the Championships is the icon ad that adidas does showing Jeremy Wariner, Veronica Campbell Brown, Tyson Gay, Blanka Vlasic, Christine Ohuruogu and Allyson Felix.


The Olympic stadium, probably the best stadium that I have been in for any of our eight World Champs or four Olympics, is the Berlin Stadium. The track is fast, the crowd is supportive and the stadium is massive. IAAF promotional signage has added to the experience, and the event has both grandeur and fun.


What is changing in our sport though is not the marketing, but the attitude. On Sunday night, six of the eight starters in the 100 metres final were clowning around. While Tyson Gay did not participate, he smiled and observed as Usain and company, even Asafa relaxed by joking around a bit. If that is what needs to be done to attract young fans, but also to teach them, that while our top athletes compete with no quarter given in races, they can get along - that would be a huge lesson. It also differentiates us from American professional sports, which, quite frankly, have hurt themselves with well-paid athletes.


We were told by Berliners that promotions really started about two weeks ago. The crowds in the stadium have been an average of 25-30,000 in evenings with 30-60,000 on evening sessions. The Sunday night had about 60,000, and most  nights see 30-40,000 in the stands.


Signage in Berlin, at stadium, was provided for sponsors, from global sponsor, to local sponsors. It was done tastefully, but walking the stadium and the city with an experienced marketer at three global companies had these suggestions for our sport:


Nike, Reebok, Asics and Adidas all had hospitality and some local presence. Nike had promotional camp promoting Nike's global launch of the Lunar Glide. This was done in the centre of London. In walking much of the city, and taking public transportation around Berlin, with a global marketing professional, I asked him how he would shake things up in our sport, and here are a few things that he said:


·  Each championships there are open seats. Give them to local clubs, offer huge discounts for families, groups and begin local promotions, strongly, six months out. Local Berliners told us that they were aware of the Championships about two weeks before the event.


·  Move the events to mid-September, after the entire season, so that people in Europe are back from their vacations. This gives you more of a local support. While the crowds, I believe have been good, open tickets are in the 85 to 150 Euro a day tickets.


·  In order to get more foreign fans, tie in with a global airline where IAAF provides discounts if fan purchases tickets and hotel. Good for the Local Organising Committee, good for local economy, good for sport.


·  Local television has been very good. Kudos to Asics sponsoring Eurosport, using [hurdler] LoLo Jones as announcer. The round-up up each night and morning has been brilliant.


·  Kudos to Media Press Centre. Suggestion, as is done in other global and professional sports, offer lunch each day at break, with chance for interview of famous past IAAF champions, for more media opportunities. Remember, bring the events, easily to the media.


·  More than anything, the sport needs a global sponsor who is willing to promote on the global world. With the exception of Adidas, the other global sponsors could care less about North America, where the IAAF has left to USA Track & Field. Instead of appreciating the complexity, strength and opportunities there, the IAAF has allowed it to be a no mans land.


·  Our sport is about competition, pushing fast times and distances hurt the sport with the non-track expert. The German crowds have been enthralled by the performances of their team, and have been wonderful with the other great athletes. While we have had one world record, the competitions, in each event, have been superb. Track & Field is all about the competition.


altUsain Bolt (pictured) is huge, and bringing in new fans. Races with Bolt, Gay, and crowd, four to six times a season draw crowds. Have them run 100 metres, 200m, 300m, 150-250m. Even have a handicap race where kids get to run against him in a relay. Make it fun. The sport will not be hurt by this, it will grow.


Again, our sport is in a place where we can grow globally or become an also sport. It is time to thoughtfully look at what we do well, and where we need to change. For the next four days, I will be, like you, watching the greatest sport in the world.


Larry Eder is the President at Running Network LLC and Group Publisher at Shooting Star Media, Inc. Sign up for his daily blog here.

Larry Eder: An appreciation of the great Jesse Owens

 altBy Larry Eder - 6 August 2009

Jesse Owens is an American phenomenon.


A gifted athlete, a man of his times, At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Owens was thrown into the middle of a propaganda war between democracy and fascism, in a world still fatigued from the first Great War.

The ironic thing is Jesse Owens was not treated well in the United States in the 1930s, he was the focal point of racism, as were most Black Ameicans of his generation. It does not make it better to say that it was part of the zeitgeist, but it was true.



Jesse Owens was a black man in the United States. He was proud of being an American, but he must have felt frustrated, not being treated with the respect, he knew, as a human being, that he deserved.

Watching Jesse Owens run 10.3 in the final of the 100 metres in Berlin is mesmerising 73 years after the fact. I noticed how young Mr. Owens is in this film. He had set four world records at Ohio State that past spring on the same day- he was a tremendous athlete. But, to do the same on the world stage, in his first Olympics, was amazing and should add to his mantle as one of the greatest athletes of all times.

Was the 1936 Olympics some type of battle between fascism and democracy? The 1930's were a time of great beauty and great ugliness. The Spanish Civil War, considered the testing site for the second world war, was nearly finished. By 1936, Hitler had complete control of Germany, and was pushing the tired old countries of Europe, assuring them that his requests for Austria, Czechaslovakia, etc. where just the last demands of a dictator with a Charlie Chaplin mustache and gaudy uniforms. A global depression was making it hard for most people to feed their families, much less worry about the rest of the world. America First, an organisation encouraging the US to stay out of European troubles had support of nearly half of Americans by 1936, by 1939, it was upwards of 60 percent.

Depending on the historian, you will hear many different stories. You will hear that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had its hands full stopping the Nazi propaganda machine lead by Dr. Josef Goebbels, from posting signs banning Jews, Slavs, and gays from Berlin. It is more truth that fiction that the then head of the IOC, Henri de Baillet-Latour did tell Hilter to either show up at all medal ceremonies, or none at all. Baillet-Latour had also threatened to change the site of the Olympics over the Goebbel's insistance on keeping Jews out of public places.


One will also hear how Jewish sprinters, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, prominent Americans, were kept from running and replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe on the day of the 4x100m. Some said that this was to make sure the US beat the Germans. But Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) head, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) head, and noted fascist sympathiser, Avery Brundage's hand was seen in the team changes. Avery Brundage's life in sports, (he competed and was beat by Jim Thorpe in the 1912 decathlon and pentathlon) and life as a sports leader (AAU, USOC, IOC) would last for nearly 50 years.


altIf people complain about federations and sports bureaucracy now, the 1930s were one of the heydays of so called amateurism. Brundage, was no poster boy of diversity. Brundage would stomp on Jesse Owens and take away his amateur standing soon after the Olympic Games. Owens was tired, and wanted to see his wife and family, after a long season in Europe. Brundage used the situation to make sure Jesse Owens would never compete as an amateur again.

One could call Brundage a racist, perhaps a misogynist (he did not want women competing in Olympic sports, track & field in particular), maybe even a fascist, but he was the guy with the Olympic Charter, and his treatment of Jesse Owens, by contempory standards was totalitarian at worst, and cruel at best.

To his credit, Jesse Owens held his head up, found various ways to support his family and like most Americans, black or white, did the best that he could. That is the secret of this country, in good times, in bad times, Americans find a way to make life work. Jesse Owens was purely an American phenomenon.

For me, the part of the story of Jesse Owens that rings true to this day was his friendship with Luz Long, the German who helped Jesse with his steps in the long jump. That is not about racism being overcome, it was about athleticism, the true beauty of our sport. It was not about color, it was not about nationality, it was about sport, and honest sport.The picture of Long and Owens, arms around shoulders, leaving the Berlin Stadium after Owens took the gold, Long taking the silver, is one of the great images of our sport, or any sport. That Long would loose his life on the Eastern front during the Second World War added to the legend.

It is appropriate that the families of Jesse Owens and Luz Long will meet at the World Championships, which open in Berlin on August 15. I applaud the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), United States Track & Field and the Berlin organising committee for that piece of history. Image is key in sports history, and this is one that we all can be proud of.

I would hope that, if Mr. Owens were alive today, he would be pleased with the changes in our sport, of amateurism being dismantled and he would be pleased that a good athlete could make a nice living. But, Mr. Owens might also be disheartened by the level of depravity that has become part of our sport: drugs, athletes with criminal records, athletes not realizing that, they are always role models and need to behave as such.

I never met Jesse Owens. I have only read about him, spoke to reporters who did interview him, and seen him on newsreel. I can not appreciate what it was like for Mr. Owens to live in the time he did, a role model for Americans, especially African Americans. That Mr.Owens had trouble comprehending the 1968 Olympics and the stands of Tommie Smith and John Carlos should come as no surprise. By this time, Mr. Owens was doing some work for the USOC.

He was cast as an older man of color and supporter of the status quo, with a sports world that was coming apart at its seams. Smith and Carlos did not ask for respect, they demanded respect for their sport, their race on the global stage! That was not something that Mr. Owens, from his life experiences, could fathom.

Perhaps it is ironic that Mr. Owens could not see that both he and Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos had given performances in vastly different times, performances that changed the face of sports, and the image of sport, and were lost in the emotions of the time. Mr.Owens paid a huge price for his being a black athlete in the 1930s, Mr. Smith and Mr. Carlos paid a huge price for their stunning performances, but mostly for their amazing demands for respect and obvious outrage at not being treated as the men they were, because of their color in the 1960s.

I once interviewed Carl Lewis' mother, Evelyn, at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation (NSSF) Indoor champs, now the Nike Indoor in Boston, in perhaps 1995 or 1996. She was a delight. I asked her about competing as a black women in the 1950s in track & field, and the memories came back in droves. She told me of not being able to stay in the same hotel as white teams, and how it was very unusual for black and white women athletes to compete against each other.


What was fascinating to me, is that Mrs. Lewis spoke of the facts of the time, but also told me of the great times she had with her team mates, of working out with her coach, who had flown with the Tuskegee Airman, a famed fighter squadron in World War Two of African-American pilots, who escorted B-17s over Germany during bombing raids. She was quite matter of fact. She wanted to make sure that young American kids, white and black, knew about how much change had come in the country, and how much was still needed.

This will be my first trip to Berlin's famous stadium. I hope to appreciate the beauty and change in our sports over the past 73 years. I am honored to be able to write about a sport that I love, and athletes that I respect. I hope to walk on the field one night, and venture out to the long jump area and consider for a moment, what happened in August, 73 years ago.


Larry Eder is the President at Running Network LLC and Group Publisher at Shooting Star Media, Inc. Sign up for his daily blog here.

Nigel Starmer-Smith: Rugby in the Olympics will mean more countries at the top table

altNow, here's a thought. Just imagine the scenes of celebration, joy and communal euphoria as a whole nation watches live on television its 12-man squad from Fiji, or maybe Samoa, mount the rostrum in the Olympic Stadium to receive their Olympic gold medals for the Rugby Sevens, in 2016. 

Only one athlete from the South Sea islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa has ever won an Olympic medal of any hue - and I trust Paea Wolfgramm's name is held in the highest regard in Tonga for his silver medal-winning feats at the 1996 Games in the Super heavyweight boxing category - but with rugby included in the Olympic family a first gold medal could easily become a reality.

Come to think of it, a gold medal would even be a rarity of modern times for either of New Zealand or South Africa, who would certainly be among the strongest contenders for the title.
The Kiwis' Olympic golden days belong to yesteryear - that amazing cluster of triumphs by Murray Halberg and Peter Snell of the 60s, and of John Walker, the rowing eight and the men's hockey squad of the 70s.
For South Africans, stepping onto the rostrum has been an even rarer occurrence, with Elana Meyer in 1992, their first medallist since South Africa was banned from the Olympic competition in 1960.
Today the number of countries vying for medals in Rugby Sevens would be long, but by 2016 the likelihood is that you would be considering many others too - the likes of Portugal, United States, Tonga and, of course, Kenya have already put their hands up but in another seven years, and with Government funding, the likes of Russia and China could also storm into the reckoning. Rest assured, the outcome would be gloriously uncertain.
So too in the women's event. The learning curve for the emerging nations has been even steeper, and yet as avidly ascended. More than 80 nations entered the qualifying rounds for the first women's World Cup Sevens in March. Russia, Brazil, Thailand, USA, Spain, Uganda and the Netherlands were all there but even Kazakhstan, one of the strongest women's rugby nations, failed to qualify.
One of the many appealing aspects of present day sevens rugby is that, unlike 15s, the world order is changing rapidly in this very different, exciting spectator sport. In many years and at many levels, I have never seen a sevens tournament that was not a riveting spectacle. And that's largely down to the fact that no nation can rest on its laurels.
The country which, to me, epitomises this changing scene, and which has shown that a long history, vast playing membership, plentiful facilities and resources are not a pre-requisite for success, is Kenya.
Ten years ago, at the start of the IRB Sevens World Series, Kenya were on the fringe of the game - enthusiastic but in no way competitive against the top teams New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and Australia.
The Kenyans had failed to qualify for the earlier World Cup Sevens finals in 1993 and 1997 and in their first season as an occasional participant were never really in contention. Worse than that, they lost every game in their first four tournaments - 17 games in a row between October 1999 and November 2001.
But then they finally broke the mould and won their first silverware in the Shield in Dubai and, since then, have scaled new heights, reaching Cup quarter-finals, then semi-finals and latterly a first cup final against South Africa in Adelaide.

This has all had a lot to do with the natural athletic talent within the country - tall, powerful athletes with pace and agile skills and an instinctive delight in running with the ball in hand - but a steely determination and considerable amount of forward planning has also got the country to where it is today.

Kenya first dabbled in Sevens in the 70s with unofficial forays to Dubai but it was a one-off entry to the Hong Kong Sevens in 1986 that set the ball rolling, before they introduced their own tournament, the Safari Sevens, which they won for the first time in 1997.
Along the way, they took every opportunity to develop their own national squad, appearing as far afield as Selkirk and Singapore, the Middlesex Sevens and Amsterdam and the first Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
In 1999 the country introduced its own national sevens circuit, which has grown ever since, and was then appointed to host Africa's World Cup qualifying in 2000 for the third Sevens showpiece in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for which they finally qualified.
Big milestones followed: victory over Samoa; a half-time lead over England in the Commonwealth Games of 2002 in Manchester; first wins over Wales and then Australia.
At the heart of this advance were key figures too, with vision and increasing understanding of the tactical nuances of the game. Team manager Mark Andere and coaches Bill Githingi and Edward Rombo oversaw this rise and brought along a hugely talented crop of players, the likes of Oscar Osir Osula and Benjamin Ayimba, who are now manager and coach respectively.
Their improving performance won them 'core team' status for the 2003/04 World Series and since then they have played in every international tournament that has been contested. In more recent times, the Union has managed to secure a certain number of semi-professional contracts, allowing more players to dedicate more of their time to the sport for a couple of years, and the results have again paid dividends, taking them to, or near, the top of the game.
As popular and wonderfully supported as any around the world, as exciting as any to watch, Kenya's rise is, in essence, the story of the growth of Sevens Rugby.

An Olympic medal would complete the fairytale - not just for Kenya, but for a whole world of rugby players.
Nigel Starmer-Smith played scrum half for Oxford University, Harlequins and England. He has edited Rugby World magazine and for 15 years introduced Rugby Special for the BBC. He is now the lead television commentator on the IRB Sevens World Series


Graham Morrison: British Fencing is on the rise towards London 2012

altBy Graham Morrison - 23 July 2009

It would be a big mistake to write off Britain’s medal chances in fencing for 2012. Admittedly there has been something of a drought since Bill Hoskyns took the individual epee silver in 1964, the last of 10 Olympics where Britain’s fencers took to the podium.

And Gillian Sheen won Britain’s only fencing gold, in 1956 at foil. That was a time when the likes of Bill Hoskyns, Alan Jay, John Pelling, Nick Halsted and others mirrored Britain’s Olympic efforts on world circuits.


But the sport is emerging fast from the medal doldrums, led mainly by Richard Kruse and Nick Halsted’s son Laurence, both Londoners. They are fortunate in their choice of coach, Ziemek Wojciechowski an ex-Polish international who settled here some 25 plus years ago. Wojciechowski has produced British medalists before, in the junior ranks. But this time the chances of his pupils landing senior world championship and Olympic medals look odds on.

Last year Halsted took the silver medal in the European Championships; this year he settled for bronze, but only after losing 15/12 to Kruse in the semi-final last week in Bulgaria. Earlier this year Kruse won gold at the Venice Grand Prix, another gold in the Copenhagen ‘A’ Grade, and silver at the Paris grand Prix – the best clutch of results by any British fencer for years.

For Beijing, Kruse was genuinely unlucky to have to wait for a late selection; an injury caused him to rest with a resultant loss of leg strength at the qualifier. In Beijing he was also unlucky having the priority given against him in extra time and going out on a spit second hit. Halsted would probably have been on the plane if his European medal had come a couple of months earlier. For 2012 the pair, on current form, should not need to rely on the host nation allocation of places, they should qualify in their own right.

altAnd that leaves the target of getting into the medals. British Fencing did not promise to get medals in Beijing. But for London they have. Three years goes quickly and a lot a can happen. Realistically, men’s foil looks their best shot although the talented Cambridge undergraduate Alex O’Connell (pictured) in men’s sabre should peak by 2012. He forced through with an outright qualification in 2008, but 2012 was always his real aim. The third fencer in Beijing, Martina Emanuel, is half Italian and ranked world 85th. She has little realistic chance of getting near a medal on current form.

So if all goes to plan, and Performance Director Graham Watts keeps the ducks in line, focused and un-injured, then they look set for at least one medal. All to play for. But as any soldier will tell you, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

One weak point is the depth of top talent, something British Fencing is addressing. A little over a year into the job, chief executive Piers Martin is busy re-ordering the administration and development of the sport along business lines. He, like British Fencing Association President Keith Smith, is upbeat on Britain’s 2012 prospects. But Martin is planning through to 2020. And asked about 2012 legacy and the lack of a permanent structure in the Olympic park, he commented: “The real legacy is in the people who will try fencing as a result of the increased awareness of the sport and the people who we will develop as part of the support structure.”

Despite arguments over ‘bricks and mortar legacy’, Martin is almost certainly right; other cities have ended up with empty buildings and rubbish-strewn parks. Buildings are not a lot of use without the people to put in them. And in any case the National Governing Bodies are in the business of developing sport, not property.

This weekend the senior British Championships take place at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. Kruse, Halsted and Emanuel will be in action amongst some 550 fencers from around the UK. They should be in the medals. But for the future Martin, Smith and Watts will look for leading juniors breaking through. As in diving this week, fencing has seen young world champions. Alongside the championships British Fencing will contribute to the London 2012 ‘Open Weekend’ in spirit and action; anyone can turn up and have a taste of the sport with a professional coach for free.

Britain’s first Olympic medal was in the 1906 Interim Olympics in Athens when the epee team, lead by the first British Olympic Association chairman Lord Desborough won silver. Saturday’s championships, so professionally prepared and timed, might seem light years from Lord Desborough’s era. Desborough sailed somewhat casually to Athens on the yacht of Lord Howard de Walden, also a fencer in 1906. But then Desborough was the man who made a profit running the 1908 London Olympics. Not so different after all then. British Fencing seems poised to reprise it’s early successes.


Graham Morrison est known for his coverage of fencing, although he also covered numerous other sports including archery, Modern Pentathlon, triathlon and most Olympic sports. He has overed the last four summer Olympics and other multi-sports events for various newspapers and periodicals. He also worked as a Media Manager at one World University Games. He has been the press officer and official photographer for the British Fencing Association for past 20 years. He was also the press chief for the International Fencing Federation (FIE) for three years and served on the IOC's 'ORIS' commission/working group for fencing between Atlanta and Sydney.

Tom Degun: Up close and personal with the world’s fastest man

altBy Tom Degun - 21 July 2009

Seeing the iconic Usain Bolt for the first time is an experience that I will not soon forget. The fastest man on the planet was ironically five minutes late today for the 11:00am press conference in London to publicise his appearance in the Aviva London Grand Prix on Friday, but that did not appear to bother the assembled media in the slightest. On the contrary, there was a clear buzz of excitement when it was announced that the triple Olympic gold medallist was making his way to the room.

Having never encountered an athlete approaching Bolt’s calibre, I was hugely excited as the room fell deathly quiet and all heads turned backwards towards the door. As I too turned, I caught my first sight of the great man.



Bolt strolled lazily through the crowd but still effortlessly seemed to emit an aura of greatness that perhaps only comes with being a sporting superstar. I felt as if I had just encountered royalty. The first thing I noticed about Bolt - following the jolt of excitement I felt at first seeing him - was that he was extremely tall and towered above everyone around him which only acted to increase his majesty.


I quickly realised that the Jamaican was a very relaxed individual.


Bolt looked very casual in a black polo shirt and jeans and his expression, as he found his seat, was one of boredom rather than nerves at facing the assembled media. As his great feats were listed and admiring looks were cast upon him, Bolt appeared as though he would rather be at home sleeping than answering questions on his undoubted greatness. As he began to speak, his low, deep voice echoed clearly around the room and grabbed the immediate attention of everyone in it.


Bolt, I thought, was the complete package. He was tall and dark, he walked and spoke with authority and his credentials as a sprinter are unparalleled. The only thing in Bolt’s appearance that betrayed his tender aged of 22 were his eyes which innocently darted around the rooms like those of an impatient child. Bolt is seemingly far more at home on the track destroying his rivals than he is in front of a room packed with journalists.


As Bolt began to answer questions, I became quickly aware that he was a rather humorous person. He mentioned how his beloved Manchester United were “the greatest team in the world” but added that he will not be leaving athletics for football anytime soon. “I’m definitely not a striker” he explained, “I’m not too bad in midfield or defence but I’m no striker”.


When hearing from Bolt in person, one becomes aware of his supreme self-confidence. Bolt laughed heartily when one journalist asked if he was running scared of rival sprinter Tyson Gay and it was clear he was genuinely amused. Bolt, you realise after listening to him, fears no one and after smashing the 100 and 200 metres world records at the Beijing Olympics, this is hardly surprising.


altBolt talks about himself not with arrogance, but with the confidence that comes from being a great champion. While he respects his rivals, he does not fear them and concentrates only on his own form. He spoke of his hopes to run the 100 metres in a time of 9.54sec and when you hear it come from his own mouth, he makes you believe that he may go on to achieve the impossible. As I sat there looking at Bolt and feeling his self-confidence radiating out of him, I knew that there was only one man that I would be betting on when the Jamaican is in the blocks.

Following the press conference, I knew I would regret it if I did not at least shake the hand of the superstar who I had just gained a renewed admiration for. I walked nervously up to Bolt - realising just how big he is when you are standing right beside him - and asked if we could take a picture together in the “Usain Bolt pose”.


He smiled kindly at me and said it would be no problem at all. After the flash went off, I gratefully shook the enormous hand of Usain Bolt. I knew that I had just gained a fantastic souvenir that would always remind me of my encounter with the world’s fastest man.


Tom Degun recently gradudated with a first-class degree in Sports Journalism from the University of Bedfordshire


An awso picture brome report and i like the
By lukeb degun

21 July 2009 at 18:04pm

wikid man give me a mention yh jokes coooll
By Jamie bradbourn

21 July 2009 at 18:34pm

You are a good writer.
By ODayne Richards

22 July 2009 at 00:19am

Average at best
By Johnny Adams

22 July 2009 at 15:33pm

A fantastic read and very well written
By Sam Drake

22 July 2009 at 22:10pm

A very entertaining and well written article, good luck in your
By Rhiannon Harris

23 July 2009 at 11:38am

Any chance these are your mates?By name

29 July 2009 at 15:03pm

Now THAT was an experience that I am sure you will always
treasure! Good for you, bro.
By Jomo Ekpebu

11 August 2009 at 13:27pm

Quality, well written article Douglas.
By Simon

18 August 2009 at 12:40pm