Happy Olympic Day!

The Big Read

Performing at the highest level? It's all in the mind

By Mike Rowbottom in Canterbury

Mike Rowbottom(1)It is around ten o'clock on a Sunday morning, and the hall at University of Kent sports centre contains about 110 talented local youngsters and their parents, as well as a group of sporting performers who have already made their mark at the highest levels.

Right now, settled on squashy cushions at the front of the hall, the youngsters have their faces upturned to the woman whose level of achievement peaked at the 2004 Olympics when she won 800 and 1500 metres gold medals.

Having set up her Legacy Trust once she retired from the track in 2005, Dame Kelly Holmes - as she can now call herself - has devoted much time and energy, along with her capable and committed support team, in setting up the opportunity for learning and inspiration which these youngsters may now seize.

Putting excellence at the heart of everything

By Mike Rowbottom

Mike_Rowbottom_Big_ReadAmong Roger Jackson's many interests is music. But that doesn't mean he just likes to listen to music. He is chairman of Canada's National Music Foundation, which has recently gathered enough funding from central and local government to start establishing a $130 million (£80 million) building in Calgary that will become the first national music centre.

Jackson has a gift for making things happen - and finding the money to make things happen - as has been demonstrated triumphantly this year at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where the Own The Podium project he helped institute in 2005 to boost Canada's medal performances contributed hugely to a home total of 14 gold medals – the most ever achieved by a winter Olympics host.

Sainsbury's commitment to children's well-being "will not waver"

By David Owen

David_Owen_3Active Kids, the UK School Games and now the 2012 Paralympics - Sainsbury's has become an increasingly familiar component of the British sporting scene in recent times.

So it is disconcerting when Jat Sahota, the supermarket chain's head of sponsorship, begins an in-depth interview at the company's Holborn headquarters in central London with the remark: "We don't have what I would call a sports strategy."

The point he is making becomes clear with his next sentence, however.

"We have a healthy, active lifestyle strategy."

Keino the legend seals the Kenya-Bristol connection

By Mike Rowbottom in Bristol

Mike Rowbottom(1)There are several hundred people milling about at Filton College's newly laid running track. Teams of children from local Bristol schools chatter in their groups under floodlights, awaiting occasional calls to action. The section of enclosed seating near the finishing line is full up with spectators and VIPs, all sheltering from an evening wind that whips the banners set out along the infield into ceaseless activity.

TV camera crews from ITV and BBC are on the prowl, their lights shining into the gloom of the stands to pick out relevant visiting parties. Photographers gather the yellow, white, green and red-shirted youngsters into groups, getting them to cheer and wave the mini-flags they have been given for the occasion – Kenyan flags.

Olympics a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for digital media revolution

By Louisa Gummer

Louisa_Gummer"We hope that 2012 can do for digital media what the coronation did for television"

That's the quote that seems to come up incessantly if you do any internet research on Ben Gallop, head of BBC Sport Interactive and the man charged with ensuring the BBC makes the most of the unique digital opportunity the London 2012 Olympic Games will offer.

Gallop, one of the panellists discussing "Sport Events and the Modern Media Landscape" at the Global Sports Industry Conference in London on Monday (November 1), is enthused by the challenge.

Visa aim for Higher, Stronger, Faster in London 2012 build-up

By David Owen

Only two companies are top-tier sponsors of both of the world’s most powerful sports bodies, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA. One is Coca-Cola; the other is Visa.

So an obvious question for Colin Grannell, executive vice president partnership marketing at Visa Europe, is why both?

Sitting in his office near Paddington station in west London, Grannell - who will be part of a panel discussing the "Perfect Event" at next month’s Global Sports Industry Congress - addresses the subject with a combination of clarity and insight that is the product of a 20-year career with the payments technology company. 

Delhi dismays and delights on eve of the Games

By Mike Rowbottom in New Delhi

One of the more prominent posters advertising the merits of the imminent 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi proclaims: "A stimulating and exciting amalgamation of colours, taste, sights, sounds and contrasts!"

Doubtless the South African who reportedly discovered a snake in his room at the Athletes’ Village found the contrast between what he was expecting and what he was experiencing to be stimulating rather than exciting.

But Delhi is indeed full of such contrasts.

Raising a glass for Munich's Olympic and Paralympic bid

By Mike Rowbottom in Munich

altMany things are evident as you stand at the top of the newly-constructed ski jump overlooking the quintessential Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen - not least the courage required to slap your skis onto the smooth, narrow tracks that dip steeply towards the rearing take-off point so far below, and the awaiting landing point even further below that, a green rectangle bordered by a toy stadium.

There are no sand traps for dubious competitors to veer onto in the manner of out-of-control lorries. This progress, once entered upon, is irrevocable.

In just such a manner, the Munich bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, which would be divided between the city and this artfully picturesque town an hour’s drive from it, is off and running, set on its ultimate landing point of Durban, where the International Olympic Committee’s session on July 6 next year will deliver its decision.

BOA has raised its game to make difference to Olympic sport claims chief executive

By David Owen

I was starting to see it as one of life’s, or at least accountancy’s, great mysteries.

Why should a deal between two parties as ineffably British as the British Olympic Association (BOA) and LOCOG, the London 2012 Organising Committee, be denominated in US dollars?

For days on end, nobody could furnish me with a convincing answer.

But when it came, the explanation afforded a small but revealing insight into the intricacies of British sport’s administrative landscape.

Campbell predicts that Sainsbury’s UK School Games will create lasting legacy

By Mike Rowbottom

For 1,600 young athletes, this weekend is going to be unforgettable - and in some cases, invaluable.

The 2010 Sainsbury’s UK School Games which are being held in Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland until Sunday, offer a generation of aspiring competitors the opportunity to experience the big time, and the instruction they might need to make that big time themselves at some point in the future.

The Games kicked off with an opening ceremony at Gateshead Stadium hosted by BBC Sport presenter Jill Douglas, who was joined on stage by Winter Olympic bob skeleton gold medallist Amy Williams. Also in the audience were Darren Campbell and Jason Gardener, half of the quartet which won sprint relay gold at the 2004 Olympics, and Gail Emms, who won world gold and Olympic silver with her badminton partner Nathan Robertson.

Keep an eye on Delhi, a British London 2012 champion could emerge there

Could it be Jeffrey Lawal Balogun, the Jeffrey-cum-lately of the domestic sprinting scene?

Might it be Tom Lancashire, bold and increasingly determined over the middle distances? Or Hannah England, another to have moved up in class over 1500 metres? Or Louise Hazel, a heptathlete of huge promise?

What about Lawrence Clarke, last year’s European Junior 110m hurdles gold medallist? Or Laura Samuel, the recent world junior triple jump silver medallist? Or Niall Brooks, the European Junior 800m silver medallist who narrowly missed out on a podium place in the recent World Juniors finishing fourth in a lifetime best performance?

The inspiring story of how Haiti's young footballers overcame tragedy to stand on the brink of Olympic glory

By Tom Degun in Singapore

Haiti's footballers, who travelled here to the inaugural Summer Youth Olympics cloaked in tragedy and sadness, are riding a massive wave of sympathy to stand on the brink of winning the most unlikeliest gold medal of these Games.

The country's boy’s footballers brought some much needed joy to their earthquake-stricken nation as they remarkably defied the odds to book their spot in the boy’s final with a 2-0 win over Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.

The Caribbean country made global headlines at the start of the year after a devastating earthquake ripped it apart and left their sports system, along with everything else, in tatters.

Sugar coated words from Jacques Rogge but Youth Olympics do taste sweet

By Tom Degun in Singapore

So it has begun.

The inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore was officially declared open President S.R. Nathan last night (August 14) and then with a flick of his wrist, the nation’s young hero Darren Choy, the 16-year-old two-time junior sailing world champion charged with leading the home medal charge at the Games, lit the spiralling Youth Olympic flame high into the night sky.

The event’s preceding Choy’s lighting of the flame were no doubt spectacular and on the stunning setting of the Marina Bay, the world’s largest floating stage, an extravagant firework display, thunderous drumming, a legion of young dancers of all ages and fire breathing dragons - which were admittedly metallic - marked a new chapter in the history of the Olympic Movement.

Halsall hoping for sweet tears at London 2012

By Cathy Wood

As one of the fastest sprinters in world swimming the last thing you want, when you’re already in the spotlight, is an embarrassing scene from your mother.

For 20-year-old Fran Halsall, the cringe making moment came last summer, at Swimming’s World Championships in Rome, just after the then 19-year-old had won silver in the 100 metres freestyle.

For Mum, Diane, a civil servant from Southport, it was all too much. She began to blub.

Jenkins hoping to remember her lines in London 2012 dress rehearsal

By Cathy Wood

Ask anyone lucky enough to have been at the men’s Olympic triathlon at Vouliagmeni in Athens in
2004 to recall their lasting memory of that day and you’ll probably be surprised by the result.

Chances are they won’t remember it was a New Zealand one-two across the finish line or that the five-lap cycling circuit included a hill with an 18 per cent grade in parts.

What stayed with many long after the event had ended was the heart-warming moment a British athlete ran in his bicycle shoes more than a mile uphill, in the searing August heat, to find a replacement back wheel after another competitor had crashed into, and crushed, his.

The triathlete in question was Marc Jenkins.