Britain gets broadside from not so jolly Rogge

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The Independent Online

Britain has been warned by the new president of the International Olympic Committee, Dr Jacques Rogge, that if the World Athletics Championships do not take place in London in 2005, as scheduled, the country can forget bidding for any future Olympic Games or staging major multi-sports events in the forseeable future. The message was delivered by Dr Rogge to the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, Simon Clegg, during the European Youth Olympics in Spain last month and was re-inforced when the IOC chief met the new sports minister, Richard Caborn, at the World Championships in Edmonton last week. "Dr Rogge's message is unequivocal," says Clegg. "If we foul up over the World Championships it will be pointless bidding for future big events, especially the Olympics. We have been made to look extremely foolish in the eyes of the world by Wembley, Picketts Lock and the football World Cup bid and now our reputation is on the line." Despite the assurances given to Rogge and the IAAF president Lamine Diack that the championships will go ahead (though everyone involved is studiously avoiding mentioning Picketts Lock, upon which a decision will be made on tomorrow week) international sports leaders remain unconvinced that the British government will keep their word. Although Berlin have now dropped out of the picture for financial reasons, represen-tatives from Stuttgart were in earnest conversation with IAAF officials in Edmonton and are ready to host the champion-ships. Caborn, who denies that he has "gone cold" on a future Olympic bid, insists this will not be necessary. "He is well aware that Britain's credibility is at stake," says a ministry spokesperson. Dr Rogge has made certain of that.

Film star Joe comes back home smokin'

Joe Bugner is back in Britain. However, the heavyweight who was laid back but never laid out, has not been imported to advise or even fight Audley Harrison (though even at 51 he would probably make a better fist of it than some on the Olympic gold medallist's chopping list). No, "Aussie Joe" is here to star in a film being shot in London's East End called Baby Juice Express. "It's a bit of a send-up on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," says boxing's answer to Vinnie Jones. He plays a gangster, "a real bad man", and his son Joe jnr also has a role. Bugner is no stranger to the screen. He's actually made 21 movies, including several spaghetti westerns. He last fought two years ago, successfully defending his World Boxing Federation title, but he says he's definitely retired. As a TV commentator during the Olympics he told Harrison he was "a big, lazy bugger" who needed to pick up his game. "I'm glad he took my advice." Does he think Harrison will make it? "It all depends on the quality of heavyweights out there in 18 months. He's a terrific kid but he's got to get his act together. But good luck to him. He'll certainly make money. And that's what it's about."

Nationwide birth of the Blues (or the Pinks)

The Nationwide League came up with a wheeze to celebrate th start of their new season yesterday, launching a search for the first 11 babies to be born across the county after the 3pm kick-off. On offer, a Nationwide Baby Kit which includes a rattle and a babygrow in the colours of the parents' favourite team. Plus £100 deposited in a Nationwide Building Society Account. No doubt the Premiership's babysnatchers will be going one better next week, providing six-figure contracts to be registered alongside the birth certificates.

This column continues to refresh you with news of British successes in parts of sport that others usually do not reach. For instance the nation's water-skiers confirmed their status as the best in Europe when winning the European slalom and jump titles, while Britain's swimmers returned from the European Paralympic Championhips in Stockholm with no fewer than 69 gold medals.

Britain are also Euro-starring in women's softball, winning promotion to the top pool. But surely the feat of the week has to be that of one Edgar Ette, a 44-year-old swimming pool manager from Portland, Dorset, who has just completed a remarkable triathlon in an event called Enduroman, running to Dover, swimming the Channel and cycling to Paris. Including a lengthy wait for the right tide, he went from Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe in less than 80 hours, all in aid of Dorset Cancer Care. It cost him £3,000. "The triathlon people told me it couldn't be done," he says. "So that's why I did it."

If you wonder why we don't win Test Matches any more, consider the curious case of Belstone Cricket Club on the edge of Dartmoor.

Nine years ago villagers stumped up £11,000 to purchase a farmer's field and turned it into a cricket ground, with 30 juniors and 20 seniors paying an annual sub of £15. Now West Devon Borough Council have taken them to court demanding £6 per player for "services provided", though apparently there are none. Three council officials atttended court, no doubt at ratepayers' expense. It wouldn't happen in Australia, of course, where the government have just increased sports funding to £2.60 a head. In England it is 67 pence. 'Nuff said.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

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