Hoey grabs the purse strings
Sunday 24 September 2000
British sport faces a redistribution of wealth once the Sydney Olympics are over. While Britain is having a good Games in several sports, in others there has been a worrying under-achievement, and it is likely that some of those Ã©lite performers who have received substantial Lottery funding may soon have to go back to work. The Sports Minister, Kate Hoey, has been here to observe the results of Lottery investment and she is to calla meeting of the relevant sports bodies to reassess the situation. These Olympics are seen as something of a benchmark, and while UK Sport and Sport England, the chief distributors of Lottery money, insist there are unlikely to be substantial changes because of results here, Hoey may have other ideas. "This is the first major multi-sports event where I have been able to see for myself how the system is working," she tells me. "The Games have been stunning but it is obvious that in some of our sports there is something of an imbalance - certain sports may be getting too much money
British sport faces a redistribution of wealth once the Sydney Olympics are over. While Britain is having a good Games in several sports, in others there has been a worrying under-achievement, and it is likely that some of those Ã©lite performers who have received substantial Lottery funding may soon have to go back to work. The Sports Minister, Kate Hoey, has been here to observe the results of Lottery investment and she is to calla meeting of the relevant sports bodies to reassess the situation. These Olympics are seen as something of a benchmark, and while UK Sport and Sport England, the chief distributors of Lottery money, insist there are unlikely to be substantial changes because of results here, Hoey may have other ideas. "This is the first major multi-sports event where I have been able to see for myself how the system is working," she tells me. "The Games have been stunning but it is obvious that in some of our sports there is something of an imbalance - certain sports may be getting too much money and others not quite enough. I want to sit down with all concerned and look again at the strategy." And, as an indication of her increasingly hands-on role - particularly when they are poised over the cash register - she adds: "Nothing will be done without my say-so." This could be good news for unsung sports like shooting, which Hoey believes is underfunded in the aftermath of Dunblane, and fencing, where she was particularly impressed with the performance of James Williams in the sabre, but bad news for swimming and hockey, which have received huge subsidies and returned very little.
Tongue in cheek or foot in mouth?
Sebastian Coe has bounded into Sydney with the broadest of smiles on his face - and not only because his boss, William Hague, is ahead in the polls for the first time since the former double Olympic 1500m champion became aide-de-camp to the Tory leader. Lord Coe is certain to be one of Britain's biggest winners here financially: he has a lucrative contract as an analyst for Australian TV's Channel 7, is in demand for speaking engagements, has sponsorship deals with British Airways and Cadbury's, and his autobiography is being reprinted in Australia. All nice little earners. Coe's commercial affairs, like those of another ex-Olympic champion, Daley Thompson, are being managed by the former Australian heptathlete Jan Fleming. No wonder he looks happy to be here, though tongue-in-cheek he told his TV audience: "Actually I'm disappointed, because right now I could be in Manchester in the pouring rain eating a chip butty!" He may need reminding that this is exactly where he will be in two years' time, when Manchester hosts the Commonwealth Games. No doubt Mancunians will give him a great welcome.
Pinsent the vote catcher
Fresh from completing his hat-trick of Olympic gold medals in yesterday's coxless fours, Steve Redgrave's boat-mate Matthew Pinsent now hopes to go into politics. Sports politics, that is. The popular Pinsent, aged 29, Britain's flag-bearer, is up for election to the International Olympic Committee as one of the dozen new athletes' representatives. Yesterday will have done his chances in the coming Olympic Village ballot no harm at all.
Eat it, don't wear it
Doubtless to the chagrin of Rolf Harris, kangaroos have a surprisingly low-profile role here, rather like Harris himself. Skippy isn't even one of the official Games mascots. Maybe this is because Australians prefer to see him on a menu rather than their T-shirts. Prime cuts of roo are available in most eateries, usually marinated with spices and served with beetroot. "If you have a kangaroo representing the Olympics you can't also put it on the menu," says Maryland Wilson, president of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council, who oppose kangaroo eating. However, another marsupial is even more popular than those official mascots. Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat grabbed the nation's attention when swimmer Michael Klim carried him on to the podium. The stuffed toy is one of the stars of an irreverent nightly talk show, and his party piece is to defecate by dropping little gold nuggets when some of the less impressive Olympic performances are replayed.
Teofilo the unwanted
The man regarded as the greatest amateur boxer of all time is, alas, nowhere to be seen in Sydney. Teofilo Stevenson, three times Olympic super-heavyweight champion, has been barred from the sport for two years because of his part in the infamous Cuban walk-out during the world championships in Houston last August. The Cubans, including Stevenson's successor, the formidable Felix Savon, quit over some of the bizarre judging. The International Amateur Boxing chiefs later admitted that at least one fight was fixed. But Stevenson, vice-president of the Cuban Association, is no longer allowed anywhere near ringside, and he seems to be running out of places to go. He is wanted by the FBI in Miami for failing to turn up for a court case following an alleged assault on an airport immigration official when he left the US after the world championships dispute.
In a games suffused by political correctness it is heartening to discover that a bit of the larrikin survives. After a blue line was painted the length of the marathon route to direct the runners, an enterprising publican crept out at night, obliterated one section and repainted it, leading it into his bar. Fortunately, organisers saw the joke - though they made him pay to have it redrawn.
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