Inside Lines: Banks fears done deal for Paris over 2012

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Is the 2012 vote a done deal for Paris? The question that is being asked privately by some associated with the London bid has now been raised publicly by Tony Banks, the outspoken former Sports Minister whose east London constituency is at the heartland of the city's Olympic dream.

Is the 2012 vote a done deal for Paris? The question that is being asked privately by some associated with the London bid has now been raised publicly by Tony Banks, the outspoken former Sports Minister whose east London constituency is at the heartland of the city's Olympic dream.

Banks, who is stepping down as an MP after the election, says he is "worried" that the fix may have gone in for Paris. Although the suggestion is likely to anger the IOC, it is certainly one that has been buzzing around Olympic circles, and Banks reckons: "London have a great bid, but if deals have been struck you can forget it. Have the IOC told the French, who are quite capable of getting uppity about these things, and apparently threatened not to bid again after being turned over twice before, 'Don't worry, it's yours this time'? I don't know that, but I have heard the rumours. If it ever emerges that this is the case I don't think any cities should bother about bidding for any Olympic Games ever again."

Surprisingly, Banks is not playing a significant role in London's bid. He says: "No one asked me but I've tried to do my bit, visiting schools and talking up the bid with businessmen. I want London to win because we have the legacy, the facilities and the culture, but I suspect it will all come down to whether a deal has been struck." Banks believes the reason he was snubbed by London is that he led England's unsuccessful charge on football's World Cup bid for 2006. "You don't have to have a PhD to work that one out."

One gag that sport thinks is no joke

Sport England are being put under uncomfortably close Parliamentary scrutiny by the new Opposition sports spokesman, Hugh Robertson. Among a number of questions he is asking about the performance and finances of the government quango is one concerning a clause in new contracts with governing bodies in receipt of Lottery funding which appears to put a gag on any adverse comments being made about the organisation. Robertson says he understands at least one administrator has said he has been told he must no longer discuss cuts in funding with the media, the implication being that future funding could be affected. "This is surely tantamount to bullying," he says. Sport England insist that it is "absolutely not the case that a gagging policy has been instigated", but we hear a number of sports bodies are are under a different impression. One sports leader tells us: "This clause makes a laughing stock of free speech. What next? Hospitals introducing similar clauses to stop patients criticising them?"

Marathon man Caborn in it for the long run

It's been quite a week for sports ministers, past, present and possibly future, to put the boot in. However, in the case of the current incumbent, Richard Caborn, the footwear in question will be the running shoes he is preparing to pull on for the London Marathon on 17 April. As they say in his part of the world, he's a "game booger". At 61, this will be his first full marathon, aptly enough for someone who is now the longest-running sports minister since Denis Howell, though he is stepping down later this year. He runs with the referee Uriah Rennie and others in aid of the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, one of sport's worthiest charities which gives vital financial assistance to young athletes and takes its name from the great Olympic coach and broadcaster who died in 1991.

It seems Amir Khan has finally got his man. After a week of intensive string-pulling, Frank Warren, who is poised to sign the Olympic silver medallist as a professional, believes he has secured a mouthwatering amateur finale for boxing's likeliest lad against his Athens conqueror, Mario Kindelan.

The promoter will announce this week that the Cuban has now been confirmed as part of the seven-man team to meet England at Liverpool on 8 April and has agreed to a rematch with Amir at Bolton's Reebok Stadium on 16 April. Negotiations have not been easy, involving the ABA, where there is a faction opposed to the bout because Amir is going pro, and the Cuban government. But Warren said last night that Kindelan will now box Amir in a match for which the youngster had pleaded. "To be honest I was against it, because it is a risk Amir doesn't need. But he insisted and is convinced he can avenge that Athens defeat. It shows the boy has bottle." So, win or lose, it seems Amir will end his amateur career on a high before his hometown fans.

ITV, we hear, may be tempted to make a comeback to screening boxing following the success of the reality series The Contender, a US production.

There is certainly a hole in the terrestrial market following the BBC's decision to KO the pro game and concentrate on amateur boxing. A promo for the recent ABA finals sanctimoniously dismissed professional boxing as "corrupt" (didn't hear them say that when they lobbed a million into Audley Harrison's pocket). Yet the Beeb cannot be too thrilled that Amir Khan will not be pulling in viewers for them when he goes pro with Sports Network, who are in the process of negotiating a new Sky deal. But could ITV now be back in the picture?

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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