Inside Lines: Battle to save Palace reaches Parliament

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The Independent Online

The vexed future of Crystal Palace is to be raised in Parliament this week. The former sports minister Colin Moynihan, now the shadow spokesman, wants the Government to step in and save the national sports centre from closure. He tells us: "I shall be pushing hard for the sports minister to give a long-term commitment to secure its future, perhaps with strong private sector support. It should be clearly a venue that is used in some way for the London Olympic bid, or at the very least a state-of-the-art training facility." At the moment there are no plans to utilise the venue for any Olympic events and the "spiritual home" of British athletics seems destined for demolition though there is a suggestion it could be "tarted up" and used for training purposes. Says Moynihan: "What has to be avoided at all costs is Sport England applying a temporary Band Aid to what has to be kept as a jewel in the crown of sport in London. We simply cannot allow facilities like Crystal Palace to be lost both to the community and élite sport at a time when we need to demonstrate to the IOC our seriousness about sport." Sport England and Bromley Council are currently holding urgent talks and are prepared to put in money to build a new complex but "need something from somewhere else". Come in Ken Livingstone? London's mayor says he is committed to saving the Palace and, as it is a listed building, perhaps he can persuade English Heritage, keen on preservation and not short of a few bob, to help underwrite it. Not having an athletics Grand Prix in London next year would severely embarrass the London Olympic bid, as does the threat by swimming to move the Southern Counties championships across the Channel to Dunkirk because there is no guarantee London's only 50 metres pool would be available. Sport England have proposed Norwich as an alternative venue.

Ex-CCPR men team up with Moynihan

Lord Moynihan clearly means business in his new role. He has snapped up two leading experts on sports politics to join his team. Nigel Hook and Simon Taylor have become his senior policy advisers following their surprise departure from the CCPR last month. Hook, 57, took early retirement while Taylor, 31, son of PFA leader Gordon Taylor, quit following "irreconcilable differences" with chief executive Margaret Talbot. Moynihan considers their capture a bit of a coup. "Nigel has an encyclopaedic mind and is a tremendous souce of knowledge on all aspects of sport. Likewise Simon is a top man in his field. Getting them on board will be not only of great value to me but sport generally." The loss of such key personnel is a blow to the body regarded as the "parliament" of sport, as chairman Howard Wells admits. He says he now plans to take a more pro-active role in the running of the organisation. "Hopefully, we can move on."

If London lose, can they blame it on Rio?

Why have the United States suddenly come clean over drugs rather than adopt their usual cover-up? Could the answer lie in New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics? With president Jacques Rogge determined to crack down on sport's junkies, the International Olympic Committee have warned all bidding cities that any going soft on drugs could harm their chances. Thus the timely revelations about the new "designer" steroid discovered in samples taken at the US national championships. London should take heed, for IOC eyes are closely monitoring the outcome of the Rio Ferdinand case here. Football is an Olympic sport and a mere slap on the wrist for Ferdinand could mean a black mark against the London bid.

Grudge fights have long been an essential part of boxing's pysche but no hard feelings were in evidence at the Boxing Board's annual awards last week. Michael Watson, whose successful law suit brought the Board to the brink of bankruptcy, causing them to sell their London HQ and move to Cardiff, received a special award for services to the sport - from the Board themselves.

The tribute to Watson from the Board secretary Simon Block spoke volumes. So did Watson's warm response. The fighter, who was told he would never walk or talk again following the brain damage suffered in his 1991 loss to Chris Eubank, is now doing both remarkably well and it is heartening to see the rapprochement between him and the Board. Ricky Hatton confirmed his status as Britain's top box-office attraction as Boxer of the Year at an occcasion which also saw the amateurs, once barred from mixing with the the pros, receive their own awards. Hopefully, sign of another rapprochement.

UK Sport are hosting a conference in London on Tuesday to discuss upcoming major events. We wonder if the biggest sporting show to be held here for years -bigger even than the Commonwealth Games - will get a mention.

This is the World Firefighters' Games, involving at least 4,500 competitors - all firepersons - from 40 nations to be held in Sheffield from 28 August-4 September next year. There will be some 289 events involving 60 sports, from arm wrestling to rugby. Some will be "'fire service related" (though no snakes and ladders, we are assured). All Sheffield's facilities will be utilised, and there will be a Games village where, presumably, everyone will get on like a house on fire.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

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