Inside Lines: Cherie a non-starter as Allen heads for top job

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The Independent Online

Charles Allen, the man whose hand hovered perilously close to the Queen's bottom as he guided her towards her seat during the Commonwealth Games, is emerging as the compromise candidate most likely to lead London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. His successful delivery of the Commonwealth Games could be the decisive factor when the appointment is announced later this month, with several other candidates either unsuitable or now unwilling. The Granada boss would be a controversial choice in view of the opprobrium in which he is held in football following his role in the collapse of ITV Digital, but the 46-year-old bachelor Scot is considered by the Government to be "a safe pair of hands". What Her Majesty thinks may be another matter. Informal talks with contenders begin this week before a formal shortlist of four is drawn up. However, there seems a strange reluctance to do London's Olympic bidding. Some of those head-hunted seem to regard it as poisoned chalice, and have politely declined. The former BP chairman Lord Simon, a Blairite favoured in Government circles, is reluctant to let his name go forward, and even former top diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer, the BOA's preferred nomination, has reservations, fearing it would affect his new role as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. And what of Cherie Blair, so vigorously touted by the Telegraph? A Whitehall source tells us hubby is aghast at the idea, knowing she has no real credentials for the job and would be crucified by the media at the first gaffe. Anyway, what was it Blair said about keeping the bidding process at arm's length? That could hardly be the case if his sleeping partner was in charge. Au revoir, Cherie.

Lewis reaches for Sky after Beeb drop out

Having had their financial fingers burned over Audley Harrison's now-expired 10-fight deal, the BBC have decided that Lennox Lewis is certainly too rich for them. Attempts to secure his 21 June bout with Canada's Kirk Johnson in Los Angeles have been ditched because of his "excessive demands", leaving deeper-pocketed Sky to sign the six-figure cheque that will bring an early-hours live Box Office screening. Although Johnson has lost only once, on a disqualification to John Ruiz, he lacks the firepower to spoil Lewis's 23rd appearance on Sky, so it is as well that the seven-hour package includes Michael Brodie, who, ungraciously spurned as an opponent by Naseem Hamed, defends his little-regarded WBF featherweight title against useful Argentinian Juan Cabrera in Manchester. Meanwhile, Herbie Hide has annoyed both the BBC and the Boxing Board with the intemperate language in his post-fight interview last week. He was also warned by the referee for various first-round misdemeanours. Hide says he can't understand why he lacks popularity. It is time those reviving his career told him to clean up his act.

Sport England take grave view of situation

While judgment is awaited at the the end of this month on the ground-breaking appeal made by citizens of Washington, Co Durham, to the Law Lords against the proposed selling-off of a playing field, it is good to hear that Sport England have managed to save another, in Kent. Sidcup's Flamingo Park, a popular haven for local footballers, was destined to become, of all things, a cemetery until Sport England backed objections by the Kent FA and had the decision overturned. One player, Chris Gardner, was so delighted that he emailed them: "There's sod-all nice pitches round here and loads of places for cemeteries. I'm sure people getting buried there would have preferred it staying as a footy ground." Dead right.

Andy Mapple may never be Sports Personality of the Year - indeed, it is highly unlikely he will be invited - but it is arguable that he is Britain's most consistently successful sportsman. A Paula Radcliffe on waterskis.

Mapple recently won his 14th US Masters slalom title in an event that is the longest-standing international competition in the sport. They call it the Wimbledon of water-skiing. He was at it again last weekend, winning the Mastercraft professional championships in South Carolina, which again puts the six-times world champion at the head of the world rankings. Not bad for a 40-year-old. With compatriot Jodi Fisher winning the opening event of the season in Australia, and Scotland's Nicole Arthur becoming the world junior slalom title-holder a day after her 16th birthday, here is one achieving sport which surely deserves to keep its Lottery funding intact when Sport England chairman Patrick Carter starts sharpening his axe this week.

Tony Banks, the erstwhile sports minister, is in Copenhagen this weekend at the Lesbian and Gay Games researching a report he is preparing on homophobia in European sport; not least, he says in the UK.

"As sports minister I tried to set up a scheme along the lines of the anti-racism campaign, but received no co-operation from governing bodies, who refused to admit there was a problem," he says. "They were in denial, and still are." Remarkably few Brits have "come out", but Banks will be heartened to learn that we now have an openly gay boxer, one Charles Jones, aka The Pink Pounder, who fights on "white-collar" promotions and declares: "If people want to shell out £25 to see this poof get hit, that's OK by me." Well, he said it.

Exit Lines

Oh blimey! The reaction of British International Olympic Committee member Matthew Pinsent when told that Cherie Blair was being touted as London's Olympic bid leader... I played pathetically, I feel I betrayed everyone. Refreshing honesty from Benoit Pedretti of French club Sochaux after defeat by Monaco... Fortunately I don't. Response from Viagra-promoting Pele, 62, when asked by a female interviewer if he suffered from erection problems... I see no reason why it can't be me this year. Infamous last words on Wimbledon from Tim Henman