Inside Lines: Good Lord! Tory Coe backs Tony crony

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The Independent Online

Dateline: Monaco

Amid the proliferation of kissy-kissies at the Laureus Awards, some serious networking was being undertaken in Monte Carlo on behalf of the cities lining up to fight it out for the 2012 Olympic Games. Not least by Sebastian Coe, who though so far unenlisted, surely has a crucial part to play in London's bid. The back-to-back 1500 metres champion of 1980 and 1984 remains Britain's most-recognised Olympian among sport's powerbrokers, and he is already using his political lobbying skills on London's behalf, even though a coolness still exists between him and Britain's Olympic hierarchy. Ironically, this stems from his involvement in an earlier attempt to get a London bid off the ground at the time Manchester was going for the Games. The BOA president, Princess Anne, was far from amused. This royal rift has to be repaired, because London needs Lord Coe, who is shortly to be elected to the IAAF, and he certainly feels the need to be part of the bidding team. His presence here - he is an Laureus Academy member - was an invaluable opportunity to hobnob with the several IOC members present. Coe believes London has an outstanding chance and, curiously for a Tory, thinks the bid leader should be fellow peer and former BP chairman Lord Simon, a Blair confidant and one-time trade minister. He says: "He [Simon] is multilingual - even speaking Japanese - has the confidence of the prime minister and a great commercial track record. He knows sport too, and was with me on the old Sports Council." If the chic and well-prepared Paris launch was an indication, London may have some catching up to do, and they will also need Coe's fast legs to help carry them through to the tape.

Hagler: Harrison must be bossed - not boss

"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler knows what it takes to become a world champion. As his prefix implies, he was always one L of a fighter. The former undisputed middleweight champion, who is now 49 and got out of the game 16 years ago with cash and credibility intact, took time out from enjoying the Laureus bash to tell us that he reckons Audley Harrison can become a world champion, too - but not the way he is doing things now. "I believe he has the ability to make it, because when you look at the heavyweight division, who's out there? But he needs better management. It's a big mistake thinking you can do everything yourself." Harrison takes on his 11th opponent, Matthew Ellis, at York Hall on Saturday. By comparison, Blackpool's Ellis, 29, six inches shorter and three stones lighter, will seem a midget. That's how Audley likes 'em. But apparently the BBC do not, which is why they seem to be switching their long-term resources to backing his charismatic amateur-days room-mate, the light-heavyweight David Haye.

Football the poor relation in Monaco

Next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix will make over £200m for Monte Carlo, and goodness knows how many million euros were poured into the Principality during sport's diamond-drenched awards. So how come the most opulent spot on the Riviera can barely support a football team? AC Monaco, arguably the best club in France, where Hoddle and Wenger were once in residence, have sparse support despite still being in contention for the League title, and have run up £60m losses in three seasons. Club patron Prince Albert is barred by government regulations from bailing them out, and unless backers are found to cover the debts, coach Didier Deschamps et al face compulsory relegation.

You will be interested to know that Katarina Witt, the sexiest-ever skater and erstwhile "Playboy" pin-up, reckons that size doesn't matter. OK, so we're talking Olympics here.

Witt, at 37 still as captivating as ever on or off the ice, is actively promoting Leipzig, one of London's rivals for 2012. It would be the smallest-ever host city, but she says: "Yes, it is small, with a population of under half a million, but I grew up in that area of East Germany. Leipzig would be great hosts. The Games would be compact and well-managed, with excellent facilities." The first sports personality effectively to straddle the Berlin Wall, and one who claims never to have been contaminated by the drugs culture ("at least, not knowingly"), Witt is still unmarried, and says she is "between boyfriends". Her escort at the glittering sports awards ceremony was Monaco's bachelor Prince Albert himself, which made Katarina's cleavage even more the focus of the cameras than Kylie's bottom.

Apart from dishing out Oscar-style gongs to the high achievers of sport (it was not The Brits, as neither Radcliffe nor Rooney got a look-in, while Ronaldo won two trophies), the purpose of the Laureus Awards is to highlight their Foundation's work in using sport to help combat social ills.

Led by Edwin Moses, Academy members, who include Marcel Desailly, Boris Becker, Lord Coe and Sir Bobby Charlton, have travelled to all continents, setting up 18 schemes to tackle delinquency, homelessness and drugs in areas of great sporting deprivation. The thought occurs that, with playing fields and Lottery cash dwindling fast, it won't be long before they will be urgently needed in Britain.

Exit Lines

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