It was the day Malcolm Glazer's takeover left Manchester disunited, so the opening of the inaugural Visa Paralympic World Cup seemed no big deal. Not so.
It was the day Malcolm Glazer's takeover left Manchester disunited, so the opening of the inaugural Visa Paralympic World Cup seemed no big deal. Not so. Richard Caborn made the event his first port of call after getting the nod to carry on as Sports Minister at least until July (when he will either step down or become Olympics Minister), and UK Sport announced that Britain's Paralympic athletes will get almost £20m worth of Lottery funding in the run-up to Beijing. It was a clear message to the International Olympic Committee that Britain recognises the emphasis they now place on disability sport. What has been happening in Manchester, where the 44-nation competition concludes today, has to be a potential vote-winner for London's bid.
For in addition to Princess Anne and Craig Reedie, Britain has a third IOC member in Phil Craven, who also happens to be that rarity, a Briton who heads an international sports body. He is president of the International Paralympic Committee and carries considerable clout in an arena close to the hearts of many of his new IOC buddies. "This is a vital platform for élite athletes and an excellent showcase for Britain," he says. With £500,000 coming into the the local economy, Manchester again has been a sports city of welcoming smiles. Except at Old Trafford, that is. There, Caborn's former media minder Phil Townsend, now United's PR chief, must be wistfully recalling those carefree days when all he had to contend with were blazers, not Glazers.
Blair disciple James now a 2012 convert
An interesting new political figure emerges at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, working alongside Richard Caborn and taking over his responsibility for tourism, freeing up the Sports Minister to prioritise the Olympic bid. He is James Purnell, a Londoner who is MP for Stalybridge and Hyde in Greater Manchester, and possibly the sports minister-in-waiting as a former policy adviser on the subject at No 10.
What is intriguing is that two years ago Purnell, 35, went on record as being strongly opposed to the bid, saying it was the "wrong priority" for London and that the money could be better spent. But, hallelujah! This Blair disciple has seen the light and been converted along the road to Docklands. "Yes, I was sceptical," he admits. "But then I saw the plans that London 2012 were developing and they really did allay my fears. Now I think London can stage a fantastic Games." In his new capacity he will be delivering that message at a tourism conference this week - wearing his 2012 lapel badge, of course.
Early bird Amir fights for new title
It is the morning after the fight before and Amir Khan is taking flight for an even bigger bash. He was up at dawn today to speed from his home in Bolton to Manchester for a breakfast-time sortie to Portugal, where in Estoril tomorrow night he is a leading contender in the Laureus Sports Awards. He has been nominated as world newcomer of the year, and with Kelly Holmes a favourite for the world sportswoman trophy it could be a British win double. The occasion will have a distinctly fistic flavour. The Klitschkos, Marvin Hagler and Barry McGuigan are among the celebs, and the "Oscars" of sport will be fronted by Morgan Freeman, who won the real thing for his role as the trainer in Million Dollar Baby.
Whisper it softly around big John Amaechi - at 6ft 9in he is not one to argue with - but wheelchair basketball actually seems a tad more exciting than the real thing. Sophie Wessex obviously thought so, judging by her squealing at the wheeling during Britain's winning match against Germany. Frenetic thrills, great skills and more than a modicum of spills.
"Actually," Amaechi admitted, "you may well be right. Sometimes it has more crowd appeal." Perhaps this is why wheelchair basketball has been a spectator highlight of the Paralympic World Cup, the finals sold out at the £2m basketball centre he set up three years ago. Multi-millionaire sports stars could learn much from Amaechi, 34, the Brit who had an illustrious eight-year career in the US and then returned home to Stockport to put his doctorate in child psychology to use by helping kids develop their sport and life skills. He now wants to open more youth sports centres, and plans a return to the court by leading England's Commonwealth Games team next year.
Manchester, we know, is doing its bit to assist London in its Olympic quest by impressively shop-windowing Britain's last multi-sports event before the 6 July D-Day.
But it may peeve Paris to learn that someone with a French accent and decidedly Gallic name is putting in a bon mot for Seb and Co. Actually, Chantal Petitclerc is French-Canadian, but while many of her fellow Quebeçois obviously will be rooting for Paris, Mme Petitclerc, one of the greatest Paralympians, who was voted Canadian athlete of the year after winning five golds as a wheelchair athlete in Athens, says: "I'd be quite happy to see the Olympic and Paralympic Games go to London. It is a great city with a proud sporting tradition."Reuse content