The new year sees the start of a massive recruitment drive for the 20,000-strong construction workforce required to ensure that London remains on track for 2012. At least half will be Poles, much to the consternation of the Polish government, who claim the exodus of an estimated one million to this country has created a manpower shortage which is badly affecting the progress of their own major sports project for 2012 football's European Championship, which Poland will share with Ukraine. Poland is upgrading railways and airports and plans to build three new stadiums, but such is the skills vacuum created by the Olympic gold rush to London that it is having to import builders and plumbers from other Eastern Bloc countries, including Bulgaria and Romania. But according to the British Government's adviser on migration policy, David Metcalf, even the great Polish influx may be insufficient for London's needs, and more workers may have to be brought in from outside the EU, thus creating a huge task for the security services, who must check every one.
No Chinese giveaway over Olympic plans
No manpower problems in Beijing, where the Olympic year begins with all 36 Olympic venues completed, save the 91,000-capacity "Bird's Nest" main stadium, which they say will be ready by the end of March. However, we suspect the smog anticipated in August may give a new meaning to Bird's Nest soup. Equally less than transparent is China's coyness about the preparation of their athletes, as they reject all requests from foreign media to visit their training camps, despite promises of "openness" made to the IOC. Which makes you wonder what they have got to hide.
Laura lays down law for her test case
Feisty fighter Laura Saperstein had a date with the dentist last week. Not after having had her teeth knocked out, but to be fitted for a gumshield for her historic appearance at York Hall on 1 February, when she becomes the first woman to box on a major London promotion. The Aussie-born lawyer aka Boxergirl, from Tottenham, has persuaded promoter Frank Maloney to abandon his anti-women's boxing views despite Sky's refusal to screen her proposed bout. "I see this as a great opportunity to change such chauvinistic perceptions," says Saperstein, 36. The deal with Maloney was sealed when she secured sponsorship from top legal firm Freshfields, where she worked as a 75,000-a-year mergers and acquisitions lawyer while getting the boxing bug. Her case rests.
Frosty warning for football from ice hockey
Here's a thought to send a seasonal shiver down the spine of football. Ten years ago Britain's ice hockey team were ranked 12th in the world. Now they are 29th, the prospect of Olympic qualification a pipe dream. The main reason, according to Jo Collins of the Ice Hockey Players' Federation, is the influx of cheap foreign talent. The message that what is happening in ice hockey is a parallel to that in football is one that will be given to the sports minister at a meeting convened to discuss the shambolic governance of a game apparently fast disappearing through a hole in its own ice.
At last: Ivor the icon, 91, gets his order of the Bath
Of the sporting honours in the New Year list, none gives greater pleasure than the MBE awarded to Ivor Powell after we suggested the ex-Welsh international deserved overdue recognition as the world's oldest working coach, at 91. An inspirational figure at Bath University for some 30 years, he is a true football icon.