Inside Lines: No playing field demos say men from the Pru

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So, all systems go for 2012. But here's evidence of just how far there is to go to ensure that some of those kids who might be starring in any London Olympics nine years hence have the resources to achieve their goal. Tomorrow, the Law Lords will hear a unique appeal on behalf of a group of campaigners from Washington (and we're talking CD – County Durham – here, not DC, USA, where the situation would never arise) who are trying to prevent the closure of the local playing field. It is a familiar story and one that shames the present, suddenly sports-friendly Government as much as it did Thatcher's snatchers. The selling-off of playing fields remains a vexed issue, with 200 going under the hammer since Labour promised to halt sales in 1998. The one in Washington is of particular concern because a local protest group have actually been banned from publicly protesting about it by the men from the Pru. This is because the Prudential have acquired Washington's town centre and insist they cannot allow "political activity" on their property. Consequently, the campaigners have been forbidden to put up placards or hold marches against the Sunderland city council's proposal to build on the site. They took the issue to the European Court but lost on a technicality. They are appealing, and tomorrow the Law Lords will consider whether the council is justified in claiming that the area in question is not a playing field even though for 30 years it has had a cricket pitch and other sports. facilities. "Their argument is ludicrous," claims campaign leader Robert Duggan. "As a probation officer I know how important it is to provide decent recreational facilities to keep kids out of trouble." Or nurture golden dreams.

Crystal Palace saved at Ken's bidding

We're in it to win it, enthuse the London Games bidders. But what if they don't? What legacy will be left for the capital's £17m outlay if it all goes belly-up in Singapore in 2005? Here's the good news. We have the personal pledge of mayor Ken Livingstone – who, hallelujah, like Tony Blair, has suddenly seen the sporting light – that at the very least there will be a much-needed Olympic-sized swimming pool in London. Moreover he promises – on the record – that Crystal Palace's future as an international sports venue is now guaranteed because of the bid. "We'll find the money from somewhere," he assures us, "whether it is from my budget or Sport England's. Crystal Palace will be modernised and completely refurbished. It would be mad not to have it under the Olympic umbrella, especially as we are constructing the high-speed East London line that will link it directly with the Games sites." No doubt Paula Radcliffe, who runs there in the London Grand Prix on 8 August, will be one of many star athletes relieved that the old place is to be reprieved, facelifted and will be on the Tube instead of going down it.

Sports minister faces trial by fury

Credit where it's due, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and sports minister Richard Caborn did what BOA chairman Craig Reedie acknowledges as a "fantastic job" in winning over ministerial sceptics, wrangling late into Wednesday night before the London bid was confirmed during Thursday's brief Cabinet debate. However, there is no time for Sheffield United fan Caborn to rest on Olympic laurels. He gives the keynote address at this week's CCPR Oxford conference and faces a grilling from more than 200 governing bodies deeply concerned over government policies, falling Lottery funds, playing fields (see above), VAT on voluntary clubs, and other taxing issues. Hope he hasn't got to dash off.

The Battle of Wounded Knee, starring young Everton brave Wayne Rooney, resumes today when he joins up with the England squad and has the offending ligament examined by the team doctor. If he is ruled out of the trip to South Africa, an alternative knees-up awaits him in Monaco on Tuesday.

Rooney has been invited to the Principality to join sport's high society jinks at the Laureus Awards as a short-listed candidate in the International Newcomer of the Year category. However, his attendance is unlikely as he would not only risk Sven's wrath but he'd need to be booted and suited, black tie and all. Hardly the boy's style. Paula Radcliffe could pip Serena Williams as Sportswoman of the Year in the five-star bash hosted by the ubiquitous John McEnroe, while the presence of Ronaldo suggests he might walk off with three awards – Sportsman of the Year, Comeback of the Year and, with either Brazil or Real Madrid, rivals for team of the year. Ronaldo yes; Roonaldo, no.

Such is the alarm at Sport England's disturbingly dictatorial insistence on installing their own candidate as president of England Hockey at today's inaugural Milton Keynes meeting, at the expense of caretaker Mike Corby, that we hear some members will try to force an adjournment.

The former sports minister Kate Hoey has now taken up the cudgel on behalf of the former national hockey and squash skipper Corby, accusing the quango of "financial blackmail" by threatening to withdraw funding if they don't get their nominee, one Ian Forster, elected. "It is an unpleasant abuse of power," she says. Who is Forster? Apparently, he is in his seventies and is described as one of the old blazer brigade. Enough said.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

Exit Lines

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