Inside Lines: Testing times for 2012, but don't forget Rio

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The Independent Online

If, by mischance or miscalculation, London's bid for the 2012 Olympics misses out, will we be able to blame it on Rio? We're not talking Ferdinand here (though heaven knows the intransigence of the dopes at Old Trafford has not gone unnoticed at International Olympic Committee headquarters) but de Janeiro. Insiders suggest the samba city is coming up fast in the nine-nag race, having gone from dark horse to fourth favourite behind Paris, London and New York, according to a survey of international sports industry executives. A recent visit to South America suggests that Rio could be the one to watch. NBC, the influential American television network who largely bankroll the Games, are certainly doing so, believing that if New York's bid is doomed, as seems likely, then Rio offers the best option for screening live coverage of the Games to the US, as it is the only other candidate in a similar time zone. Sydney was hopeless for US TV, as will be Athens this year and Beijing in 2008, and with massive advertising revenue at stake NBC will be lobbying hard among IOC members, one of the most prominent of whom is Brazil's former Fifa chief, Joao Havelange. The Games have never been held in South America, something the strong Latin element on the IOC would like rectified. The major drawback is the wobbly Brazilian economy, but it is improving, and as host city for the Pan American Games in 2007 - a bigger event than the Commonwealth Games - Rio promises to have Olympic-sized facilities under construction, including a tarted-up Maracana stadium, when the IOC team make their evaluation in 2005. The big worry is that this may impress the IOC evaluation committee rather more than London's paper plans.

No to knight Trev: a tale of two Tessas

No one will begrudge Tessa Sanderson her upgrade to CBE. She has been a terrific sportswoman, is a black icon and an industrious ambassador in her role as vice-chair of Sport England. But controversial she isn't. Hardly an unkind word has passed her lips since she once implied a javelin rival was swallowing something stronger than Smarties. These days, Tess wouldn't say boo to a politician, which may be one reason why her latest gong apparently comes at the expense of Trevor Brooking's knighthood. How else should the leaked memo from the Honours Committee be interpreted? This reads: "It would not be right to take Trevor Brooking on the same list as Tessa Sanderson." Brooking remains the only retiring Sport England chairman not to have been knighted, presumably because his spot-on valedictory comments upset the thin-skinned department headed by another Tessa - Media, Sport and Culture Secretary Jowell - who should put an end to this shameful piece of political spite.

At 80, Astaire still has the young at heart

Tucked away in the Honours List was a belated gong for one of sport's most successful entrepreneurs - Jarvis Astaire, once one of boxing's barons, latterly vice-chairman of Wembley and now chairman of the Greyhound Racing Association. But the citation for his OBE does not mention his sporting links. He receives it for "services to London youth". Few know that Astaire, 80, has spent a lifetime encouraging sport among the young. He is treasurer of the Federation of Youth Clubs, and for many years refereed boys' football. ALabour supporter, the many-faceted millionaire once left a titled Tory lady open-mouthed as he hopped into his chauffeured Bentley remarking: "Nothing's too good for the workers, ma'am."

The newly honoured Michael Watson found last year's London Marathon a helpful route towards rehabilitation. The dishonoured Lord Archer is hoping that this year's will do the same for him, if for a different reason.

The bold Jeffrey insists he will not merely be running in the marathon, but competing in it and aiming for a record. He is trying to convince would-be sponsors to back him to the tune of £1,661,220, which would be the biggest charity sum ever raised for a marathon. Somewhat short of practice because of restricted roadwork facilities during his recent spell away from home, the 64-year-old Archer, is asking for £1 for every inch of the 26 miles 385 yards he completes, though it has been suggested mischievously that spotters will be checking for short cuts. Friends say he still harbours ambitions for a role in sports administration. Why not? It is an area where a reputation for being uneconomical with the truth would not necessarily be an impediment.

Good to see the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, has stepped in where Sport England apparently fear to tread and warned the under-achieving Lawn Tennis Association to pull their fingers out or face having their funding cut off.

The move is long overdue - as is similar action from Sport England, who have been quick to put the boot into easier targets such as hockey and athletics but reluctant to get tough with tennis. Caborn is no tennis buff, but his warning that the sport will receive central funding only if they deliver on the Government's health and social inclusion agenda should be applauded. The news coincides with a blast from former England No 2 Jo Ward, who accuses the LTA of "years of incompetence".

Exit Lines

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