Inside Lines: Time for Princess Anne to abdicate - Banks

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The Independent Online

The Government must get their hands dirty if London is to have a chance of winning the 2012 Olympics bid - and Princess Anne must step down from the International Olympic Committee. So says the former sports minister, Tony Banks, who believes there are vital lessons to be learned from the failed football World Cup bid for 2006, of which he was the Government's ambassador. The ever-controversial Banks, MP for West Ham, the east London constituency which stands to gain most from getting the Games, is worried that a lack of total commitment by the Government could torpedo the bid. He believes they should be offering support to underdeveloped countries who could be influential in the vote, as the Germans did when they won the World Cup race. "They need to be thinking in terms of aid policies and development investment with these nations. We could see all this happening with the Germans but not us. They were doing something we refused to do, and it could be the same all over again. The Government must get in there now and involve every single department. It's no use saying, 'Good God, we're British, we don't do that sort of thing'. We must if we are to win. As for the IOC, we have a very good man in Craig Reedie. I have great respect for him, he's a real schmoozer and I like his attitude. Matthew Pinsent, of course, is also an asset as a great Olympian, but it is the third member, Princess Anne, who worries me. We have a problem with her. Her public face is not good. I don't know what she might be doing behind the scenes, but not a lot from what I understand. She seems the wrong person to be fighting our corner, and perhaps it's time for her to move out of the way and let someone who is more useful get in there."

Sport to lose one of its true champions champion retires

For 23 years Nigel Hook has been one of the most unsung, but equally one of the most effective, backroom boys of sports administration. If you described him as being a thorn in the side of those politicians who don't keep their promises he'd be delighted - for that has been part of his job. At 57, former teacher Hook is taking early retirement next month as head of policy - and linchpin - at the Central Council of Physical Recreation (which thankfully wishes now to be known only as the CCPR). In his dealings with a dozen sports ministers, from Denis Howell to Richard Caborn, he has done much to champion the causes of all sports organisations, from 250-odd governing bodies to village clubs, particularly on tax issues. "Hookie" has always worked passionately for sport and his bowling to the media has been straight, never resorting to spin. His greatest frustration remains the fragmentation of sports government. "Sport needs a single voice," he says. Shame, then, that it is losing his.

Coe gets set for his toughest race

It is still sizzling in Paris, but the reason British interests will be fixed on the barometer has nothing to do with the heat. With so many drop-outs from the World Athletics Championships, all eyes will be on a British runner competing on Wednesday in what is probably the toughest race of his career. If Sebastian Coe wins election to the IAAF Council it will be the clearest indication yet as to whether athletics world really has forgiven us for Picketts Lock, and whether opprobrium still lingers after the invasion of Iraq. In normal circumstances, Lord Coe would be a racing certainty for one of the 13 vacancies, but he admits: "It is going to be nip and tuck". It will also be an early guide for London's 2012 Olympics prospects. As we predicted, Coe is now set to be appointed as Barbara Cassani's vice-chairman.

In different circumstances, the withdrawal of Olympic 400m bronze medallist Katharine Merry from the World Championships might have been better news for the BBC than it is for British athletics.

Had Merry been ruled out with an orthodox injury it would have enabled her to be part of the BBC commentary team, but she is having her tonsils removed after suffering a throat infection, and will be speechless for a while. Pity, for among the Beeb's ever-swelling chorus of anodyne anoraks she is something of a find. As we heard with her Radio 5 Live contributions from Crystal Palace last week, she has sharp opinions, sound judgement and, unlike most of her non-professional ex-track colleagues, is not afraid to voice justified criticism of under-par performances by fellow athletes. At 28, she has no worries about a post-Olympics career. It's all Merry and bright.

As his surname might suggest, Richard Scudamore felt at home when hosting the Premiership's pre-season media bash at Windsor races last week.

ITV were non-runners, hardly surprising after being unseated in the Premiership's TV Stakes, but was it post-defeat pique which caused them to refer to the league's chief executive as Peter Scudamore in their news bulletins? Actually, it isn't the first time the pair have been confused. They are from the same West Country racing stock. So did ex-jockey Peter mark second-cousin Richard's Windsor card? "I should be so lucky," said Richard, who reckons he has backed a winner with the TV package, and will overcome any objection from the EC.

Exit Lines

I think the 12 gods of Olympus will be on our side after the efforts they have seen. A year before the Olympics, Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos is confident it will be all right on the night... I need a manager with clear ideas, someone who knows me. Paolo Di Canio puts his future in the hands of his new boss, Charlton's Alan Curbishley... He's big and he scares people, but he never scared me. Colin Jackson on his ex-running mate Linford Christie