Inside Lines: Beckham in pole position to fly the flag for Britain in 2012

 

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The Independent Online

Whatever sort of team Stuart Pearce manages to scrabble together for the 2012 Olympic football tournament, the one certainty is that a 37-year-old David Beckham will not only be one of the three permitted over-age players in the otherwise Under-23 squad, but will probably lead it.

While Pearce says he has a free hand over selection (though he will need to call the bluff of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland FAs) there is no doubt he will be "leaned on" to pick Becks.

With 1.7m tickets still to sell for the football competition, Games organisers, the FA and the British Olympic Association know the publicity value of such an iconic figure is immense. Moreover, I would not be surprised if Beckham is not already in pole position to be Britain's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony next July as a reward for his part in helping London win the bid and his current work as a global ambassador.

To have Beckham leading from the front may be controversial but with many established Olympians likely to give the four-hour long opening ceremony a miss, it could also be convenient.

Henman fears bubble will burst

Swampy he certainly isn't, and the demo isn't exactly of Dale Farm proportions, but Tim Henman is leading a protest movement.

The 37-year-old former Wimbledon idol is firing uncharacteristically aggressive volleys over a planning row. A dispute between Hounslow Council and a pay-as-you-play tennis club in west London could end this week with council officers ordering the removal of a "bubble" enclosing five indoor courts.

Speaking as a former Olympic silver medallist, Henman tells Inside Lines: "It's completely mad to do something that stops children playing sport. We're lamenting the fact that so many kids are staying at home on their computers and trying to inspire them to have a more healthy, active lifestyle – and now that very opportunity is being massively jeopardised by a planning permission technicality."

The Dukes Meadows Club have an open-door policy for the local community while also running an LTA-approved training academy, used by Britain's top women players, including Elena Baltacha, Laura Robson, and the US Open boys' champion, Ollie Golding.

"It's not an exclusive, privately-run club," argues Henman. "It's open to everyone in the community. I come down here and hit with the kids and the guys in the Performance Academy. It's a huge asset."

What next? Will he be manacling himself to the net-post? C'mon Tim.

No more Funtime

By now he should be up there knocking on Amir Khan's door, but the pro career of Brummie Frankie Gavin, still Britain's only world amateur boxing champion, has been stuttering.

There have been weight problems and troubling domestic issues, but Gavin says he's over them and looking forward to challenging for the WBA Inter-Continental welterweight title in Manchester on Friday. With Khan seeking a British opponent for a UK world title defence next spring, Gavin, 26, once his amateur spar-mate, could be a contender if he bucks his ideas up. Time for "Funtime" to get serious.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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