Inside Lines: Coe's judo coach has mat pulled from under him
Plus: Tanni in driving seat; Sir Geoff Hurst's flight of fancy; Salmond fishing time; Boxing blanked by TV
Sunday 24 March 2013
The claim by film-maker Danny Boyle, much-lauded architect of London 2012's Opening Ceremony, that Olympic goodwill has been kicked into touch (unless you are a West Ham director) is underlined by yet another example of local councillors playing silly burghers with the Games legacy.
Recently we reported how Olympic sports in Surrey and Southampton have been hit by decisions to refuse new facilities or withdraw funding. But the latest incident bought to our notice has an ironic twist in the tale. In Merton, south London, the sale of a public sports hall to a private school by the council has left Olympic medallist Ray Stevens without a home for the judo club he set up six years ago and which regularly attracts classes of 400 over five nights a week, many of whom are disabled or disadvantaged kids. Stevens, 49, who won silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, is understandably angry – especially as his most famous pupil is 2012 chief Lord Coe. "The thing that makes me laugh about this is that I used to teach judo to both Seb and William Hague. Seb's a great bloke, but the talk about legacy seems a bit of a joke. Legacy? What legacy? The Olympics were fantastic, amazing, but the reality is that I am in the position now where my judo club is homeless. I've just been told, 'Sorry, we're selling it off to a private school.' We are doing something really good for the community and there is no help or thanks at all. It's very disappointing. I've had meetings with the council, who say they will try and help, but it's been a lot of talk and no action. I don't feel it's a priority for them. There's no sense of urgency. What am I supposed to say to the kids and their parents?" Good question. Any answers, Seb?
Tanni in driving seat
Expect one of sport's more enlightened appointments – that of Greg Dyke as Football Association chairman – to be followed by another this week when Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is named as the new head of Sport England. She was the only woman interviewed for the vacant spots both there and at UK Sport last week, and emerged as the outstanding candidate for either role. But her preferred seat is Sport England, as she feels more comfortable "at the grass roots". Tory peer Lord Coe endorsed the application of the left-leaning former Paralympian, who sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords. Royal Yachting Association supremo Rod Carr, mastermind of Britain's sailing successes over the past decade, is now favourite for the UK Sport chair, though the financier Mark Hanson is also a strong contender.
Flight of fancy
West Ham legend Sir Geoff Hurst reckons the club's taxpayer-bankrolled tenancy of the Olympic Stadium could see them become the Manchester City of the south. "Look what happened to City when they took over the stadium used for the Commonwealth Games. If you were a foreign investor looking to buy a football club, then West Ham must be a contender." So, how long before we see the stadium renamed after another Middle East airline? Or is that just flying a kite?
Salmond fishing time
Canny laddie, Alex Salmond. It is surely no coincidence that the SNP leader's choice of September next year to hold a referendum on Scottish independence will come hard on the heels of Glasgow's Commonwealth Games. No doubt Salmond is banking on nationalist fervour being on as much of a high as the feelgood factor which followed London's Olympics. Weatherwise, he must be hoping it doesn't rain on the Caledonian parade – unless the deluge is one of Scottish medals.
Boxing blanked by TV
Channel 5's shock decision to pull the plug on boxing left James DeGale without a fight on his hands last night, his scheduled bout cancelled. It is also a savage blow for promoter Mick Hennessy, now without a TV home for heavyweight Tyson Fury's world title eliminator against Steve Cunningham in New York next month.
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