Inside Lines: Commonwealth Game up in arms about 'No Bot'
Sunday 20 October 2013
There is disappointment and some anger among those planning next year's Commonwealth Games over Mo Farah's apparent lack of desire to compete in Glasgow. Despite an obvious reluctance to criticise Farah as a national icon, a senior Games figure close to the organising committee told me that if the double Olympic and world 5,000 and 10,000m champion is a no-show it would be perceived as "a bit of a snub".
The source added: "Glasgow has a lot riding on the Commonwealth Games and it would be a significant blow if someone considered Britain's finest athlete declined to take part for any reason other than illness or injury."
Glasgow's dismay will extend to the Commonwealth Games Federation and also to Team England, who are hoping to unveil a top-quality squad for what is considered the most prestigious multi-sports event outside the Olympics. The Somalia-born Farah, 30, who declared he was "proud to be British" during the "England for the English" controversy engendered by footballer Jack Wilshire, says his priority next year is to focus on the London Marathon in April – for which he is likely to receive a six-figure fee – and that while the Commonwealth Games, in which he has not won a medal having finished ninth in the 5,000m in Melbourne in 2006, would be a bonus "it is not on my list". He adds he will need to see whether his body can recover in time for an event which takes place three months later.
The prospective absence of Farah is compounded by the possibility that his global co-star in the sport, Usain Bolt, also may miss the Games. He has yet to confirm his presence, saying he is "not 100 per cent sure" he will be there.
Scotland's own sporting hero, the six-times Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy, also misses them, having announced his retirement, but Games organisers, with a budget of £524 million, insist there will be no lack of glitter and predict a huge success, with 2.3 million applications for the one million available tickets. Some 6,500 athletes from 70 countries will compete in 17 sports over 11 days, from 23 July to 3 August. But with a projected global television audience of two billion, the Scottish government will want the best names at the party, not least because of their political significance.
Just over a month after the closing ceremony Scotland will decide if they want independence from the United Kingdom.
Cash help from Jess?
Eyebrows surely are raised not only in Scotland but at both UK Sport and UK Athletics at Farah's declaration that he may opt out of the Commonwealth Games. For Farah, along with Jessica Ennis-Hill, is listed among those benefiting from the latest round of Lottery funding, which is intended to assist preparations for major international events.
As it happens Farah and Ennis-Hill will be means-tested out of receiving the top whack of £27,737 in cash, as both have incomes from commercial deals in excess of the £67,153 maximum to qualify for such funding. But millionaire Farah, who now lives and trains in Portland, USA, and Ennis-Hill, whose own bank balance is swelled by those excruciating Santander TV ads (and who promises she will compete in Glasgow) are still entitled to £55,000 "in kind", which includes coaching, medical and training support, along with other selected elite athletes.
So could not their surplus £27,737 be distributed among those competitors more in need of a financial leg-up, some of whom have been jocked off the funding list?
One of the first moves by new International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has been to harness the expertise of London 2012 chief Lord Coe to help oversee the progress of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Could this be an early step for Coe along a possible eight-year road to the IOC presidency himself?
Meantime, as British Olympic Association chairman, he is also overseeing GB's' own preparations for the next Olympics in Rio 2016, and has chosen Belo Horizonte, an hour from Rio, as team HQ. The city evokes memories of English football's unfinest hour and a half, the 1-0 defeat to the USA in the 1950 World Cup.
Coe is always on the look out for a good tale for his many after-dinner speaking engagements, so here's one: Someone once asked Sir Alf Ramsey when he was the England manager, whether he was playing in that match. "Yes," he replied through gritted teeth. "And I was the only one wot bleedin' was!"
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