Inside Lines: David Cameron may follow President Obama in giving Sochi the cold shoulder
Sunday 22 December 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron may be set to join US President Obama and the presidents of Germany and France in giving February's Winter Olympics in Sochi a miss.
Normally he would be expected to attend at least the opening or closing ceremonies of the first Games after London 2012 as a matter of protocol, but Whitehall sources say he is "mulling over" the situation because of Russia's new anti-gay laws and has yet to make a decision.
However, Britain will have a strong political presence in Sochi, with the Culture Secretary Maria Miller and sports minister Helen Grant scheduled to watch a number of events. This is in response to urging from the British Olympic Association to show Government support for Team GB. As both Miller and Grant also have ministerial responsibility for Equalitities doubtless they will be keenly watching Russian reaction to any protest demonstrations over the gay rights issue.
There are no known gay athletes in the British team so far selected but Obama is pointedly sending a delegation which includes tennis legend Billie Jean King, former figure-skating star Brian Boitano and ice hockey gold medallist Caitlin Cahow, all openly gay.
Russian president Vladimir Putin clearly has been rattled by the global response to his draconian policies. This is evident by the release from jail of the Pussy Riot and Greenpeace activists and now the sudden pardoning of long-time imprisoned political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Another victory for sports power?
No wonder Barry Hearn is adding a smiley face to his copious text messages these days. The ubiquitous impresario, now a sprightly pensioner, is master of all he surveys in many sporting fields, not least darts and snooker, while the Matchroom Boxing organisation he runs with promoter son Eddie has hoovered up much of the marquee talent.
But the main reason Bazza beams so broadly is not just because of his election to the US-based Boxing Hall of Fame, where rival Frank Warren is already ensconced, but at what he sees as the real prospect of Leyton Orient, the football club he owns, trotting out to play in the Olympic Stadium after all.
After losing a multitude of legal battles, he now believes that last week's surprise U-turn by the London Legacy Development Corporation following the House of Lords report which recommended that Orient be allowed "occasional use" of the stadium, means there is nothing to stop him striking a deal for Orient to play at the venue when it is not being used by anchor tenants West Ham. A major breakthrough, he says.
And he impishly reckons that the way things are shaping up, with the Hammers struggling in the Premier League and Orient riding high in League One, they could be meeting there in Championship when the venue is ready for footy in 2015.
Mayday for Khan?
A fight between Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Amir Khan is due to be announced soon, with Bolton's former world champion trousering at least $6m (£3.6m) for his pains, which are likely to be considerable.
The May fight is said to be a done deal, with BoxNation securing the British TV rights, but will prove a harder sell in the United States, with Khan given next-to-no chance. Could this be why Mayweather is talking up Argentinian hard man Marcos Maidana who last week brilliantly deflated the insufferable ego of WBA welter champ Adrien Broner, as a prospective opponent?
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