The former sports minister Kate Hoey has called for the International Olympic Committee to issue an ultimatum to Saudi Arabia over its refusal to allow its women to compete in the London Olympics.
Last week we highlighted how women in the Middle Eastern nation are not allowed to publicly play or watch sport and that once again the Saudis will send an all-male team to London in 2012. Hoey, now the Mayor of London's sports commissioner, says: "It is very disappointing that the IOC do not seem to have the power to help women in Saudi Arabia to become part of that country's sports programme. It is political enough to be aware that here is an issue of blatant discrimination which should not be tolerated. It is surely contrary to an ethos which is based on equality of race and gender.
Obviously it is not practical to call for a boycott at this stage but I would have expected the IOC and our government to make their displeasure known about the composition of the Saudi team, and any other nation which excludes women. But no one seems to want to upset rich, oil-producing countries." Neither the Olympics minister nor the sports minister has been available for comment. And where is Harriet Harman when we need her?
Ali's pricey photo call
Anyone wanting to be photographed with Muhammad Ali when he is guest of honour at an Old Trafford soiree on Wednesday (see Last Word) will have to fork out £1,250. That's the cost of a VIP package which includes a snap with The Greatest and an audience with Ricky Hatton, who will do the after-dinner stand-up. But the money won't be going to Ali. He is here on what is said to be his farewell visit raising funds for the Muhammad Ali Foundation, which supports charities including a Manchester children's hospice. Wayne Rooney and other United stars will be in attendance – in the current economic climate they are probably the only ones who can afford to have a picture taken with Ali. Oddly, the organisers are denying media access to Parkinson's-afflicted Ali, 67, presumably because of his inability to communicate. Knowing the great man's love of the limelight, he would have something to say about that – if only, alas, he could speak.
Judo gets a leg-up
It is not often you hear of local councils investing in sport – usually they are too busy selling off their playing fields. But Dartford in Kent deserves applause for giving British judo (below) a real chance of getting back on the Olympic podium, from where it has slipped these past two Games. They have underwritten the £5 million cost of the splendid new British Judo Performance Institute, which is handily situated just off the M25. They are also chipping in £75 a week towards the accommodation of every elite competitor who chooses to live locally in order to train full-time. Good news.
Walking on water
Submerged in a summer of sporting excess are the continuing feats of what must be Britain's most consistently successful sport – water-skiing, something which would bring a shoal of medals our way if only it had Olympic status. You may have missed it, but Will Aisher has won the world slalom title. That means Britain has ruled the waves at the last three World Championships.
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