Inside Lines: Kelly front-runner in burning issue of who will light flame


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dame Kelly Holmes has emerged as a strong favourite to light the Olympic flame on Friday week, with Games organisers growing tired of the spats and speculation surrounding supposed leading contenders Sir Steve Redgrave and Daley Thompson.

"There seems to be a lot of bumping egos over who will get the role," sighs a 2012 source.

As we revealed here last week, there is aggro between two of Britain's Olympic legends following a jibe by the five-times rowing gold medallist Redgrave that he would not put the double decathlon champion Thompson among Britain's top five Olympians, rating him below others including fellow rower Matthew Pinsent and himself.

Thompson, Coe's best pal in sport, is known to be furious. Coe, who does not have the strongest relationship with Redgrave, has said Thompson, 'as the nation's greatest Olympian', would be his personal choice. But the British Olympic Association chief Lord Moynihan, himself a former Olympic rowing medallist, firmly believes the ex-oarsman should do the honours.

However, there are those at 2012 who now see Holmes, 42, winner of 800m and 1500m golds in Athens, as a compromise candidate, an icon who perfectly fits the Games philosophy of equality, legacy and multiculturalism – a black female who has set up her own trust supporting young athletes. But the debate is set to run and run... right up to the yet-to-be revealed Olympic cauldron itself.

Cold comfort for Tessa

Whoever eventually lights the Olympic flame, David Beckham doesn't believe it should be him but "a true Olympian". However, Lord Coe promises the football icon spurned for Team GB will have "two very clear roles".

Which is of little comfort to a genuine true Olympian, Tessa Sanderson, who doesn't appear to have one. She says she felt embarrassed at a Jamaican High Commission reception last week when she was asked what part she was playing in 2012 as Britain's first black female gold medallist (Los Angeles 1984) and the only athlete to have competed in six Games. "I really don't know," she replied.

The former javelin champion, 56, while an Olympic ambassador, has been oddly overlooked for meaningful duties in the run-up to the Games, despite her work with young athletes in the Olympic heartland of Newham, where she awaits confirmation that she will run with the torch next Saturday. "I feel a bit disappointed," says Sanderson, who says she has had to buy her own tickets to watch the javelin.

However a 2012 spokesman told us: "We love Tessa, she is terrific, Seb is a big fan and we have done some great things together. We are always willing to support where we can and she is terrific to work with." Sanderson's response: "That's news to me. It sounds rather patronising."

1936 and all that

Tom McNab is a man of many talents – former GB national athletics coach, best-selling author (Flanagan's Run) and a playwright whose latest work, called simply 1936, performed by the Attic Theatre Company, opens at London's Sadlers Wells this week.

It tells of the moral dilemma surrounding the Berlin Olympics, where Jesse Owens won five gold medals, infuriating Hitler at a time when those Games were designed as invaluable propaganda for the Nazi movement. McNab has persuaded both Seb Coe and Steve Ovett to attend – though his matchmaking qualities may be tested in the attempt to get the one-time rivals to sit together.

Boxing a 'drugs ring'?

As if boxing did not have enough problems, we hear that a significant figure in the sport, a former world and British champion, has failed a drugs test. UK Anti-Doping have declined to name the fighter until the results of tests on a second sample on a substance claimed to have been purchased as an over-the-counter supplement are known, but it is believed to be the comeback-making cruiserweight Enzo Maccarinelli, 32. This follows recent positive tests by two heavyweights, Larry Olubamiwo (banned for four years) and Ali Adams, who lost to Audley Harrison last month.

Amir Khan, whose last opponent, Lamont Peterson, later tested positive, warned last week that "boxing's reputation for drugs is getting as bad as athletics and cycling".