Inside Lines: London roads should be paved with gold for marathon man


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The Independent Online

When the gongs are dished out after the Olympics – and you can bet there will be more for those running the Games than gold medals for those running in them – we hope one is engraved with the name of David Bedford.

Although he is no longer involved, having fallen out with the organisers over the marathon course, there is no doubt he has done more than his share to make London the epicentre of world sport in 2012. Once the final shroud of tinfoil is draped around the shoulders of the last straggler to stagger across the finishing line of the Virgin London Marathon around dusk this evening, it will signal the end of an era, as Bedford will step down from his full-time role with the now iconic event he has orchestrated as race director for over two decades, and head home to Hampstead for his usual Sunday night few beers and a curry.

"I might," he says "get rather pissed." 'Bootsie' is hanging up those boots, because, as he puts it "I don't want to be around to overhear them saying 'the old fella's lost it'". Actually, at 62, the one-time red-socked rebel of the track will continue to be "physically and emotionally" attached to the marathon, working as part-time advisor to his successor Hugh Brasher, son of race founder Chris, which enables him to spend more time with his snooker cue and fishing rod.

The aim, as always, says Bedford, is to make everyone of today's 30,100 participants feel special. "I tell everyone that that, apart from having sex for the first time, running the marathon will be the most exciting thing they do in their entire lives." He may never have won a gold medal – or received even a modest MBE – but the former 10,000m word record holder's contribution to his sport on and off the track has been immense. Time it was suitably rewarded.

No boycott over Chambers

As we wrote here a month ago, it was inevitable that the British Olympic Association would come out losers – and some £200,000 poorer after legal fees – when the Court of of Arbitration for Sport rules against their lifetime ban on drugs cheats this week.

The upshot will be that GB will perversely pick Dwain Chambers, even though Usain Bolt and co would need to break a leg for him to win an Olympic sprint medal.

Road cyclist David Millar, the other Brit currently subject to the ban, is a far more likely candidate for the rostrum. Forget any calls for a boycott by fellow athletes though. There's far too much self-interest at stake for that, especially as Chambers and Millar won't be alone in London, where around 800 ex-druggies are already eligible.

Billy Joe's 2012 Overture

Once the Royal Albert Hall was almost as renowned for the sound of for sock as for symphonies. Unfortunately professional boxing's return to the hallowed arena next Friday night for the first time this century is somewhat muted by the withdrawal of Nathan Cleverly from his bill-topping world title fight.

Instead the 2012 overture will be led by young Billy Joe Saunders whose middleweight bout with Tony Hill is elevated to Commonwealth title status, a great opportunity for the promising young Olympian to finally blow his own trumpet.

A heavyweight Miller's tale

Some 200 Olympic books are heading for the shelves this summer –many already on the market – but the daddy of them all has to be the prodigious tome produced by veteran scribe David Miller.

A veritable War And Peace of the of the Games, his Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC' is an Olympian assembly of stats and stories, though hardly one you would carry around the Olympic Park as your guide to the Games. Unless you happen to be an Olympic weight-lifter...

For the £40, 683-page foot-long, two-inch thick epic published by Mainstream weighs in at six and a half pounds. As Lord Coe said at last week's launch, definitely a book which is harder to pick up than put down.