Inside Lines: Lord Coe shows some like it hot by stoking up Qatar debate


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Fifa and Sepp Blatter may believe they have taken the heat out of the situation by delaying any decision on a seasonal switch for the 2022 World Cup until next year but the controversy over whether hot countries like Qatar should host major sports events in high summer rages on and now extends beyond football.

The Gulf state's capital, Doha, is mounting a strong bid to stage the Olympic Games two years later and their right to do so is firmly backed by London 2012 chief Lord Coe. "We can't sit any longer saying that countries prepared to invest in sport, both spiritually and in terms of infrastructure, are in some way banned or we make it impossible for them to deliver high-quality sporting events, " he said. "We should be encouraging it."

The British Olympic Association's chairman, speaking on a recent visit to Doha, added: "If you are going to build a global capacity in sport you are going to confront challenges. Some will be climatic, political or social. The great thing about sport is that it always manages to bridgehead change. If we said 20 years ago that Rio would host the Olympics or South Africa the World Cup, few would have believed it. But that's how sport works and that's a good thing."

Doha has already bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics and Qatar's Olympic Committee confirmed to us that they will do so "again and will keep on bidding until we win".

Traditionally, the Olympics, like the World Cup, take place in summer months but can be more flexible. Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968 were both held in October because of the climate; similarly Sydney 2000 and Seoul 1988 started in mid-September.

Astaire dances on

In their heyday football icon Jimmy Hill and boxing mastermind Mickey Duff were two of the sharpest tacks I have encountered, both helping revolutionise their respective sports. So how desperately sad that Hill, 85, and Duff, 84, are in now in care homes suffering from Alzheimer's.

However, one contemporary waltzes on. Jarvis Astaire, the entrepreneur and sports impresario, is 90 today, an occasion marked by a Variety Club lunch at London's Claridge's.

Astaire, who played tennis regularly until recently, is someone for whom the word ubiquitous might have been invented. He wore many hats, as a boxing manager, agent and promoter, deputy chair of Wembley and chair of the Greyhound Racing Association. For more than 30 years he was one of the most influential string-pullers in British sport and one of the country's most successful businessmen, a director of more than 20 companies and, in the 1960s, pioneered closed-circuit and pay-per-view television. He also managed showbiz stars such as Dustin Hoffman.

A millionaire, he is something of a paradox considering that, politically, he has always been a committed socialist of the Old Labour school. Some years ago he found himself sat at a Guildhall lunch next to the titled wife of an eminent company chairman and spent most of the time espousing the Labour cause. Later, they waited outside for their cars and Astaire's Bentley purred up. "Mr Astaire!" exclaimed the high Tory lady, "How do you reconcile this with the socialist doctrine you've been preaching at me throughout lunch?" "Nothing's too good for the workers, madam," smiled Astaire, hopping into the passenger seat as his chauffeur opened the door.

Happy birthday, Jarvis.

Tyson's salad days

New promoter Mike Tyson, who is currently involved in a heated punch-up with the United States Amateur Boxing Association who have accused him of poaching several of their top boxers being groomed for the Rio Olympics, has become a vegetarian. Which must be music to Evander Holyfield's ear.