If evidence is needed to prove that sport has the power to change political will, it comes with the opening of the inaugural Youth Olympics next weekend. It is not so much the event itself, but where it is happening: Singapore. Until recently, the one-time British colony was about the last place on earth you would associate with a significant sports event. I know this from personal experience, having worked there in the Eighties when sport was stuck on the bottom rung of the tiny multi-cultural nation's priorities. Education was paramount and playing games was not on the agenda of the then PM, Lee Kuan Yew. Now Singapore has discovered that not only does sport bring social benefits healthwise but there's money and political kudos in it, too. Hence the successful bid for the Youth Olympics, which follows the successful staging of two night-time Formula One grands prix and hosting the International Olympic Committee when London got the nod for 2012. "Yes, we have now recognised the powerful influence sport has on society," the Singapore Sports Council chief, Mervyn Lee, tells us. So tomorrow a 40-strong party of Britain's finest teenaged talent, headed by world champion diver Tom Daley, 16, will join 3,600 athletes from 203 nations competing in the full quota of 26 Olympic sports. Also travelling are 30 London youngsters who, between them, speak six languages, chosen to assist as volunteers – reward for their spare-time work with underprivileged kids in the capital. Nice touch.
Grace of God
Sport has also found another unlikely haven (or perhaps that should be heaven) in Worcester Cathedral. A unique exhibition, showcasing a century's-worth of sporting heroes' stories and memorabilia, featuring the likes of W G Grace, David Beckham, Sebastian Coe and Stanley Matthews, and highlighting the changes in equipment and apparel, will be on display for a week starting today. The Dean, the Very Reverend Peter Atkinson, says that it is a fundraising event for the cathedral, but also an important celebration of sport. "At its best, sport is a force for good in the world and deserves to be celebrated as God-given." Amen to that.
A fighting chance
After complaining of being snubbed by Britain's amateur international boxing set-up, Amir Khan's talented 19-year-old kid brother Haroon may wish he had waited before opting to box for Pakistan in the Commonwealth Games. For the British Amateur Boxing Association have announced a new competition to identify Britain's best male and female boxers, giving a chance to those who are not in the GB squad to fight their way into contention for London 2012. The British Championships at Liverpool's Echo Arena on 12 and 13 November will pit the best boxers from the home nations against members of current GB podium squads, with victory bringing the automatic right to join the squad as a funded athlete for an assessment period. Says GB head coach Rob McCracken: "This will provide a real test for the existing GB boxers and have an influence on the make-up of the Olympic team."
First there was "boxercise" – where you can practise all the moves without getting hit. Now there is "judocise", in which you also just go through the motions. This follows "footycise", as exhibited by England's footballers at the World Cup.