Inside Lines: Seconds out as Bojo and Red Ken fight for Olympic ticket


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The Independent Online

Tessa Jowell, the Shadow Olympics minister now carrying the bucket and sponge into the red corner as chief second for Ken Livingstone in Thursday's fight for London mayor, says she expects him to regain the title from Boris Johnson.

But if he doesn't, her priority will be to ensure he has a ringside seat at the Olympics he was instrumental in bringing to the capital. For at the moment he doesn't have a ticket, having missed out on the ballot – as, oddly enough, did Johnson.

The mayor's role is significant in Olympic ceremony and Thursday's winner will be assured of prominence. Jowell believes Livingstone's contribution to the Games and subsequent regeneration of east London has been underplayed like that of former Labour sports minister Richard Caborn, also currently ticketless, as she will be reminding Lord Coe.

No doubt his lordship will sort that, acknowledging both deserve places of honour for their parts in the Games success story.

Similarly with Boris, if Livingstone's hand is raised after an election which, if it was to be fought on a sporting ticket, surely could have only one winner. When I interviewed both about their sporting interests, with Livingstone it became apparent that what he knew about sport could be written on an Oyster card.

He confessed: "I am not sporty. I couldn't care less about sport. The nearest I've been to it was a snooker table at college."

Whereas in his four years at City Hall the blond bomber has raised the profile of London grassroots sport, with cash investment and schemes to get kids off the streets into exercise and games. And get Londoners on their Boris bikes.

Politics apart, for the sake of much-needed fun in the Games, let's hope he's not on his come Thursday.

Such sweet charity

Claire Squires, a 30-year-old hairdresser from Leicestershire, died within a mile of the finish of the London Marathon last Sunday. Hers wasn't the first death in the history of the event and won't be the last.

Death and sport are no strangers. Last year there were more than 800 fatalities, mainly from heart-related conditions, at various levels throughout the UK and this year we have seen Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba's collapse and fight for survival, the death of an Italian player, another in rugby and two horses in the Grand National. Also last week a 15-year-old schoolgirl died playing rounders. Everyone is relieved that Muamba has survived, living to tell his tale in The Sun. It is indeed a harrowing, poignant and ultimately uplifting one; and doubtless suitably rewarded – the fee involved is rumoured to be upwards of a quarter of a million pounds.

Coincidentally this was roughly the sum amassed for the Samaritans on the fundraising website of Claire Squires within 48 hours of her death, which now tops £1 million. No one should begrudge Muamba reimbursement as it may be he never plays again. But wouldn't it be nice if part of this was to be donated to a medical charity or the hospital that cared for him? Or at least a website set up so the public could respond in a similar manner to the way they have over Claire.

What price loyalty?

"If you want loyalty, buy a dog", tweeted Ricky Hatton after learning that Sky, whose stature as a big fight channel he helped build as The Hitman, were not renewing their contract with him as a promoter. Ironically, it seems the only TV channel open to him now may be BoxNation – run by Frank Warren, who questioned Hatton's own loyalty when the fighter he made a world champion walked away from him at the peak of his career.