Inside Lines: Singapore sailor gets set to waive rules for Olympics


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The Independent Online

Ser Miang Ng may not be a name which trips easily off the tongue but it is one with which we may become distinctly familiar in the coming years.

One month from today the little-known Singaporean sailor is tipped to be installed as the most important figure in world sport – the ninth president of the International Olympic Committee. Although Germany's longest-serving vice-president, Thomas Bach, is the recognised favourite to succeed Jacques Rogge, there is a huge groundswell of support for Ng, not least because seven of those eight presidents have been European – including the last four in the 41 years since the American "Slavery" Avery Brundage – and many members clearly feel it is time for a Continental sea-change.

Last week Ng came to London, which seems to be used as a critical sounding board for this intensely fought election campaign, to present impeccable credentials. A quietly spoken businessman and former diplomat, politician and Olympic yachtsman, his manifesto would see a downsizing of the Games and making the IOC more of a democracy, his first move taking members on a pilgrimage to Olympia to remind them of the movement's core values. He has been instrumental in transforming Singapore – where as I know from my time there in the Eighties, sport was virtually a dirty word with education everything – into the vibrant sporting hub of South-east Asia. He orchestrated the 2005 IOC Congress when London won the 2012 bid and was the architect of the Youth Olympics.

Ng, 64, followed rival candidate Sergey Bubka in hosting a media lunch in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium. Tomorrow it's the turn of pugnacious Dr C K Wu, the would-be world boxing czar from Taiwan, to woo us with afternoon tea at the appropriately named Queensberry Room at London's Cafe Royal.

Straight talking

While none of the athletes in Britain's prospective Winter Olympics squad are openly gay – the last Winter Olympian to "come out" was 1976 skating champion John Curry – the G-word was up for open discussion at their Bath University summer gathering on Friday.

The consensus emerging is that there definitely will be no GB boycott of the Games in Sochi over Russia's anti-gay legislation. "So far no one has come forward with any concerns," says the British Olympic Association's Darryl Siebel, though adding: "But we would never compel any athlete to compete in an environment they are not happy with." Interestingly London will be hosting the Gay Olympics in 2018. Will Russia send a team?

Premier on prejudice

And still on Russia, David Cameron was on Twitter yesterday to knock back Stephen Fry's demand that the Olympics be taken away from Sochi. Echoing remarks made by President Obama, Cameron said prejudice can be better challenged by attending rather than boycotting Olympics. What would Mrs Thatcher, have made of that?

Time to box Cleverly

The Premier League kick-off next Saturday coincides with boxing's own new season, which starts with two fascinating world-title fights involving Nathan Cleverly and Darren Barker.

Upcoming blockbusters include David Haye v Tyson Fury, Carl Froch v George Groves and the pro debut of Olympic champion Anthony Joshua. Plus the mega-fight in Atlantic City between Floyd Mayweather and the tasty Mexican Saul Alvarez. Both are unbeaten, as are Cleverly and his WBO light-heavyweight challenger Sergey Kovalev, a tough Russian who knocks them all over. They clash in Cardiff in what Cleverly says is "the biggest night of my life". With Kovalev the bookies' favourite, this is a career-defining fight for Cleverly.

In Atlantic City likeable Londoner Barker is up against it in challenging big-hitting Aussie Daniel Geale for the IBF middleweight title. These match-ups, screened respectively by Box Nation and Sky, are evidence of how strongly boxing has fought back off the ropes.