With 10 days to go before the Coalition Government starts wielding the financial axe, sport is quaking in its trainers, fearing the worst. Of course, there is no reason why games and those who play them should be exempt from the coming cuts that will hit us all, even with the Olympics looming. But there are genuine concerns that while the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, is fighting sport's corner, his boss at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the lambada-dancing Jeremy Hunt, may be rather less sympathetic. The ultra-ambitious Hunt has, I hear, already ruffled feathers at Locog, the 2012 Games organising com-mittee, despite his lack of sporting nous, and the worry is that he may be more protective of the luvvies than the jocks. So alarm bells are ringing in sports organisations, not least the cash distributors UK Sport and Sport England, who face budget cuts of up to 40 per cent. Even Robertson reckons sport has to be prepared for bad news, though he promises: "It is my absolute intention to protect funding for athletes and to make sure that all sports have their plans to increase participation up and running."
Spurs on the wrong track
One casualty of the cuts is likely to be UK Athletics' bid to stage the 2015 World Championships in the Olympic Stadium, with the Government and London's mayor, Boris Johnson, unwilling to provide essential guarantees of around £45m. Instead they have been privately urged to delay any bid until 2017. But what happens should Tottenham Hotspur become the new occupiers of the Olympic Stadium? Spurs say the track would have to go, and with it the vow to the International Olympic Committee that London 2012 would leave an athletics legacy. Which is why Lord Coe and Co are more in favour of West Ham taking it over. Fortunately for athletics lovers, Spurs' chances are, as Muhammad Ali used to say, slim to none.
Coe upsets East Enders
These are trying times for Lord Coe. Usually the 2012 Games chief is as surefooted as in the days when he floated so elegantly around the world's athletics tracks. But there are many who believe he has blundered by deciding to switch the marathon route away from London's East End, finishing at Buckingham Palace rather than the Olympic Stadium. The denizens of Tower Hamlets, where £10m has been spent giving the main section of the route a facelift, have even accused him of "betrayal" by breaking a promise that the 26.2-mile run would highlight the area, which is what the regeneration legacy of the Games is supposed to be all about. Coe has denied that this is to make the event more televisual, insisting the move is for "operational reasons", because the closure of roads in the East End would affect other Olympic events that are going on that day, and that the central London route will have greater spectator appeal. "This is not a beauty contest and it is ludicrous to suggest that we are ashamed of the East End," he says. However, there is no doubt that Buck House carries rather more cachet than the Krays' old shooting ground, the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel Road. And it does seem a shame that the traditional finish will no longer be in the stadium, where the roar of the crowd as the first runners enter has always been one of the great moments of any Games. No matter, at least HRH will get a decent view.
Zoe is worth the weight
Of the shoal of medals being hauled by England at the Commonwealth Games, none gives us greater pleasure than the bronze won by 16-year-old Zoe Smith, the first ever by an Englishwoman in the sport. The burgeoning talent of the winsome London schoolgirl was first projected in our Going for Gold series. Such is her talent and personality that she could well be adopted as one of the faces of 2012.
Surely more worrying than any irritating cock-ups in Delhi is the lack of interest among the locals. Britain's sports minister counted 29 spectators at the England-Wales hockey match – including himself.
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