Sir Clive and Baroness Tanni offer fresh start at UK Sport
Sunday 27 January 2013
Sir Clive Woodward could be heading back to front-line sports administration as the next chairman of UK Sport. He and the Paralympian peer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson are the standout candidates for the key part-time post to be vacated by Baroness Sue Campbell in April.
I understand the appointment of either would be warmly welcomed by those sports which have suffered savage funding cuts post-2012, as both are likely to be more sympathetic to their needs in the run-up to the Rio Olympics. Woodward, 57, the former England rugby guru whose £300,000-a-year role as director of sport was axed by the British Olympic Association in October, has been critical of UK Sport's draconian "no compromise" policy which, he claims "has left on the starting blocks" those sports missing out on UK Sport's £347 million pot of gold, with the very existence of some threatened.
There is no doubt the Government have been taken aback by the furore following the announcement of the cuts imposed by their own sporting arm, with a deluge of protests to the Prime Minister and questions raised in Parliament.
While the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, is broadly supportive of UK Sport's policy, saying sports that have failed should "stop whingeing and work to get things right", he does not seem averse to a shift in emphasis, admitting: "We've reached the end of an era at UK Sport and it's time for a fresh approach... the sports want a bit less Dragons' Den and a bit more of an organisation that sits beside them and helps them." Sports including volleyball, basketball, handball and table tennis, who have had their funding slashed or removed, will be allotted seven minutes each for an appeal on Thursday.
Subsequently they will await with interest – and hope – the advertising of the soon-to-be vacant chairs at both UK Sport and Sport England (where Richard Lewis is also stepping down to concentrate on his prime role in running Wimbledon), the Government having now decided that a proposed merger is impractical
Fame of Hall
A young Briton returned from Sydney last week having made sporting history by becoming the first winner of a golfing gold medal in an Olympic event. Georgia Hall, a 16-year-old Bournemouth schoolgirl, did so in the Australian Youth Olympics Festival, where Team GB came away with a multitude of medals, including 19 gold, in a competition which featured over 30 nations in 11 sports. It was a result which bodes well for Rio and beyond, according to the chef de mission, Mark England, who describes Georgia as "a young lady with a very bright future".
Apart from flag-bearer Georgia, who is European junior champion and ranked fourth in the world, Team GB's golfers also took silver and bronze medals in a tournament where the heat soared over 40C. Golf's appearance in these Games was a prelude to the sport's full Olympics debut in 2016. Among other successes, Britain's gymnasts beat the Chinese to win the team gold, and of the 114 athletes, 93 collected medals, an all-round performance well above par.
'Wrestling is fake' shock
Lance Armstrong opted for Oprah Winfrey when he decided to come clean – well, sort of. Fellow American Hulk Hogan (remember him?) curiously elected to tell all to Alan Titchmarsh before an ITV afternoon audience last week. He too confessed, also after denying it for years, that he had taken drugs as a professional wrestler. Moreover, he confirmed – surprise, surprise – that the grip-and-grapple game was faked. Or, as he preferred to put it, the results were – and presumably still are – "predetermined". But he insisted he had never been in a match when he wasn't genuinely hurt, and had the knee and hip replacements to prove it. The retired Hulk, 59, says the difference between him and Armstrong is that he was not in a competitive sport but in "entertainment", and that until 1998 performance-enhancing drugs weren't illegal. He reckons Armstrong should be forgiven, "though I can't see how he can compete in sport again". Not even faking it as a wrestler, Hulk?
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