Inside Lines: Thompson sees red over Black Britain

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The Independent Online
A TV documentary on the work of Geoff Thompson, one of Britain's most popular and productive black sports personalities, to be screened tomorrow night has left the former world karate champion less than ecstatic. "Moss Side Story", part of the Black Britain series (BBC 2, 7.30pm), tells how Thompson, through his role with the Manchester-based Youth Charter for Sport, has helped transform, perhaps even save, the lives of young miscreants in an area where killings among gang members are rife. Instead of shooting it out in the streets they are persuaded through prison visits by Thompson and his team to settle their scores on the football pitch or basketball court. The idea for the programme originated from an interview Thompson gave to this newspaper but he claims it has been over-sensationalised and that the end product does not reflect the original concept. "All they have chosen to do is stereotype it," he said from Johannesburg, where he is attending the All Africa Games. Thompson at first threatened an injunction but has settled for a letter of complaint, which seems to have been heeded. According to the BBC the tape has been re-edited and some modifications made. "Geoff raised certain objections but these have been met," said the series producer, Maxine Watson. "I do not think he will find we have deviated from the original brief." Despite Thompson's fears, most will find this a compelling documentary, initially disturbing but ultimately uplifting, a timely tribute to one of sport's unsung crusaders. A man who, in the words of prison governor Stuart Mitson, has delivered.

Will Mellor revert to type?

Why is football's Task Force taking so long to produce its final report? It isn't that the chairman, David Mellor, is trying to prolong its chequered life - the controversial, much-rewritten tome on the commercial aspects of the game was due out last March, with the body due to be buried after its expiry date at the end of this month - but word has it that there is no longer sufficient administrative assistance available to produce the document's many thousands of words in readable form. Publication has now been delayed until next month. Apparently the secretary due to type it has found alternative employment because of the impending demise of the Task Force and there is no budget left to hire a temp. Doubtless some accommodation will be made. The prospect of Mellor having to sit down in front of a computer and put finger to keyboard himself is probably unrealistic, but amusing none the less.

Knight's day of reckoning

A smooth operator is Michael Knight, a left-of-centre Aussie politician who wouldn't be out of place as one of Tony's cronies. A year away from curtain-up time in Sydney, Australia's Minister for the Olympics dropped in last week to assure us that, despite a few tremors along the way, all is on course for a memorable Games. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he, because it's his job. Laid-back he may be but he is also upfront enough to acknowledge that his government's future might depend upon it. He tells us that the Australian prime minister's first words when he appointed him were: "If you stuff this up, mate, we're gonners." Knight, 46, reckons Sydney will have the most environmentally friendly Games in history. Whether they will also be the most media-friendly, however, is open to some doubt. Knight may find himself rather less popular with the world's press once they discover that their proposed village in the downmarket Sydney suburb of Lidcombe is less luxurious than that planned for competitors and officials. Rooms, converted from old hospital wards, are said to be cheerless and cell-like, sparsely furnished, without air-conditioning and around an hour away from the action. There is also an overflow consisting of Portakabin- type accommodation destined to be dispatched afterwards to a mining site in Queensland. The hacks won't be happy. Nor, we suspect, will members of the International Olympic Committee after the latest fall-out from Atlanta, where newly released records portray some as "dishonest" and "sleaze bags" and show that Atlanta officials knew about such things as their sexual preferences early on. Let's hope Sydney will smell sweeter and that their Knight comes equipped with shining armour.

Lone beat for British Bobby

Here's a bit of a choker for those who believe the rest of the world worships at the altar of British sport. A poll conducted by AIPS, the international sportswriting body, among 10,000 members in 130 countries, has produced only one UK candidate among the top 25 personalities of the century: Bobby Charlton. Moreover, there isn't a single nomination from cricket or rugby, two of the sports we invented. Muhammad Ali, of course, is the main man but there are some surprising names on the list in addition to the inevitable Pele, Puskas, Zatopek, Owens and Jordan. There's Fangio and Lauda (but no Senna), Dawn Fraser (but no Graf or Navratilova), and Naim Suleymanoglu, Turkey's prolific weightlifter. And ever heard of Alexander Karelin, otherwise known as the Bouncer from Hell? He's Russia's three- time Olympic super-heavyweight wrestling champion, a grappler who obviously has more of a grip on international scribes that Bradman or Botham.

The Jesus freak

Jesus Kibunde, a lightweight boxer from the Congo, miraculously won gold at the All Africa Games yesterday without having to throw a punch in the final and despite having lost in the semi-finals. He gained his place in the final when the Nigerian Osiobe Eneuvwedia, who won their semi-final, was expelled after a positive drugs test and then his final opponent, Ben Rabah of Tunisia, was KO'd by flu. So Jesus won on a walkover, though not on water.

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