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Olympic Games: Palmer leaves BOA to aid Academy bid

Dick Palmer is to relinquish his position as general secretary of the British Olympic Association after 20 years to concentrate on the BOA's bid to establish a British Academy of Sport.

"The Academy of Sport is so important to the BOA," he said. "It epitomises what we are all about. Our role in the project is critical. I am devoting myself full-time to develop that input."

The BOA are one of three groups involved in one of the 13 sites, the former United States Air Base at Upper Heyford, near Oxford, that have been shortlisted for the academy. They face strong opposition from other bidders, including ones in the East Midlands, Sheffield, Bath, Manchester and Birmingham.

Meetings to assess the bids are to be held between 3 and 11 February and the Sports Council is expected to announce the successful bid in mid- March.

"The aim of the academy is to improve sport across the board and to help our athletes perform better on the international scene," Palmer said.

The BOA chairman, Craig Reedie, called the proposal to establish an academy "the most exciting and significant development in British sport for many years". He said: "It will enable our sportsmen and women to compete on equal terms with the best in the world."

He said of Palmer: "His reputation in this country and in the Olympic movement world-wide is unparalleled."

Palmer, a member of the International Olympic Committee Commission for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, will be succeeded by his deputy, Simon Clegg, as the acting general secretary of the BOA.