Inside Lines: Is it time that Christie was forgiven?

The column that runs rings round the rest
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The Independent Online

Linford Christie has certainly not been forgotten as one of Britain's outstanding Olympic champions, but neither, it seems, has he been forgiven. At least, not by the powers that be.

Last week on ITV, fellow Olympians voted him into 15th place in a list of the nation's all-time Olympians.

But here's a funny thing. In the newly published book The Great British Olympians, which has the endorsement of the British Olympic Association, the name Linford Christie and an account of his achievement in Barcelona in 1992 is curiously airbrushed.

Yet among 60 others named is Allan Wells who, like Christie, won the 100 metres gold – but in a much slower time at Moscow 1980 when all the American stars were absent because of the US boycott.

Christie's gold, apparently, is worth even less than that of a horse, Foxhunter, ridden by Harry Llewellyn in 1952.

It seems Christie, now 52, remains persona non grata because of his positive drugs test in 1999 when he was in his athletics dotage, even though the BOA's lifetime Olympic ban on drug cheats has been overturned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Sprinter Dwain Chambers and shot-putter Carl Myerscough, both previously barred, are competing in London but Christie has not been officially accredited either by the BOA or UK Athletics even though four of the athletes he personally coaches, Mark Lewis-Francis, Nigel Levine, Luke Lennon Ford and Margaret Adeoye, are in the GB squad.

Is it time he was brought in from the cold?

Thompson gets in a late dig

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Daley Thompson waited until the heat was almost on from the Olympic flame to finally spear Sir Steve Redgrave with his javelin.

The tug-of-words between the two Olympic icons, which we first revealed here, flared up again just before Redgrave was nominated to carry the torch into the stadium.

Thompson, snubbed in the rower's list of all-time greats, replied with a list of his own, and said of Redgrave: "As I understand it, for most of his gold-medal career he wasn't even the best rower in his boat. So how he considers himself the greatest is beyond me. I was going to put him tenth, but to show there are no hard feelings between us, I've moved him up to ninth." Ouch!

Noticeably there was no Haye-Chisora-style post-spat embrace when they stood together at the flame ceremony.

Why Mitt had a bit of a mare

Just what is US presidential candidate Mitt Romney doing here, apart from making a bit of an idiot of himself by questioning Britain's readiness for the Games? The answer is that he is on a bit of a hobby-horse. He is a fan of dressage, the balletic equine event in which his wife, Ann, is part-owner of a 15-year-old mare named Rafalca, one of the US team's medal hopes. You might say the gaffe-prone Republican is having a bit of a mare himself. But an Olympic medal might help him and the missus recoup some of the $77,000 lost so far on their share of the partnership who own Rafalca, as buyers would then pay heftily for any offspring.

Not that the multi-millionaire Mormon needs the money. I spent a pleasant half-hour with him over coffee in sober Salt Lake City 10 years ago when he was brought in to salvage the bribery-hit Winter Games as chairman of the organising committee. He was engaging and enthusiastic, especially when enlightening me about the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and asked for my business card.

Three weeks later two well-scrubbed, smartly booted and suited young men with American accents turned up on my doorstep armed with copies of the Book of Mormon and suggested I might like to join them in eschewing alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, tea, and various other temptations of the flesh. We never got round to polygamy as I made an excuse and they left – though not without some persuasion. Coincidence or what, Mitt?

Remember Ali for what he was

It was a fleeting moment and, poignant as it was, it still brought a tinge of sadness to a joyous night when stricken Muhammad Ali, literally supported by his wife, Lonnie, appeared as one of the guards of honour for the Olympic flag. There are sceptical voices which suggest it is an obscene assault on his dignity to be paraded around the world, more often than not as a sort of corporate business trophy, and that he should be left in peace.

Lonnie disagrees. She believes that if her 70-year-old husband didn't stay in the public spotlight, soaking up the adoration that fuels his very existence, he would sit at home and vegetate, perhaps even die. "This is not just his living, it is also his life," she says. "He simply couldn't bear to fade away and be forgotten."

That he will never be. If only they could leave us to remember him for what he was, not what he has become.

A giant leap for women worldwide

"A major boost for gender equality," declared IOC president Jacques Rogge, noting that all 205 competing nations had shown their feminine side. Even Saudi Arabia were finally compelled to include two female athletes. Clad head to toe in black but with smiling faces fully revealed, 800m runner Sarah Attar – who was actually born and raised in the United States – and judo player Wujdan Shahrkhani, together with a female coach-cum-chaperone, dutifully marched into the stadium some three paces behind the men. Their steps may have been token ones, but they were giant leaps for their disenfranchised countrywomen. Credit to Rogge for making it clear that the Saudis had to extract their heads from the copious sands.