Fanny takes the Tube: new London victory for the Flying Dutchwoman
Protest sees Blankers-Koen promoted to Transport for London's Olympic map
The "Flying Housewife" must be hurdling in her grave. The District line train from Robert Korzeniowski passes through Paula Radcliffe, Hicham El Guerrouj and Usain Bolt on its way to Sebastian Coe, but not Fanny Blankers-Koen.
The 30-year-old Dutch sprinter, with two children, was the star of the 1948 Olympics, winning four gold medals, and was even named the greatest female sports star of the 20th century, yet she was not included on Transport for London's souvenir Olympic Legends Tube Map, on which the 361 stations of the London Underground have been renamed with Olympic legends.
Transport for London (TfL) was forced to apologise after the Royal Dutch Athletics Federation complained their fabled sprinter was not featured. "It is an embarrassing mistake," it said. "We urge them now to correct it."
TfL has duly obliged, promising that Blankers-Koen, who died in 2004 aged 85, will be included in the map's next reprint, leaving it with the tricky issue of who to remove to make space.
In an announcement markedly more humorous than its usual apologies for delays, it has solved the problem by moving Mary Decker (Gunnersbury) and Zola Budd (Kew Gardens) to the same spot. It is not the first time the British and American athletes have become uncomfortably close. Their collision in the 3,000m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics knocked Decker over, in one of the great Olympic controversies.
The Dutch Olympic authorities wrote to Lord Coe (Ealing Broadway) to ask for Blankers-Koen's inclusion, after an angry reaction from sports fans in the Netherlands. The names were selected by Alex Trickett, the BBC's former head of Olympics, and David Brooks, a sports journalist. "We made a mistake," he said.
"We had 500 names. Fanny Blankers-Koen was one of our red 'must-have' ones, but when we placed the names on the map, she went missing."
Blankers-Koen is not the only extraordinary Olympian not to make the map. German Kathrin Boron won gold medals for skulling at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, but is not featured. Matthew Pinsent (Hyde Park Corner) is there and Steve Redgrave (Knightsbridge) though both have their ennoblements missing. Sir Roger Bannister, who is tipped to light the Olympic Cauldron in the stadium in July, is also missing. "He's a great icon of British athletics, but not a great Olympian," said Mr Brooks. "There are a lot of amazing Olympic athletes who are not on the map," added Mr Trickett. "We took each sport and decided who were the most deserving for the map."
Last night the Royal Dutch Athletics Federation said it was delighted Blankers-Koen will be added to the map.
Greek athletics federation in protest 'strike'
Greece's athletics federation has suspended all operations "until further notice" in protest at yet more cuts in state funding.
Eight years on from the Olympics in Athens, the costs of which still haunt the country, the government has cancelled funding to the country's elite athletes as they prepare for the summer Olympics in London.
No regional or national competitions will be staged as a consequence of the protest, and athletes and coaches will not receive expenses.
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