Inside Lines: Canadians' churlishness adds to the hazards on ice wall of death

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The Independent Online

The death of the Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili on Friday is a sombre reminder that Winter Olympics are not just the deep-frozen frolic that many non-Alpine nations seem to think. It is also worrying that the Canadian hosts acted so inhospitably by limiting training access to the hazardous run, that will also be used for the bob skeleton events in which British hopes Shelley Rudman and Amy Williams begin their medal assault this week, during the build-up to the Games. According to the British team leader, Andy Hunt, the skeleton sliders have had only 10 per cent of the practice time the Canadians have enjoyed. As Britain and other nations have been complaining for some time about Canada's attitude, presumably designed to gain home advantage, should not the International Olympic Committee's watchdogs have intervened? If nothing else, this latest tragedy – the fifth fatality in the history of the Winter Olympics – should quell those sniggers about sliding on ice and jumping around on skis not being worthy of Olympic medals. The British Olympic Association chairman, Colin Moynihan, says Vancouver has to be a turning point for the appreciation of winter sports in this country. Let's hope it does not take the death of a young Georgian to prove him right.

Locals only have eyes for GB's bottom line

The British public have little faith in Britain's Winter Olympians catching anything other than a cold in Vancouver, according to the bookies. William Hill report "sizeable wagers" on the 11-5 on offer that Britons win one or no medals, with only the men's curling team attracting a three-figure win bet at 7-2. The Brits don't seem to be cutting much ice in the local media, either. The only one in the 'Vancouver Sun' list of those to watch was the bobsleigh brakewoman Gillian Cooke, and that because of hopes she might again split her trousers on take-off. A case of bringing up the rear?

Farewell to Wilf, "the coaches' coach"

Britain lost one of its great unsung heroes of sport with the death at 77 of the athletics coach Wilf Paish. "The coaches' coach" is how the former GB national coach Tom McNab describes him. More than 300 attended his funeral in Guiseley, Yorkshire, last week. Among those leading the tributes was Tessa Sanderson, whom he tutored to an Olympic javelin gold medal in 1984. "Wilf meant so much to me," she said. "As a coach he was unique, a great man with an extraordinary wealth of experience. He was my mentor for 30 years, and never once did I not believe in him. He treated me like a daughter and gave so much help to others."

Brazilians don't care for Blair's rich project

The appointment of Tony Blair as a paid adviser to the organisers of Rio's Olympics in 2016 has not proved popular in Brazil. Their best-selling author Paulo Coelho says he "feels ashamed as a Brazilian... he has blood on his hands." And in a poll, 83 per cent were against Blair's role. Is this why England's 2018 World Cup bid is keeping its distance from the ex-prime minister?