On a mission to help the hosts diminish the chances of bad luck


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The Independent Online

The Olympic Games have not always been without their troubles for Charles van Commenee. Indeed, the man from Amsterdam chuckles now at the memory of the 1992 Games in Barcelona. He travelled to the Catalan capital as the personal coach to a member of the Dutch team but was thrown out of the athletes' village after a disagreement with the Dutch chef de mission on the first day. He watched the rest of the Games at home on television.

Van Commenee had the last laugh. In 2008 he was the chef de mission of the Dutch Olympic team for all sports in Beijing. "My biggest triumph of all time is being kicked out of the Olympic Village and then, 16 years later, coming back as the chef de mission," he said.

Come the London Olympics, Van Commenee will be in charge of the British squad in what has been traditionally the showpiece Olympic sport. Surely he cannot suffer as much anguish as the head coaches of the home athletics teams endured at the last two Olympic Games.

The Chinese chief in 2008 could only watch in despair as Liu Xiang pulled up injured in the heats of the 110m hurdles. The Greek head coach in 2004 had to deal with the soap opera scandal of Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou fleeing from the athletes' village and a drug-testing team on the eve of the Athens Games.

"It's my job to diminish and decrease the percentage of luck and chance," Van Commenee said. "But that will never be zero because that's the nature of sport. There is an unpredictable element to it.

"For instance, when it comes to injuries we can train smarter and we can hire the best doctors and physiotherapists but there is no athlete who will stay away 100 per cent from injuries. Liu Xiang is a good example. That can happen. If Mo Farah gets ill and Jessica Ennis slips in the bathroom the week before the Games what can you do? That can happen to any of us."