A row over British athletes' non-involvement in the opening ceremony of next year's London Olympics threatens to overshadow the event, which is being directed by the Oscar-winning film-maker Danny Boyle.
It is understood that Boyle, who picked up eight Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire in 2009, intended to use athletes as the centrepiece of his opening gala, which will be watched by a global audience estimated to be around 1 billion viewers.
But coaches, worried that a prolonged ceremony could leave athletes on their feet for hours, have banned the track-and-field side from taking part. The swimming team is likely to follow. Boyle is now re-planning the event. Jonathan Edwards, the former Olympic triple-jump champion and athletes' representative on the London 2012 board, believes that participation could "actually boost athletes' motivation". He told a Sunday paper: "The philosophy of the ceremony is to put athletes at the heart of it. They will be integral to the narrative Boyle is putting together... [he] wants to make the athletes the stars of the show."
The Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, said a large medal haul was more important. "What I want from Charles van Commenee [head of UK Athletics] is a record haul of British athletic medals and it's up to him to deliver that." He added that if van Commenee managed that, "nobody is going to worry whether the athletes went to the opening ceremony or not".