Happy Olympic Day!

Tom Degun: My ride on the wall of death

altWhile I am certainly no Chris Hoy, I consider myself to be a reasonably good cyclist. It was for that reason that I rather courageously - or foolishly depending on your viewpoint - decided to participate in a track cycling session at the Wales National Velodrome at a press conference that preceded the UK School Games.

Jamie Staff, the Beijing Olympic gold medalist in the team sprint, was leading the track demonstration with four young cyclists due to compete in the UK School Games, which started last night, before five members of the media were allowed to join the session.

Reassuring myself that I was in the capable hands of an Olympic champion, I booked one of the five places convinced that everything would run smoothly. However, things did not go according to plan.

Having made a hasty decision to drive from my home in Essex to the Velodrome in Newport, I arrived rather late after a five-hour journey, most of which was spent admiring the tail lights of the stationary cars in front.

Eventually finding the Velodrome (map reading was never my strong point); I hurried to the track where I was immediately asked to change into my sports gear as the demonstration was ready to get underway.

Although I do not think driving a car down the M4 is how Jamie warms up for his races, I realised that the time to pull out of the session whilst saving face had long expired. As an aspiring young sports journalist, I certainly didn’t want to be labeled “that chicken from insidethegames”.

When I returned to the track, I was given a bike, which was extremely light, a helmet and some gloves. It did not take me long to discover that unlike the mountain bike in my garage, this bike had no brakes! It also had very thin tyres and handlebars that curved downwards. I was beginning to realise that I may be in some trouble.

As I looked round the Velodrome, I saw just how steep the track was. The two ends of the track were so vertical I thought they had been replaced by walls.

Feeling less confident by the second, I approached Jamie with a smile that did not conceal my nervousness.

Apart from me, there were only two other cyclists from the media taking part in the session while the rest of the assembled press watched on with obvious amusement.  “I thought there were meant to be five guys from the media?” Jamie asked. “No, two pulled out,” said a gentleman nearby. Though I laughed, I thought that they probably had the right idea.

We put our gloves and head gear on and climbed onto our bike by leaning against the metal rail on the inside of the track to put our feet in the straps attached to the pedals.

alt“Okay then” Jamie said, “Make sure that you hold the bottom of the handlebars. You will have to lean forward [in the superman position]. It might hurt your back a bit but make sure you stay in that position if you can”.

“These bikes [track racing] obviously have no brakes so you have to slow down your pedaling to go slower and pedal backwards to stop.

“Make sure you keep pedaling or you will fall off. Always look straight and a good piece of advice is to go hard into the slopes as you approach them. They are the same gradient as the ground if you cycle at a steady pace on them. Okay guys, 'Let’s go'."

Having barely understood most of the instructions, I set off on the flat part of the track hoping I would get the hang of it once I started riding. My first thought was that it wasn’t too difficult. I could feel the gears clicking but I kept a steady pace behind Jamie and the bike ran smoothly.

“Okay,” Jamie shouted, “Let’s head up the slope a bit."

Tentatively, I moved my bike onto the slope and although I felt I was at a right angle, the bike gripped the slope well.  “Just keep a steady pace,” I reassured myself, “and you will be fine."

With the wind blowing hard against my face which actually proved a pleasant sensation, I began to get more adventurous and advance further up the slope. Things were going well when, after about 10 laps of the track, I began feeling a little tired. You may call me unfit, but I was going round those slopes extremely fast to ensure I didn’t fall while trying to keep up with an Olympic champion!

Getting steadily more tired by the second, I began to fall quite a way behind Jamie when suddenly, the bottom of my tracksuit got caught in the pedal strap. Though I didn’t fall, I wobbled aggressively as I managed to pull the bike back in a straight line.

Hoping the assembled press hadn’t observed this, I quickly glanced at the inside of the track where a group of grinning faces confirmed to me that they had indeed noticed. I valiantly peddled on until Jamie finally called us in.

It took a while for me to slow down sufficiently to grab hold of the metal rail that would bring the bike to a halt but with Jamie’s assistance, I managed to do so. I climbed off the bike completely breathless and dripping with sweat but still in one piece.

altJamie rode up to me with a smile on his face. “Did you enjoy that?” he asked.

“Yes,” I admitted, “it was good fun. It’s so tiring though. How on earth do you do that for a living?”

Jamie smiled again in a gesture that said more than words ever could. The smile indicated that it is years of hard, tiring work and dedication on a track like this that makes an Olympic champion.

I think I’ll let Jamie do the hard work, endless training and tough competition, though. I’ll stick to writing about it.

Tom Degun graduated this summer from the University of Bedfordshire with  
a BA First Class honours degree in Sport, Media and Culture and joned insidethegames last week as a reporter and our Paralympics correspondent

Duncan Mackay: London victory can inspire 2016 bid cities

Duncan Mackay
altThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) are always very keen to emphasise that the Evaluation Commission Report they release a month ahead of the final vote to decide a Host City does not try to rank or categorise the candidates.

And every time they publish the Report the bidding cities and the media try to work out in which order the IOC has ranked them.

Nothing had changed yesterday when the IOC published its Evaluation Commission Report for the 2016 Games and Olympic-watchers like me came up with our own unofficial rankings list.
That is why in Rio de Janeiro last night the campaign leaders, if not quite cracking open the champagne, were probably at least allowing themselves a couple of caipirinhas to celebrate an overwhelmingly positive report, while in Tokyo and Madrid they were drowning their sorrows with a glass of Saki and rioja respectively after their bids were directly criticised by the IOC.

In Chicago, meanwhile, they probably just had a swift glass of Goose Island beer before bunkering down to come up with a strategy that will allow them during the next 30 days to convince the IOC members that they are not a potential financial liability if they are awarded the 2016 Olympics.

The race to host an Olympics is bit like a tactically run 10,000 metres. It meanders for lap-after-lap with only the real aficionados watching it and then the bell goes and suddenly everyone gets interested.

But does it matter? A bit like the Evaluation Commission's visit to the four bidding cities in April and May, the Report generates plenty of headlines and column inches but it is harder to measure how much difference it makes in the final ranking. The IOC members are under no obligation to read the 98-page document before they cast their vote in Copenhagen on October 2.

I decided to get my scrapbook out and leaf through what I said after the IOC released its Evaluation Report in June 2005, a month before the vote for the 2012 Olympics. This is what I wrote in The Guardian about the glowing report that the Evaluation Commission had given Paris: "If it had been a school report it was the kind you would have run all the way home to show your mum and dad."

Overlooked were the limitations of the Stade de France, with its awful sightlines when in athletics mode and poor back-of-house facilities, and the fact that at $480 a night, a room in a five-star hotel in Paris during the Games would be $190 more expensive than in London.

altI remember Sebastian Coe (pictured) addressing the media a few minutes after he had seen the report and he proclaimed that it was a "springboard" for London to win. "A good evaluation on its own is not enough to get you over the line," he said. "But we have the confidence to build the momentum this bid has enjoyed over the last year. We are in good shape to take the battle even harder and further towards our goal."

It was stirring Churchillian stuff that largely fell on deaf ears. The media had already decided that it was a done deal and the Games were heading back to Paris for the first time since 1924. The bookies, who generally don't get much wrong, reacted to the publication of the Report by cutting Paris' odds to win to 1-5.

But London embarked upon a hectic period of shuttle diplomacy which saw them swing crucial votes behind their cause and momentum quickly built that ultimately carried them over the line in Singapore. The city that will win the race to host the 2016 Games is the one that wins the last month of campaigning. 

That momentum is currently definitely behind Rio. Steve Wilson, the hugely respected and experienced Olympic writer on Associated Press, reflected this yesterday when he wrote "the Rio bandwagon seems to be picking up speed", a story that appeared under the headline the "IOC keeps on loving city's bid".

But as Mike Lee, who is advising Rio on strategy, well knows from his time as the Director of Communications & Public Affairs for London 2012, this is not the time for any city to be resting on its laurels. All of the four candidates currently have teams travelling the world trying to speak to IOC members and convince them of the merits of their particular city. Nothing can be taken for granted and nor will it be.

I finished my article on the Commission's Report four years ago in The Guardian with the prescient comment:  "For all that the hierarchy of the International Olympic Committee want the Games to go to Paris, the members can be a volatile constituency".

The bubbly is already on ice in Copenhagen. It is just that no-one knows yet which city will be popping the corks.

Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.biz. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years, being the only British daily newspaper writer to correctly predict in 2005 that London's Olympic bid would be successful.

John Bicourt: Britain's Berlin success should be kept in perspective

Duncan Mackay
The World Championships, which took place in Berlin last month, was certainly exciting and it was wonderful to see some great British performances from those athletes who made finals and especially, of course, our four individual medalists, including the gold medallists Phillips Idowu in the triple jump and Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon.
  However, overall achievements by UK athletes must be measured against the amount of financial investment handed to UK Athletics (UKA), since 1998.  UKA, a private limited company with no shareholders and wholly unelected and unaccountable to the sport has received around £150 million pounds of public money from the Government since they were originally set up and funded by UK Sport, a Government quango, over 10 years ago. 
UKA’s mission statement was: "To deliver the sport the likes of which has never been seen before.” Standards would rise, injuries would be reduced and more medals would be won. Of course, we all held our breath and expected wonderful things. That was the promise because the sport, or rather the sport’s administration now had plenty of public money to ensure our best development and more medals in global championships than ever before. But like Napoleon’s march on Moscow, things didn’t go quite as planned.
UKA’s  record on World Championships achievement so far, comparing the five from 2001 to 2009 contested during their administration, with the previous seven events where athletes and coaches had no or little National Lottery funding, shows a considerable drop in achievement with only the last two showing a reasonable improvement on their previous three but still a long way off what was achieved before they took over. 
Their comparative lack of achievement in the World Championships, since the Government funding took over and with the additional benefit of far more sponsorship and television money than ever before, amounting to £80 million, is in massive contrast to what has been achieved without them. 
Prior to UKA being put in control, British elite athletes had no Lottery funding. The previous athletics governing body, the British Athletics Federation (BAF), wasn’t awash with money, didn’t have a professional staff numbering some 120 - the largest of any national governing body for athletics in the world - nor did they have costly High Performance Centres, most now closed down because of under use and/or ineffectiveness, plus UKA’s own full time paid coaches, specialist department directors and the best possible medical and scientific support staff; all of which should have resulted in the delivery of the sport as originally promised over 10 years ago.
Of the points gained for top eight places at the seven World Championships, which took place under the old mainly “amateur” system, between 1983 through to 1999, British athletes - who along with their coaches all mostly had to work for a living - averaged a total of 84.2 points from each Championship. The high came in 1993 when they scored 95 points. During the same period up to 1999, they won a total of 50 medals, compromising 11 gold, 21 silver and 18 bronze.

altEven by removing the two highest medals and points championships - 1993, when the gold medallists included Linford Christie, Colin Jackson (pictured) and Sally Gunnell and 1987 - under the former non-Lottery funded national governing body - that still leaves a total of 35 medals won, which were made up of eight gold, 10 silver, 15 bronze and an average points score of 79.6. Clearly, a far better achievement than UKA’s efforts over their five World Championships.
Apologists for UKA’s will claim “the world has moved on" or that we have “a missing generation” and “far more countries now take part". But in actuality, world top standards have only improved in a few events, notably in the men's’ 100 and 200 metres and men’s 5,000 and 10,000m mainly through just two outstanding individuals.   
Between 2001 and 2009 and the five World Championships under UKA’s heavily funded responsibility for the sport, British athletes in those five events scored an average of 55.8 points and won a total of 19 medals - five gold, four silver and 10 bronze. All in all, a considerably way down on the previous [unfunded] five Championships and, more significantly in view of their remit, also way down on UKA’s predicted and agreed targets with the Government funders.
When the public has funded a sport like athletics - to the tune of £150million - they expect results. But from 2001 - by which time and after three years, UKA should have been fully up to speed - through to the World Championships in Berlin, the overall British team performances have been very disappointing. Berlin has shown an improvement, but, it has taken ten years and a major clear out of the previous top management at UKA at considerable cost to the sports potential development and lost opportunities for our undoubted athletics talent, due to the Government’s funding agency’s failure to officially recognise and deal with UKA’s under performing management, total lack of a comprehensive development strategy and their Coach Education Programme which was deemed “unfit for purpose.”
Rather than being carried away with UKA’s specialist group of hysterically hyped acclamations for mainly mediocre performances to date and  future predictions for the next three years into London 2012 - the same "false dawns" of hype and spin we’ve suffered the last 10 years - it might be noted that despite some very good British successes in Berlin, Britain gained only one medal more than in Osaka two years ago but finished one place further down  the medals and points tables.

And we are still disgracefully non- existent in most of our endurance and throwing events and depleted in others as seen by Britain's Berlin entry where no British athlete was entered in 17 of the Championships events and with only one athlete entered in 12 others. So much for developing the talent pool and raising standards.
The British public - and no doubt, the Government - is looking towards London 2012 as the fulfillment of 14 years of its financial investment and support for the sport at the global level. But what they will reap, if they don’t immediately take a far closer look at how tax payers and Lottery money is being spent and analyse carefully what is really happening behind the hype and spin, they will sadly fall very short of what could have been possible had they been athlete and coach centered on an open performance basis rather than administration and management centered on a non-performance salary basis.  

John Bicourt was an English record holder and represented Britain in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. He has coached, advised and managed a number of Olympic and World Championship athletes from Britain, Australia, South African, Kenya and the United States, including medallists and world record holders. He is an elected officer of the Association of British Athletics Clubs

An American perspective on Dwain Chambers

Duncan Mackay

Dwain_Chambers_head_and_shouldersJIM FERSTLE, an American freelance journalist, is one of the world's foremost authorities on the history of performance-enhancing drugs in sport and in an excluisve article for insidethegames gives us the US perspective on the return of Dwain Chambers, the original face of London 2012.

A SONGWRITER from my home state in the United States, Bob Dylan,  wrote a song in the 1960s about the Civil Rights movement titled: Only a Pawn in Their Game.

That may be an apt description of Dwain Chambers' current situation.

When they write the history of drugs in sport, Chambers could take a place along with Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, or other athletes branded by the Scarlet Letter of sports.

Each has come to represent a seminal moment or stage of the battle against drug use in sports.

When Johnson was caught in Seoul in 1988, the resulting fallout and revelations of the Dubin Commission inquiry in Canada laid the groundwork for the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over a decade later.

When Jones was forced to confess to some of her sins as a performance enhancing drug abuser, the power and influence of governments and the duplicity of athletes who were confronted with doping allegations were prominently on display.

What Chambers case represents is, in contrast, simple economics.

Some would say that the "blacklisting" of Chambers by European meet promoters is merely part of a gradual push by event organisers to cleanse their events of the stain of doping.

A desperate measure or long overdue?

It is an open secret that many of the same event organizers now preaching clean athletics, however, were years ago complicit in helping athletes avoid drug tests at their events.

Back then, the meet promoters marketed their events with hype about record attempts, fast times--Citus, Altus, Fortus.

With coverage of their events increasingly drowned out by stories of doping scandals, though, the economics changed.

Thus, the "ban the cheats" movement has become the flavor of the moment.

Even Balco boss Victor Conte, who has done quite well economically in the performance enhancing business, recognised the motivation behind the ban Chambers bandwagon.

It isn't about Olympian principles, he said, it's about economics - money and greed were the words he used.

As the bank robber Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he targeted banks: "That's where the money is."

If you really want to understand the motivations behind changes in the sports business, follow the money.

The money is hemorrhaging away from sports, such as cycling and athletics.

Not solely based on the doping issue, but, rightly or wrongly, drugs get the large share of the blame.

Chambers not alone

Chambers is not the only athlete being banished.

The 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador of Spain may not be able to defend is title, not because of a failed drug test, but because of a crackdown by Tour organisers against teams and/or individual riders who they deem tainted.

Directors of the major European Athletics meetings have agreed not to invite athletes who have been convicted of serious doping offences.

The race directors of the World Marathon Majors have issued a similar decree.

These event organisers now believe that an athlete who has been caught doping is not worth the risk.

After first shunning  Jones, but finally relenting and inviting her to meets last year, the Golden League event directors seem to now believe that forgiveness or inaction in the area of doping is no longer economically prudent.

Even the sport's agents have made a pact not to represent athletes who have committed serious doping offences.

But, as with many such moves in the past, these actions are not consistent or comprehensive.

As has been noted, while Chambers was not welcomed on the British team for Valencia, convicted "drug cheat" Carl Myerscough was.

While Contador may not be able to ride the Tour de France, convicted "drug cheat" Scotland's David Millar  might.

In the free market world of sports, it's about "putting bums on seats" and/or securing sponsor revenue that rules not rules, ethics, or morality.

In baseball in the US, home run king Barry Bonds and pitching ace Roger Clemens both commanded multi-million dollar salaries last year despite strong rumors of the alleged performance enhancing drug use.

Both had poor seasons.

The pressure on Major League Baseball to clean up its "steroids problem" has increased, and neither is likely to play this year.

Both are facing perjury charges, as did Jones, and neither has the box office appeal to override their off the field woes.

Such is the case with Chambers.

Although he ran impressively to qualify for the World Indoor Championships, 60 metres, which start tomorrow in Valencia, is not the Olympic 100m.

Could things change if he wins the World Indoor crown, breaks a record, and passes all his doping tests?

The major meets say they won't invite him, but what about the smaller ones?

If Chambers continues to impress, will the promoters, as they did with Jones, change their tune?


Sports is marketed as entertainment, and a proven entertainment formula is good versus evil, dirty versus clean.

Or does Chambers banishment have more to do with what he said than what he did?

Chambers answered honestly when asked by the BBC about the motivations behind using drugs, and the ability of somebody not doping beating somebody who was in an Olympic final.

For many, such as Dame Kelly Holmes, that seems to be Chambers' greatest sin, not that he violated the doping rules.

Ben Johnson's coach, Charlie Francis, was banished to the athletics wilderness in part because he told what he believed to be the truth to the Dubin Inquiry.

Yes, we did it, he said, but we weren't alone.

He still chafes at the hypocrisy of retired athletes and administrators who now condemn Chambers while having talked privately about their own transgressions years ago.

What is the truth is never easy to establish in everyday life, even more so when the topic turns to doping.

It is not all that different from the shamateur days of sports where everybody knew about the under the table payments, but all the effort was in devising ways to hide it so that even if you knew it, you couldn't prove it.

Such is the problem with doping.

While money is openly exchanged these days, the anti doping movement has not moved as fast into the era of professionalism as the rest of sport in its rules and regulations.

Amateur carry-over

It may be something of a carryover from the shamateur days of the past, but the anti-doping segment of Olympic sports has seemed to be the last to shed its amateur roots.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has steadfastly clung to its Olympian pledge not to soil the British Olympic team with drug cheats.

Nearly every other country in the world takes a more legalistic and economically motivated approach to the crime and punishment model of anti-doping, however.

Indeed the WADA rules, as former WADA president Dick Pound told the BBC recently, do not contain a legal framework for lifetime bans.

If one has done the crime, he or she must do the time, but once that time is served they are free to return to sport, Pound said.

This seems to correspond with most legal systems where the punishment is supposed to "fit the crime."

An athlete who dopes is not deemed worthy of the "death penalty."

But as more Olympic sports see their sponsors getting nervous or leaving, their fan base eroding, many have concluded that it is time for drastic action, perhaps regardless of the legal wrangles that may ensue.

While sport is portrayed as ultimately egalitarian, a level playing field, at the elite level it's always been about money.

The Olympics were the playground of the rich where the allure often was watching to see if somebody from the lower classes could rise up through the ranks and deprive a rich guy of an Olympic medal.


Rooting for the underdog has always had great economic potential, not for those doing the rooting or striving, but for those who promoted and profited from the events.

Indeed, for the tiny nation of East Germany hauling in truckloads of Olympic medals was both great propaganda and box office story line until what everyone knew to be true was exposed.

The "underdog" had an elicit secret weapon, kryptonite for the bigger nations' super men and women, a superior system of administering performance enhancing drugs.

It could be argued that the development of much of the arsenal of doping products had its roots in the Olympic battles between the world's two political superpowers of the era.

US Dr. John Ziegler developed anabolic steroids to combat what was alleged to be the use of testosterone by the Soviet athletes.

In today's global economy, entrepreneurs like Conte do the drug development, and countries like China distribute the product worldwide over the internet.

For decades the sports superpowers pointed the finger at one another while they each did their best to see that their athletes had access to the best of everything, including performance enhancing drugs.

Our athletes are clean, was the public mantra, yours are dirty.

We'll get you what you need to succeed, was the private agreement, just don't get caught.

Into this world stepped Chambers.

He made one very big mistake.
He got caught.

Now the powers that be want to make an example of him.

But they forgot something.

The rules they have are untested in the real world, still rooted in the authoritarian code of the Olympic movement or the tortured process of trying to get the world to accept a universal anti-doping set of regulations.

The UK, for example, has it's own version of out of competition testing.

It is a system seemingly devised to make sure the testers are not inconvenienced and aimed at catching the organisationally challenged more than those who might be attempting to beat a doping test.

If the athlete gets to set the time and range of dates when they will be tested, it is not an out of competition, no notice test.

It is nothing more than a series of regular in competition tests.

This gives the advantage to the athlete using the drugs, rather than the testers, according to the lab scientists trying to find banned substances in the athletes' urine.

It qualifies as out of competition testing only by stretching the definition nearly to its limits.

Michele Verroken

Then there is the issue of independent testing.

After much urging by people, such as former head of the UK Sports anti doping unit, Michele Verroken, the UK is setting up a NADO (National Anti-Doping Organisation).

If you look at the composition of the project board charged with the development of the new organisation, however, eight of the 12 are members of the sporting establishment, not those known for independence or without potential conflicts.

Verroken is not part of the mix.

And right now all the focus is on Chambers, not those who make the rules or who enforce the rules.

Yet, as this plays out, it will be the rules that will prove decisive.

Can the BOA enforce their doping ban from the Olympics?

Can or will the meet promoters stick to their bans?

UK Athletics discovered to their dismay that their rules didn't allow them to do what they wanted to "drug cheats."

Others could discover the same thing.

In the past athletes were too poor or otherwise not able to challenge the rules or the athletics establishment.

Now, the stakes are higher.

Chambers may be willing to take up that challenge.

He may not want to be only a pawn in their game.

Either way, more attention needs to be paid to the rules and those making them than public relations moves against sanctioned athletes.

If we've learned anything in the more than 45 years of the Olympic anti-doping campaigning it's that talk is cheap, and cheap has not done much to slow down, let alone eliminate drug use in sports.

Jim Ferstle is a freelance writer and consultant based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Duncan Mackay: insidethegames is bigger, brighter, better

Duncan Mackay
altToday we unveil a brilliant new look for insidethegames that means we are bigger, brighter, better.

It now contains even more features and news to ensure that our readers continue to be given a unique, first hand look behind the scenes into the world of London 2012, the Olympic Movement, the Commonwealth Games, the FIFA World Cup and the bidding process and the multi-billion pound business that surrounds them. 

Everyone here at insidethegames is very excited about them and believe they are making a brilliant product even better.
When we launched insidethegames in October 2005 it was as a weekly newsletter. The first issue featured the exclusive news that David Higgins was set to be announced later that day as the chief executive of the newly-formed Olympic Delivery Authority. We have been leading the way ever since.
Our unique mixture of exclusive stories and in-depth features meant we soon established a loyal readership. But it quickly became apparent that so much was happening in the build-up to London 2012 that a daily service was needed. The site has now evolved into an unrivalled news portal updating all the latest stories as they happen - and we have now expanded our remit a long way beyond just London 2012.

Since launching insidethegames Glasgow has been awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games and England has announced that it is bidding to bring football's World Cup back to this country for the first time since 1966. That is why the site includes a host of features that are a must read for anyone who has any interest not only in the Olympic Movement but also the Commonwealth Games and global industry of bidding for major events, including the increasingly tense race to host the 2016 Olympics and football’s 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

This can often mean up to 15 stories a day being placed on the site and our archive now contains more than 6,000 stories dating back nearly four years - a unique source of information. You will be glad to know that we have now upgraded our search engine so it is more efficient and faster than ever before, meaning the information that you need is only ever just a mouse-click away.

But that is not all. We have added several other exciting features. I am particularly proud of the new sports section which means that every one of the 26 sports that will make up the London Olympics now have their own page which has every bit of information you could possibly want to know in the build-up, including its history, a guide to the venue for 2012 (2016 will be added on October 3 when we know who the Host City is along with information on rugby sevens and golf if they are added) and a comprehensive diary so you can plan what to follow leading up to the big events. But best of all is that it allows us to carry even more news from around the world of sport. So if your particular passion is, say, handball or wrestling, you now know there is a website that is guaranteed to cover your sport.

Other innovations include a new expanded blogs section. We have some really top names lined up to write exclusively for us over the next few weeks, including Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Kelly Holmes. We start off today with Ade Adepitan, who feels especially close to the London Games as he is from Stratford.

It is appropriate that we should start with Britain's best-known wheelchair basketball player because the Paralympics is an area where we have big plans to increase our coverage as we feel this is an area that is currently neglected. Joining us today is Tom Degun, a talented young writer who recently graduated from the University of Bedfordshire with a BA First Class honours degree in Sport, Media and Culture.

Tom, who is keen rugby player and qualified fencing instructor, will be our new Paralympics Correspondent and will be providing unrivalled daily behind-the-scenes coverage on the issues and personalities that will shape the Games in three years time. Check out his exclusive interview with Dame Tanni Grey Thompson that is published on insidethegames today. 

Tom joins a list of world-class contributors that includes David Owen, the former sports editor of the Financial Times, and Mike Rowbottom, who covered the Olympics for The Independent for 16 years, who both help ensure that insidethegames will not be beaten for quality writing. It is no surprise therefore that insidethegames is now recognised as the authoritative independent guide to London 2012 and the Olympic Movement.

We today also launch our new regular poll that gives you the opportunity to let us know what you think. The first question we ask is “Which Candidate City should win the right to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games?” Whoever it is, insidethegames' team of ace reporters and photographers will be in Copenhagen later this month to cover the build-up to the IOC Session before the decision is announced on October 2 to ensure you are kept fully updated on the campaign to decide whether Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo are chosen to follow London.

You can sign up for our free daily e-alerts simply by filling in a quick simple form here. Why pay for inferior information when you can read the market leaders for free? At insidethegames, we believe that quality writing and ground-breaking new stories is priceless.

We have many more exciting features lined up over the next few weeks that we believe will make insidethegames even better and consolidate our position as the number one source for Olympic news on the web. We thank all our loyal readers who have been with us since we launched. And we welcome our new readers. Together we shall share the exciting journey up to London 2012 and beyond.
For further information and to send any materials of interest, please email me at [email protected] 
Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of insidethegames.biz. He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years, being the only British daily newspaper writer to correctly predict in 2005 that London's Olympic bid would be successful.

Ade Adepitan: London 2012 is starting to feel real

Duncan Mackay
altHaving experienced competing in two Paralympic Games and commentated on a third, it’s incredible to think such a magnificent event will be right here in London in just three years time.

I’m so glad it’s coming to the UK because I know the support and investment that is going in to it over the next three years will ensure the British public and the athletes taking part will not want to be anywhere but part of London 2012.
Hitting a milestone such as three years to go really puts it into perspective that the Paralympics is coming to London and it will be in my manor! I grew up in Stratford, and when I go home I drive past the site and can see the stadium growing all the time. You can already see the structural work coming together and the roof going on the aquatics centre - it’s starting to become very real.
As the infrastructure comes together so do the British teams.  They have had some amazing achievements in both Olympic and Paralympic sports. 
We’ve had some great athletics results recently.  I watched the World Athletics Championships as I’ve got some really good friends who were competing out there. The British team are looking stronger and stronger each year.  Bringing home six medals and a haul of top eight finishes makes them an exciting prospect for 2012, they can only build on what they’ve achieved.
And who can ignore the phenomenon that is Usain Bolt - not only is he an incredible athlete but the joy that he has in his sport is brilliant. He is definitely the best thing that has happened to athletics in a long time, so let’s hope he keeps it up to wow us all right here in London. 


I also recently commentated at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester which saw the British Paralympic team return from Beijing with a massive medal haul only to do it all again, sealing their reputation as one of the best teams in the world. 
The competition is probably one of the most important events that we have in the Paralympics, aside from the actual Paralympics itself. It gives British athletes the chance to test themselves against the best in the world on home soil every year - an opportunity that other countries will not have had in the lead up to the Games. It gives us a fantastic taste of what’s in store for London 2012. 
In the last ten months since Beijing, more and more of the public have become aware of the success British athletes across all sports can offer in 2012 - people want to know more about their local sporting heroes and have the opportunity to watch them every year, get to know them and get right behind them as London approaches. 
Whatever anybody says, however many Olympics or Paralympics the athletes may have been through, I don’t think anything is going compare to the reception that they are going to get in East London. 
Beijing was a great experience and what made it even better was the backing from the Chinese fans - they were 110 per cent behind their athletes.  I must big up my old team the wheelchair basketball boys for achieving their bronze. They now have a real chance at gold here in London and I know Britain will match that home support from last year in three years time. 
It would be amazing to back the whole British team from the commentary box in 2012 - this really is a once in lifetime opportunity to show the world how great London is and how passionate we are about both Paralympic and Olympic sports.
Ade Adepitan is a BT Ambassador.  BT is the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and title sponsor of the BT Paralympic World Cup.  For more information click here.

Georgina Harland: Competing on home ground will spur Britain on

In a way it feels quite strange that there is a Modern Pentathlon World Championships starting on Thursday in London and I am not going to be taking part in it.

I used to thrive on competing in front of a home crowd and in fact managed to medal at pretty much every international event I took part in at home, including the last time the World Championships were held in the UK in 2001. I was delighted to come away with a bronze medal.

I cannot begin to explain the feeling of competing on home soil, with all the support from the crowd, even being surrounded by the home volunteers and officials makes a difference.


They say you should always treat major competitions like any training session, so as not to get overwhelmed by the experience. This is so much easier to do when you are competing in familiar surroundings – it can really work to your advantage.

Of course the pressure of a home crowd and environment can also be a contributing factor to your performance – just the slightest distraction can really throw you off - but in my experience the positives far outweigh the negatives. For British athletes, gaining experience of this unique competitive environment and how to make it work to their advantage ahead of the London Olympics in 2012 should not be undervalued.

Although I am sad not to be competing (this is the most important event in the modern pentathlon calendar to take place since my retirement), I am really looking forward to experiencing the world championships from an official’s point of view. Since my retirement last year I have taken on the role of chair of the International Federation’s (UIPM) Athlete Committee.


In this capacity, I will be attending various meetings throughout the Championships, as well as acting as a liaison between the athletes and the event organisers to ensure the they are well looked after, and have everything they need to put in their best possible performance.

Although this role means I have to be somewhat impartial, I will of course be hoping for success for the British team. It’s hard to predict how they’ll do as the athletes have a new format to contend with, but Beijing Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell is in great form and definitely one to watch this weekend.


We have great strength in depth in the women’s team; Katy Livingston was seventh in Beijing last year and won bronze at last year’s World Championships, Mhairi Spence has proven she can medal at major championships and Freyja Prentice is an up and coming athlete showing fantastic potential and could surprise everybody.


The men’s event will be fiercely competitive, but Sam Weale and Nick Woodbridge are both very talented athletes who have both shown they can make the podium, and with the support of the home crowd anything could happen.

There will undoubtedly be a certain nostalgia as I watch the events unfold this week but at the same time I certainly won’t envy the gruelling training regime that the athletes will have undergone to prepare for the event – amazing how quickly you forget all that!


For once I will be able to sit back, enjoy the competition and show my support. I’m sure the crowds at Crystal Palace this weekend will create a fantastic atmosphere for the British team, in what is sure to be a truly world class competition.

Georgina Harland won a bronze medal in the Modern Pentathlon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens . She is now chair of the UIPM’s Athletes Committee, a member of the UIPM’s Executive Board and a participant on UK Sport’s International Leadership Programme. This blog appeared on UK Sport's website.

Tim Woodhouse: The gloves are on?

altThe Olympics certainly pack a punch when it comes to shining a light on issues within sport. The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision regarding women’s boxing, which will be made today, is no exception.

It will probably surprise many to know that women have been boxing from as early as the 1720s. Back then, it was bouts in London, but over the years it won a place on the world stage with the women’s World Championships; so why then has it taken nearly 300 years to get women in the Olympic ring? And what does this say about gender equality in sport?
The fact of the matter is, men have had a huge head start and there’s still a long way to close the gap.
Today, women hold just one in five of the top jobs in British sport, investment in women’s sport lags far behind men’s and as little as two per cent of national sports media coverage is devoted to female competitors and teams. In Beijing last year 165 gold medals were available to men versus 127 to women.
So as much as the Olympic Games help shine a light on inequality, they also offer a rare opportunity to tackle the problem. Hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games provides a unique opportunity to address historical discrimination against women at the highest levels of sport. The IOC Executive Board has the opportunity to approve more gold medals for women in a range of sports including boxing, canoe/ kayak, cycling, and shooting, and I sincerely hope they do.
At the same time, they have a responsibility to ensure that they do not weaken the standard of competition in those sports or to devalue what it means to be “Olympic Gold Medalist”. Therefore it would be absurd to suggest that within each sport there needs to be exact parity of medal opportunities, however across the whole programme of Olympic sports, there can be no legitimate reason not to ensure gender equality of medal opportunities and athlete quotas.
The IOC has another responsibility which I know it takes very seriously, and that is to use the Games to inspire young people across the world to participate in sport and to become physically active. In many countries across the world, obesity levels amongst young people are a growing concern and it is very disturbing that recent figures show that in Britain girls are only half as active as boys by the time they’re 16.
I believe that this is partially due to the fact that girls grow up seeing only men’s sport in the press and on TV. The one time this changes is every four years at the Olympics, which makes it even more vital that the IOC do everything in their power to ensure that women’s sport is given as many opportunities at that level as the men.
The Olympic Movement has come along way since Baron Pierre de Coubertin stated that women’s only role in the Games should be to “crown the victorious men”. But the recent controversy over the IOC’s continued opposition to the inclusion of female ski jumping in the winter Olympics has shown that the battle to ensure that the Olympics are equally inspiring to girls, as it is to boys, is not over yet. I hope that the decision regarding women’s boxing indicates positive change.
The IOC President Jacques Rogge has stated that his ultimate goal is “50-50 participation”, and he has a chance to make good progress for London 2012, but it seems that whatever the Executive Board decides there is still work to be done.
Tim joined the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) in May 2008 to boost the organisation’s capacity in helping National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport to deliver their activities in ways which attract more women and girls. He has had a long career in sport including an MA in Sports Development from the University of Gloucester. Tim is a keen hockey player for the Burnt Ash 3rd XI, and hasn’t accepted that he cannot make the 2012 Olympic squad yet.

Matt Smith: Baseball's future brighter without the Olympics

altThe International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board announced last week that golf and rugby would be put forward for entry to the 2016 Olympics. The decision ended baseball and softball’s hopes for an immediate return to the Olympic fold after a previous decision in 2005 removed the sports from the 2012 London Games.

While supporters of the bid tried to remain optimistic, most baseball fans had little confidence in the IOC’s willingness to listen to the sport’s argument, despite the best efforts of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF). Last week's events lend credence to the belief that baseball never really stood a chance.

The IOC made vague statements about golf and rugby being sports that stress fair play and respect for the Olympic values, but it’s obvious that their commercial potential was what won the day. Like everything else, the Olympics is now guided by money rather than genuine sporting interests.

Rugby is a great sport and can certainly use their new-found Olympic status to expand into many new territories. The rugby sevens format gave them a clear advantage over their fellow bidders. Few will care that the Rugby Sevens World Cup is being scrapped as a consequence of its inclusion in the Olympics and they can market it as a unique event. I would strongly refute the claim that rugby currently has more global appeal than baseball though, even if that might be hard for many Brits to believe. No doubt both sides could produce statistics to back their position, so we’ll leave that as a disputed point.

As for golf, most people without a vested interest in their Olympic inclusion would agree their selection is a total joke. Just like football and tennis, it is a sport that already has a well-developed professional world circuit. There is no valid reason for them to be Olympic sports, other than the fact that their popularity will bring in the punters and make the IOC money. The Olympics should be about much more than that. Local baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash projects will continue to have severe difficulties in obtaining relatively meagre funding as non-Olympic sports, while golf will get the financial boost. That’s tough to take, particularly as the sport was nearly eliminated in the first round of voting.

Politics were always going to play a big part in this decision and golf’s later round renaissance looks pretty suspicious. The IBAF were gracious in defeat, congratulating the winning sports and praising the efforts of the other four bidders (karate, roller sports, softball and squash). However, their President Harvey Schiller couldn’t hold in feelings of disappointment at the process. “According to some of the voters, many were informed not to push for baseball," he said. "The programme commission supported rugby and golf to be added. We never did get all the votes we thought would come. Why? I really don’t know except for the probability that the IOC leadership wanted new sports."

altThe simple fact that baseball and softball were kicked out of the Olympics didn’t give you much confidence that the IOC would be predisposed to taking them back. That’s been proved by this selection process. The IBAF addressed many of the issues in their bid that the IOC had claimed were behind their original decision, such as the lack of involvement of Major League players and MLB’s previous lack of an effective drug-testing programme. That didn’t make a difference, supporting the view that the IOC simply used those factors as an excuse to remove the sport in the first place.

The IBAF were fighting a hopeless battle. The only criticism you could make of their bid is that it was weakened by the inclusion of women’s baseball, rather than using the previous combination of men’s baseball and women’s softball. However that wasn’t the IBAF’s fault. The International Softball Federation (ISF) decided to go it alone and refused to change their mind even when the IBAF appealed to them late in the process.

As neither sport made it, you could say that the ISF’s decision was wrong. Having said that, if golf had somehow been knocked out in that first round then softball may have been the sport to have picked up the second spot. You can certainly see the benefits to softball of being an Olympic sport completely in its own right. At the very least it would have allowed men’s fastpitch softball teams to dream of an Olympic appearance.

From a general standpoint, having one sport in and one sport out could have caused many problems. In countries where both sports are developing, working together gives them the best chance to move forward. It’s difficult to know quite how the work of a body like BaseballSoftballUK would have been affected if only one sport had made it, but it might not have been a positive development.

That’s a potential problem that we will not now face. Last week's decision now means we can all move on and plan the best way for both sports to progress outside of the Olympic framework. MLB have been quick to extol the virtues of the World Baseball Classic, claiming that they “will work hard to make it even bigger and better in 2013 and beyond”. Yet while the WBC is a great event and undoubtedly can help to promote the sport, it doesn’t carry anywhere near the prestige or level of opportunities afforded by the Olympics for developing baseball nations.

From the British Baseball Federation’s (BBF) perspective, secretary John Walmsley has lamented the decision but spoke of the work they will continue to undertake to grow the sport in the UK. “British Baseball will continue working to develop and strengthen the sport domestically, especially at youth levels in schools and in universities, as well as within existing baseball clubs," he said. "We are working with organisations such as Little League to improve access to the sport for children and we are building durable relationships with the International and European baseball federations. The future bodes well for baseball in Britain, although re-inclusion in the Olympics would have further strengthened that position”.

Walmsley’s comments are a good point on which to end. Yes, the IOC’s decision is disappointing and will have repercussions, but baseball and softball’s qualities remain undiminished. The fact that the IOC never truly appreciated them, and still doesn’t today, does make you think that maybe, just maybe, the sports’ futures could end up being brighter without half-hearted Olympic support.

Matt Smith is the editor and lead writer at BaseballGB. He has been a keen baseball fan since 1998 and started blogging about the sport in 2006.

Andy Thomas: A look behind the scenes at British Equestrian

My role within the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is lead practitioner for human science and sports Medicine. Basically I am the Human Physio (i.e I don’t treat the horses) but co-ordinate all aspects related to rider performance.

My role has two main objectives firstly the prevention treatment and management of injuries and secondly to enhance the riders performance and technical ability on a horse by addressing specific weaknesses and imbalances that a rider might have.


Riders typically suffer with back pain most commonly but they also subject themselves to quite a lot of trauma either by falling off or horses kicking or standing on them!

I look after all the disciplines eventing, dressage and Para-equestrian dressage and the show jumpers. Each discipline has its specific injuries. Eventers suffer the most trauma and generally walk with a limp! Dressage riders suffer more with their backs and show jumpers with groin problems.

I work very closely with the whole team, coaches, vets, doctors, horse physios and farriers. If the rider has injuries it affects the way they ride which then can affect or influence injuries of the horse so we have regular meetings particularly in the build up to a major championship. I have been lucky enough to work in many different sports at elite level. Working with riders is so different, one of my hardest tasks has been to convince them they don’t need to live with pain. They generally don’t complain unless one limb stops working or is pointing in the wrong direction!

I was part of the team taken to Hong Kong last year for the Beijing Olympics - what an experience. I was very impressed with our team. The riders, coaches and support staff worked fantastically well together. We are lucky to have such a team and this will be one of our strongest reasons for future success. All our riders and support staff believe that Team GBR will bring home the medals in 2012 and will work very hard to make this happen.

I spend most of my life now in a lorry. A mobile physiotherapy clinic driving from one end of the country to the other occasionally stopping off to drag a rider on and sort out their problems  - mostly physical. I am very caring in my nature with an emphasis on pain relief however some of our riders who don’t do their exercises need a gentle reminder now and again and faint screams can sometimes be heard.


At the moment I am seeing our key riders in our dressage and show jumping teams just to make sure they haven’t got any niggles or problems fortunately they are all fit and well so providing they behave they should appear at Windsor in the European Championships looking like highly trained athletes.

Andy Thomas is the lead practitioner for human science and sports medicine at the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). The FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships are held at Windsor Castle August 2009 25-30. This article first appeared on UK Sport.

Larry Eder: Semenya is victim of a witch hunt

altThe great media guru, Marshal McLuhan once said: "The medium is the message." In the Cold War, sports replaced atomic war, at times, as the way the United States and the Soviet bloc promoted the benefits of their political systems.

The ends justifies the means, a lovely rationalisation for everything from water boarding to saturation bombing, was another phrase used at the time, and for matters of this discussion, history seems to be repeating itself.

In this day and age, sports is a medium used by marketers, to get their messages across. In the modern world, with over 500 television stations on the average home cable television, sound bites are all that most causes, countries and events get to push in front of a public over-saturated, over-satiated and naturally cynical to the intrusiveness of various media platforms. One can not go into a restroom without finding advertising, and in some places [Las Vegas], televisions have invaded even the posh restroom.

I recently spent nine days enjoying, like the thousands of fans who entered the Berlin Olympic Stadium, the best jumpers, sprinters, throwers and distance runners that the global village of two hundred plus participating countries had to offer. From Usain Bolt to Kenenisa Bekele, to Blanka Vlasic, the World Championships celebrated what is best in our world, and what is best in our sport.

When the event, like the women's high jump, got down to the basics, one athlete jumping against the other, a universal language was created, that no Croat, Russian, Spanish, German or English speaker could misunderstand. The competition was fierce, the emotions honest and results up in the air until those last, final attempts. What more can one ask for in our sport?

Alas, modern sport mirrors modern life. Symbols, messages, mediums, rationalisation abound in modern life. Some good, some not so good.

Consider the curious story of Caster Semenya, the gold medalist in the women's 800 metres. While it is hard to gather all of the facts, here is what we can confirm: 13 months ago, Caster was eliminated in the early rounds of the World Junior Track & Field Championships, having run 2min 11.98sec for 800m. Three months later, Caster won the World Youth title in 2:04.3. In July 2009, Caster ran 1:56.72, decimating the world junior women's record for 800m. Last week, Caster ran 1:55.45, another world junior record, to take gold in the World Championships. This was a meteoric rise, to say the least.

The World Championships of track & field are the most important event, per our global federation, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), in our sport. Every two years, this nine day festival of global sports takes place, and to much acclaim. The 2009 version was one of the best I have attended [I have been accredited for nine], and the performances were...well, nothing short of amazing.

The story was leaked that Caster Semenya has a testosterone level, per testing requested by the IAAF, of three times that of a normal women. In an Associated Press story, the South African federation claims that there was never a request for gender testing. Who is fibbing here? Well, read on...

An article on this website, the prominent sports news website that follows all things Olympic, wrote about the huge crowd meeting Caster Semenya in South Africa yesterday on her return home. In the crowd, were leaders of all the political groups in South Africa, including Winnie Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela. Also noted in the crowd and speaking as the Athletics South Africa leader, Leonard Chuene.

Chuene suggested that racism had a part to play in the treatment of their "little girl". Winnie Mandela went so far as to threaten South African media on how they cover the debacle. The lines in the sand were drawn. Anyone who challenges Caster being a girl is anti-ANC, the African National Congress. Nice way to shut up critics. Wasn't this the tactic used by the former South African Government who supported apartheid? Wasn't this was the same media that played such a huge part in the dismantling of apartheid? Well, memories are self serving for some, I guess.

Niccolo Machievelli, a thoughtful observer of the life politik 600 years ago, once noted that all relations have politics, and such is the curious and now, sad case of Caster Semenya. His comments are prescient still today.

It has become quite apparent that the South African federation will use any means necessary to ignore the requests of the IAAF. They want their gold medal, and the life of a teenager be damned. What has happened? Using gender testing is now being equated with racism. And there is so much that we do not know about gender and its various effects.

For the definitive piece on the Semenya affair, I ask the thoughtful reader to read today's blog by Pat Butcher. This column is, in my mind, a quite definitive piece on the whole debacle, and is a great example of Butcher's strength-writing about difficult subjects with some humour and much wit [think John Cleese at times].


So, here is how I see it: I see an 18-year-old kid, away from home, scared, running in front of 50,000 people, and winning a major title. The kid has been raised as a girl, per her father, and no reason to not believe him. Caster Semenya, who has, again had this meteoric rise to fame, must have been confused by the lack of warmth exhibited by the crowd during the award ceremony and the questions at the interview area - Semenya was whisked through the interviews faster than Usain Bolt ran the 100m. Her experience in Berlin is just, well, sad at best, cruel at worst.


Chuene, who has called those asking about Caster's gender "racist", should be eating some of his words. Liame Diack, a black Senegalise, and President of the IAAF, was the man asking, quite discreetly, for gender testing. Diack, it has been noted, chuckled about the racism comment, having dealt with sports politics all of his life. It now appears that Mr. Diack is now personally getting involved in this debacle, hoping to end the scrutiny and get some closure for the young athlete.

Gender issues have been part of our sport for over 70 years. Just google Stella Walsh. The 1932 winner of the 100m, was murdered in a burglary in 1980, and at the time, it was found that she was actually male, but had lived as a women all of her life.

This is becoming a witch hunt. In the middle ages, women accused of witchcraft were tied to a chair, dropped in a pond with weights. If they floated up to the top [hardly], they were declared witches, if they stayed down, and consequently drown, they were not witches. If Caster is proclaimed a women, she gets hurt, if she is proclaimed a male, she gets hurt. This has become, under the lights of the media worldwide, a witch hunt, and a young teenager's life is at stake.

Gender abnormalities are more common than most of us would have thought - Butcher's piece in globe runner covers the topic quite well. This issue has come up before, and the IAAF, the federation of the athlete and athlete in question have worked the issue outside of the eyes of the media and public. Some times, and in cases of gender abnormalities, I would suggest that discretion is the best mode of operation.

In the end, this story seems to be about a federation, bereft of medals, wanting one more medal. I sure hope that is not the case, because, no matter how this works out, a life has been horribly harmed. And that life belongs to Caster Semenya.

Consider for a moment the average American teenager. I was part of the staff of a high school dorm for five years in my college years. I remember kids being depressed over problems with acne, breakups with girls, or not making the football team. Those were painful times.

How does one help a kid who might not be what she or he was raised as? And worst than that, the entire world knows? At the end of the day, the curious and sad story of Caster Semenya could have been avoided, and the people who were supposed to protect her, are, in my opinion, the one's to blame. 


Larry Eder is the President at Running Network LLC and Group Publisher at Shooting Star Media, Inc.

Chris Holmes: Paralympic inspiration will be catalyst for change

altBy Chris Holmes- 28 August 2009

I was 16 when I went to my first Paralympic Games in Seoul, 1988, as a member of the swimming team and it really was an unbelievable experience.


 By the time I left, with two silver medals tucked in my bag, I’d been lucky enough to compete in front of 10,000 fans and rubbed shoulders with athletes from more than 100 countries in the Paralympic Village.


That event, so early in my career, expanded my horizons like nothing else had ever done before.


That’s because the Paralympic Games has the ability to create lasting change for athletes and spectators alike.


Now, in my new role as Director of Paralympic Integration for the London 2012 Organising Committee, I intend to focus on the importance of this unique, and uplifting, event by setting myself three main goals.


First, I want the country to celebrate the cultural and historical significance of the second biggest sporting event in the world.


The Paralympic Games are different, and rightly so.


Achieving this means ensuring better awareness, knowledge and understanding of all 20 sports in the Games, not just the obvious ones like swimming and athletics.


This will involve better education on our part as well as enlisting the help of the media so spectators are better informed. Once that’s happened it will mean the skill and dexterity of elite level disability sport will be clearer. And that will make watching Paralympic sport more interesting and exciting whether at home on the TV or sitting in one of the many 2012 competition venues.


It also means making sure we explain the classification system in a simple, clear way. This is the system used in Paralympic competition to determine a competitor’s level of disability and to ensure a level playing field for all.


It’s a bit like boxing really. You wouldn’t put junior-welterweight Ricky Hatton up against super-middleweight Joe Calzaghe. It’s no different in disability sport. It has to be a fair contest.


Second, I want to ensure every disabled child is inspired enough to get involved in, and has access to, the same sporting opportunities in schools that non-disabled children have.


altAchieving this aim will require the help of some of our existing Paralympic heroes, like swimmer Ellie Simmonds and cyclist Darren Kenny (pictured) who continue to be inspirational and affable role models. We also need co-operation from schools and PE teachers who will need to learn, and embrace, teaching sport to kids with a variety of disabilities.


And finally I want sports coaches and clubs to be confident enough to include all disabled young people in community sports activities in the same way non-disabled kids are.


Reaching this goal will mean working creatively with a variety of partners across sport and education as well as making sports facilities truly accessible, both practically and from a welcoming point of view, to the disabled community.


This is an opportunity that’s not going to come around again in my lifetime which is why there is much to do in the next three years.


The London Paralympic Games of 2012 will, undoubtedly, be inspirational but we will have failed if we don’t go beyond that to create more opportunities for disabled kids.


It’s not the responsibility of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to change everything but it can be a powerful catalyst to get the ball rolling, just as Seoul in 1988 started to change life for me.


The London 2012 Paralympic Games will be a defining moment for the disabled community in this country. Along with my colleagues I intend to do all that I can to ensure a brighter future for disabled people in this country.


Chris Holmes is the new Director of Paralympic Integration for the London 2012 Organising Committee. He won nine Paralympic gold medals at four Paralypic Games including six at Barcelona in 1992, a feat never equalled by another British Paralympian. He was awarded an MBE for services to British sport in 1992. He is also a Patron of ‘Help for Heroes’ and a Patron of the British Paralympic Association.

Larry Eder: Putting the fun back into athletics

 altBy Larry Eder - 19 August 2009

This is my eighth World Championships that I have covered as a member of the media. I am fascinated with how the events are marketed and how competitors try to get their piece of the action.


 Outdoor advertising is huge in Berlin. Samsung has strong Outdoor on major streets and around Berlin. On the streets around the major official hotels, there are street flags, some promoting the World Championshipss 2009, others promoting the IAAF (International Asociation of Athletics Federations) sponsors.


Adidas has been promoting their icons and product around the city. My favorite advert of the Championships is the icon ad that adidas does showing Jeremy Wariner, Veronica Campbell Brown, Tyson Gay, Blanka Vlasic, Christine Ohuruogu and Allyson Felix.


The Olympic stadium, probably the best stadium that I have been in for any of our eight World Champs or four Olympics, is the Berlin Stadium. The track is fast, the crowd is supportive and the stadium is massive. IAAF promotional signage has added to the experience, and the event has both grandeur and fun.


What is changing in our sport though is not the marketing, but the attitude. On Sunday night, six of the eight starters in the 100 metres final were clowning around. While Tyson Gay did not participate, he smiled and observed as Usain and company, even Asafa relaxed by joking around a bit. If that is what needs to be done to attract young fans, but also to teach them, that while our top athletes compete with no quarter given in races, they can get along - that would be a huge lesson. It also differentiates us from American professional sports, which, quite frankly, have hurt themselves with well-paid athletes.


We were told by Berliners that promotions really started about two weeks ago. The crowds in the stadium have been an average of 25-30,000 in evenings with 30-60,000 on evening sessions. The Sunday night had about 60,000, and most  nights see 30-40,000 in the stands.


Signage in Berlin, at stadium, was provided for sponsors, from global sponsor, to local sponsors. It was done tastefully, but walking the stadium and the city with an experienced marketer at three global companies had these suggestions for our sport:


Nike, Reebok, Asics and Adidas all had hospitality and some local presence. Nike had promotional camp promoting Nike's global launch of the Lunar Glide. This was done in the centre of London. In walking much of the city, and taking public transportation around Berlin, with a global marketing professional, I asked him how he would shake things up in our sport, and here are a few things that he said:


·  Each championships there are open seats. Give them to local clubs, offer huge discounts for families, groups and begin local promotions, strongly, six months out. Local Berliners told us that they were aware of the Championships about two weeks before the event.


·  Move the events to mid-September, after the entire season, so that people in Europe are back from their vacations. This gives you more of a local support. While the crowds, I believe have been good, open tickets are in the 85 to 150 Euro a day tickets.


·  In order to get more foreign fans, tie in with a global airline where IAAF provides discounts if fan purchases tickets and hotel. Good for the Local Organising Committee, good for local economy, good for sport.


·  Local television has been very good. Kudos to Asics sponsoring Eurosport, using [hurdler] LoLo Jones as announcer. The round-up up each night and morning has been brilliant.


·  Kudos to Media Press Centre. Suggestion, as is done in other global and professional sports, offer lunch each day at break, with chance for interview of famous past IAAF champions, for more media opportunities. Remember, bring the events, easily to the media.


·  More than anything, the sport needs a global sponsor who is willing to promote on the global world. With the exception of Adidas, the other global sponsors could care less about North America, where the IAAF has left to USA Track & Field. Instead of appreciating the complexity, strength and opportunities there, the IAAF has allowed it to be a no mans land.


·  Our sport is about competition, pushing fast times and distances hurt the sport with the non-track expert. The German crowds have been enthralled by the performances of their team, and have been wonderful with the other great athletes. While we have had one world record, the competitions, in each event, have been superb. Track & Field is all about the competition.


altUsain Bolt (pictured) is huge, and bringing in new fans. Races with Bolt, Gay, and crowd, four to six times a season draw crowds. Have them run 100 metres, 200m, 300m, 150-250m. Even have a handicap race where kids get to run against him in a relay. Make it fun. The sport will not be hurt by this, it will grow.


Again, our sport is in a place where we can grow globally or become an also sport. It is time to thoughtfully look at what we do well, and where we need to change. For the next four days, I will be, like you, watching the greatest sport in the world.


Larry Eder is the President at Running Network LLC and Group Publisher at Shooting Star Media, Inc. Sign up for his daily blog here.