News - Olympic Games

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June 12 - Andy Hunt, the Team GB Chef de Mission and chief executive of the British Olympic Association (BOA), said today that the criteria for team selections need to be made "much clearer" and added that his organisation would launch a thorough review after the London 2012 Games aimed at making decisions more transparent.

The BOA has been embroiled in a number of contentious selection questions in recent weeks, including in fencing, where the three final team members were announced here, triathlon, where two places went controversially to athletes dedicated to assisting others towards medals, and taekwondo, where Aaron Cook is considering whether to take legal action following his controversial omission from the British team.

"I think there is a commerciality which is probably the changing nature of Olympic sport generally," said Hunt (pictured above).

"For ourselves at the BOA it's been a learning track in that we will after the Games find a bit of time looking at how we deal as much as possible with subjectivity and in exceptional cases where we do need to be exercising judgement on special cases we need to make the criteria much clearer and perhaps ranked so that other people can understand how these judgements have been made.

"I don't think anybody should have any concern about exactly how we are making these decisions."

Hunt insisted, however, that the BOA was totally satisfied that selection policy had been followed faithfully by GB Taekwondo in choosing Muhammad Lutalo rather than Cook (pictured below, left), who is ranked world number one, for the -80kg place.

"We probably spent collectively at the BOA over 200 hours on that one issue," he said.

"That's a fact.

"Two hundred hours.

"I'm confident that the end point we got to – although there were lots of people who don't necessarily like the outcome – our job was to make sure that fair process in accordance of the selection policy was totally followed.

"And I am utterly confident that is what took place.

"Hence why the nomination was ratified."

He added that he had yet to hear back from the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) about how they wish to proceed with their impending review of selection processes.

Hunt accepted that Britain's option of host nation qualification places this year had created a unique pressure on selection processes.

"With host nation places available, the selection policies are different to qualifying on merit," he said.

"So you do get more perhaps subjective judgements needing to be made as to who will put up the most credible performance or who has the most potential for 2016.

"So that's a part of it.

"There's also a massive interest in competing at a home Games.

"And the third factor is that there are more sponsors, more agents, more interested parties in supporting athletes fighting to the last moment to be named as an individual on the team.

"You are seeing a little bit of change that we will see, probably, going forwards.

"But there are very few athletes who are resorting to legal action.

"There are quite a lot who have appealed to their governing body.

"There are very few whose appeals have been upheld.

"There's obviously one case where it's spiralled into involvement with ourselves.

"Having said that, we look very, very carefully wherever there is an appeal.

"We will see the minutes, we will go through it in detail, we are looking at the selection policy to make sure it follows exactly what is set out and we are comfortable with it.

"To take the example of fencing, we are completely comfortable they followed due process and none of the appeals were upheld and therefore there was no requirement for re-selection.

"An athlete might then try and take some other action, but in every case an athlete signs up to the selection policy, and that is usually a binding process.

"I am really sympathetic to the incredible journey many athletes have made in trying to make selection.

"But to take the example of triathlon domestiques, that has always been a selection policy.

"That's what every athlete signs up to.

"This journey they were going into involved trying to be selected because they had the potential to reach the podium or they were supporting the other athletes getting there.

"Retrospectively some athletes might now say to themselves, 'I wish there was a different approach,' but that's too late.

"We have reviewed that and support what the governing body is trying to do.

"At the end of the day they will be judged by the results."

By Mike Rowbottom at the Institute of Education in London


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June 9 - British Triathlon precipitated another controversy over London 2012 selection today.

They took the calculated decision to maximise the already strong medal chances of the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan (pictured above left and right), and Helen Jenkins by filling two of their six places in the London 2012 team with riders whose duty will be to assist the podium prospects of the trio who have lodged themselves at the top of the sport in recent years.

But the decision to pick Stuart Hayes and Lucy Hall as "domestiques", along with the sixth selection, Vicky Holland, means there is no place at the Games for the likes of Will Clarke, former world champion and triple Olympian Tim Don, Liz Blatchford and Jodie Stimpson, even though they failed to reach the team on merit according to strict qualification criteria which required podium finishes in world series races.

Blatchford tweeted: "Now that it is official I can say I am devastated to have been left off the GB Olympic team" and added it was "a hard pill to swallow" and "really gutting"

Alistair (pictured), the elder of the two Brownlee brothers at 24, was world champion in 2009 and 2001 and celebrated his return to action today after an Achilles tendon tear by claiming a joint victory with his 22-year-old brother at the BlenheimTriathlon.

Jonathan finished second in the world behind Alistair last year, and has won the 2012 San Diego and Madrid races in brother's absence.

Jenkins, 28, was world champion in 2008 under old one-off format and in 2011 under new season-long format and looks a real force.

Holland, 26, is the best-performing British woman beyond Jenkins in 2012, having finished fifth in San Diego and seventh in Madrid.

The two "domestiques" are Hayes, 33, who had his one world series win in Austria two years ago and his big selling point is speed on the bike, and Hall, 20, who registered her first senior international victory in March but has barely competed at elite world level.

She is particularly swift in the swim and bike disciplines.

"The selectors made it very clear that if I was going to take this place on the team, I would be going as someone to help [Helen Jenkins (pictured)]," Hall said.

"It would be team tactics - I wouldn't be going as an individual, which I never thought I would anyway.

"I know I'm not a fast enough runner."

"It's hard, because two of those people have basically walked onto an Olympic team," said Clarke, 27, who is currently ranked 12th in world governing body the International Triathlon Union's (ITU) Olympic rankings.

Don is ranked 13th, with Hayesm who began the 2012 season injured, 46th.

"There's not really any other sport like that, where someone qualifies so easily considering what others like us have been through," added Clarke.

"We've been racing at the top level around the world for years, gaining ranking points, and they've walked onto the Olympic team.

"But I'm still good friends with Stuey [Hayes] and I wish him all the best."

Hall defended her selection, saying: "I'm a human being, I'm not a rock.

"I do have feelings.

"As an athlete I can see it from their perspective but I hope people don't see it as my fault and they realise I was selected to do a job.

"Everyone can't be happy with the decision - people are always going to be upset.

"That's how it is, that's sport.

"It's horrible to think some people don't get to fulfil their Olympic dreams - I hope they understand why I'm taking this opportunity.

"It's a home Olympics; I can't turn it down."

-Mike Rowbottom


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The fastest sprinter in the world he may be, but Usain Bolt still has to make the Jamaican team for the Olympics in London starting next month.

And it is with next week's trials in Kingston in mind that the reigning double Olympic sprint champion is tackling his 100m outing at the Diamond League meet here on Thursday.

"I can't complain. The key thing is that I'm injury free and that's always a good thing. Everything's been coming together slowly but surely. I'm happy where everything is at, I'm making progress,'' Bolt said.

The 25-year-old rebounded from a "slow'', albeit winning performance in Ostrava in 10.04sec with a blistering 9.76sec in Rome last week, blaming his performance in the Czech Republic on a lack of sleep and chilly conditions.

"I came to Europe to run these races to make sure that everything was going well and my coach could analyse my race and figure out what was going wrong to work on it and get me ready for the trials and Olympics.''

Bolt will be up against compatriot Asafa Powell, the former world record holder who has run an amazing 76 sub-10sec 100m but has lost 10 of his 11 races against the current world record holder in both the 100 and 200m.

"This race is very important because it puts you in a good state of mind,'' said Powell, making his sixth appearance at the Bislett Games.

"It makes you very comfortable with competing and going into the trials, it shows it shouldn't be a big problem to make it through.''

Bolt played down comments by American Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who has been in resurgent form after returning from a long drugs ban, that he wouldn't settle for anything less than gold come the London Games.

"Nobody wants to be second or third place. Everybody wants gold so it's what you do on the day that counts. That's what everybody wants - gold,'' said Bolt, who has won all but one of his 11 races against Powell.

"There's a lot or running left to go. I'm never worried about one direct person, it's about seven persons in the lanes beside me.

"I focus on what I do, my technique. I'm just looking forward to my trials first and then the Olympics.''

Asked which event he preferred, Bolt said: "I love my 200m and that's what I always dreamed to be, the 200m champion, because that's what I started out in.

"But the 100m is the glory event and I definitely want to double.''

Bolt also suggested that a time of sub-19sec could potentially be on the cards on a perfect day.

"You can't pinpoint the time, but over the years, me and my coach (Glen Mills) have discussed 18sec, running under 19. It's just a thought, we haven't really said it's possible that I could do it.

"If everything goes well, execution is right, you never know, it could be possible.''



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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has kicked off the process of selling United Kingdom broadcasting rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

Participants in the tender process for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 have been asked to submit bids by June 29.

The tender also provides the opportunity to bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2020 Summer Games to be staged in either Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo.

This timetable appears to leave open the possibility of negotiations between the IOC and broadcasters while London 2012 fever is at its zenith.

As such, it may be an astute commercial move by Lausanne.

Broadcasting rights to the Games constitute the Olympic Movement's biggest single source of revenue, raising close to $4 billion (£2.7 billion/€3.2 billion) in the period covering the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and London 2012.

The BBC, which has shown the Games every time they have been televised, beginning in 1948, is likely to face strong competition to hang onto the rights.

It is thought that participants in the tender could include Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB and possibly other pay-television networks.

The Olympics are among ten so-called "crown jewel" events in Britain, meaning in effect that they must be available on free-to-air television.

However, pay-television operators might decide to team up with one or another free-to-air network.

Such partnerships may be encouraged by the expectation that the list of free-to-air sports events will be reviewed in 2013, in the wake of digital switchover in the UK.

Though it is all but inconceivable that the Games would be removed from the list entirely – and the Olympic Movement is in any case wedded to the notion that all key moments of any given Games in any given country should be as widely accessible as possible – it does not seem far-fetched to imagine that the opportunity might be created for some coverage to migrate to pay-TV.

The IOC has changed the way in which its European rights are being sold in this cycle of negotiations.

Rights to 2010 and 2012 across 51 mainly European countries were sold in one fell swoop in 2004 to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The deal, which excluded Italy, was valued at $746 million (£479 million/€592 million).

This time, following a breakdown in talks in 2008 between the IOC and the EBU, rights to most European markets, including the 2014 host Russia, were sold to Sportfive for $315 million (£202 million/€250 million).

However, six major European markets – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK – were kept separate from this agreement.

Deals have now been concluded in all these markets, save the UK, raising more than $600 million (£385 million/€476 million).

At the time of the Sportfive deal, it was reported that the IOC had wanted a fee in excess of $1 billion (£642 million/€794 million) from the EBU for the 2014-2016 rights.

If it raises over $71 million (£46 million/€56 million) from the UK, it will have achieved that aim.

With rights in Spain, France, Germany and Italy all fetching substantially more than that, it looks highly likely that the IOC will reach its goal, in defiance of the economic and fiscal turmoil sweeping the continent.

-David Owen


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The backgrounds of up to 500,000 people are being scrutinised in an unprecedented security screening designed to stop the Olympic Games being disrupted by criminals or terrorists, the Guardian has learned.
In what is understood to be the biggest vetting process since the second world war, the Home Office has so far refused about 100 applications for Games accreditation, mostly because of concerns about the extent of people's criminal records.
However, some people have been denied accreditation on the advice of MI5, which has to assess whether a person might pose a significant threat to national security.
The 500,000 figure includes anyone seeking employment at the Games, as well as athletes, coaches and officials from more than 200 competing nations.
The Guardian has been told the threshold for refusing accreditation has been set high, which means some of those working at the Olympics this summer will have "come to the notice of" the police or MI5 in the past.
"To be rejected, they have to pose a significant potential threat to the safety of the Games," said a source. "They won't be rejected on the basis that information is held about them.
"A judgment has to be made, not on the basis that there is an official record, but does this person pose a significant threat to security."
Police and MI5 have been taking a careful look at all those who may end up working at the Olympic sites. It is an obvious way for would-be terrorists to gain access to venues, and police are aware that terrorists may masquerade as casual workers looking for temporary jobs.
However, those involved in the security of the Games say they have found no evidence so far that al-Qaida sympathisers have tried to infiltrate the civilian workforce.
The vetting process began in earnest last October and officials are more than two-thirds of the way through the process, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
It has been one of the core tasks of counter-terrorism officials but the scale of the operation, and the depth of the checks required, has made it a drawn-out affair.
Among those still to be vetted are many of the 10,000 security guards who will be employed by G4S, the private firm which is contributing 23,700 personnel at the Olympic venues.
A big recruitment drive was launched by G4S when the number of guards it was expected to provide grew from 2,000 to 10,000, after it emerged that the Games organisers, Locog, had seriously underestimated the number required. The 70,000 volunteers recruited by Locog, who are considered crucial to the success of the Games, are also being screened.
Home Office officials said that many of the 10,500 athletes taking part in the Games and those accompanying them were used to travelling to international events and were unlikely to pose any security problems.
There remain outstanding questions surrounding a handful of high-profile individuals, including members of the Syrian Olympic committee with close links to the Assad regime.
It is believed that discussions are continuing over whether to bar General Mofwaq Joumaa, the president of the Syrian national Olympic committee, from entering the UK.
Scotland Yard and MI5 are understood to have hundreds of investigations "live", with the Olympic security operation likely to reach a new pitch as teams arrive for training before the event.
It is understood that the security service has not set up a separate Olympic security unit, believing it would be wrong to draw a distinction between terrorism and Olympic terrorism.
The security service is said to be bracing for a possible deluge of intelligence from foreign police forces and intelligence agencies, who will not want to sit on any information just in case it reveals a potential threat to the Games. MI5 remains confident it will be able to cope, and the Home Office said it will leave nothing to chance when it comes to security.
"We are undertaking stringent checks on all those seeking accreditation," a Home Office spokesman said. "This rigorous process has been designed to ensure those working at the Games are fit to do so. We will leave nothing to chance in our aim to deliver a safe and secure Games that London, the UK and the whole world will enjoy."

-Nick Hopkins, Owen Gibson and Sandra Laville


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