News - Olympic Games


By Duncan Mackay

Minister Mark Arbib.Australia's top athletes are to receive an extra $3 million (£2 million) in funding to help them prepare for next year's Olympics in London following an announcement by Sports Minister Mark Arbib (pictured) today.

The increase takes the total funding for the Government's Direct Athlete Support scheme to $7.43 million (£4.8 million) a year and will ensure that more than 650 athletes across 30 sports will be supported.

"We think this is a fantastic result for our athletes," said Arbib.

"To put this into some sort of context, in 2005, when Direct Athlete Support first came in, it helped about 105 of our athletes, now it will support 665 athletes.

"It is something we are very proud of and will go a long way to assisting our athletes on their way to London and other World Championship events.

"We know international sport is only getting tougher, and what we are seeing when we travel overseas is other countries are investing more and more in their teams and also their training facilities and sports science.

"There is no doubt about it, world class sport is becoming more and more competitive and the Australian government wants to ensure our athletes are the best prepared."

In last year's budget, the Government announced spending of $324.8 million (£210.2 million) over four years - including $195.2 million(£126.3 million) in new funding - of which $237 million (£153 million) was for elite sports.

Athletes who are ranked in the top four in the world in their sport receive $13,000-$21,000 (£8,500-£13,500) a year, while those in the top 10 get $10,000 (£6,500) per annum.

"Obviously in the last couple of years the competition from our overseas competitors has become much more so we need to make sure that they get the same access that our other Olympians get and that's happened, so that's a good thing," said Arbib.


By Duncan Mackay at SportAccord in London

Crystal Palace National Park, London.Brazil is to use the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre as its training base for the London 2012 Games, it has been announced.

More than 200 Brazilian competitors are expected to use the South London facility before and during the Games under an agreement signed by Carlos Nuzman, President of both the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and Crystal Palace operators GLL Sport Foundation.

"Signing this historic agreement is a major step in the preparation plans for Team Brazil in 2012, while also laying the foundations for Brazil's planning for the 2016 Games," said Nuzman, who signed the official agreement during SportAccord here.

"We are confident that Crystal Palace National Sports Centre will offer the best possible training and preparation environment for our athletes, enabling them to achieve the best possible sporting results.

"In addition, the sports centre will house all members of the Brazilian delegation not accredited to the Olympic Village such as doctors, assistant coaches and physiotherapists - forming the headquarters for Brazil during the London Games."

The agreement to establish a 2012 HQ next summer will be the first time this style of preparation base has used by Brazil, who are hoping for a good performance to help set them up for Rio 2016.

A full range of Olympic athletes and technical staff will be hosted at the Centre, including volleyball, beach volleyball, handball, basketball, taekwondo, boxing, athletics, swimming and diving.

Brazil sent a team of 277 competitors to Beijing, who competed in 24 sports.

They finished 23rd in the overall medals table with 15 medals, including three gold.

The National Sports Centre is currently the subject of interest from the local Championship club, Crystal Palace, who want it as a replacement for their current stadium at Selhurst Park.

But local officials are delighted that the deal with Brazil means that they will have some involvement in London 2012.

"This is great news for London," said London Development Agency chief executive Peter Rogers.

"By coming to Crystal Palace, Brazil's Olympians will enjoy some of the best sporting facilities in Britain as they prepare for London 2012.

"The London Development Agency has invested over £17 million ($28 million) bringing the National Sports Centre up to modern international standards.

"This investment is now being enjoyed by world class athletes and the local community alike."

Further preparation camps are also already being planned between GLL and the Brazilian Olympic Committee for 2011 and beyond 2012.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to embrace the Olympic message in the local community as well as to forge international links with the host nation for 2016," said Peter Bundey, the GLL director.

"We are confident that Crystal Palace will deliver the ideal base for Brazil's top class athletes."

By Duncan Bech, PA

The inclusions of players like Chris Ashton (right) could raise the profile of the sport. zimbio.comThe International Rugby Board are content for the sport's Olympics debut to be contested by sevens specialists rather than household names.

Crossover between the sevens circuit and full Test rugby is non-existent now due to the demands of both formats of the game.

The presence of global stars such as England's Chris Ashton over little-known players on the sevens circuit would give the sport a far bigger profile at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Mike Miller, the IRB's chief executive, accepts coaches will face difficult decisions over selection but insists sevens will be a success at the Olympics with or without star names.

"It would be very difficult for teams to pick their better-known players," said Miller.

"You'll have people who play sevens on a regular basis in the world series. They are professional sevens players.

"If you have a good team, a settled team that knows each other, but the XV guys suddenly think 'there's an Olympic medal available here, we want this', the coach has a decision to make.

"Does he break up the team and bring someone in who may disrupt things, thinking 'he's a big name, can I turn him down'?

"It's very difficult and I wouldn't like to be a sevens coach, especially in the year before the Olympics.

"We understand that the appeal of the players is important, but if you're a coach you don't give a damn about appeal. All you care about is keeping your job.

"We need to build up stars in sevens, which we will do over the next couple of years.

"We will not tell teams who to pick, it's up to them to decide.

"The fans who are new to rugby aren't going to know who Dan Carter or anyone else is anyway. Instead, they'll watch the sport and judge it by itself.

"People in the traditional countries, who love the sport, will watch it anyway. I don't think it's that important.

"Our issue is not whether the big names want to do it, but are they worth a place?"

Miller believes there is little chance of sevens emulating the success of Twenty20 cricket by encroaching into the popularity of 15-a-side rugby.

"They are totally different games. In terms of 15s we already have a sport that is modern-era friendly," he said.

"It's good for television and only takes a couple of hours to play.

"If you're comparing something that takes five days to something that takes just several hours, that's a huge change.

"The difference between sevens and 15s in that way, for TV, sponsors and fans, is nothing like the massive change that there is in cricket.

"Our view is that rugby will grow, whether it's sevens, 15s, beach, tag or touch - if we get a ball in people's hands and see it on TV."

Miller's optimism over the growth of rugby comes on the day that the IRB announced the findings of a major report that showed a 19% increase in global participation since the 2007 World Cup.

In Africa and South America significant increases of 33% and 22% respectively have occurred.

While participation figures are highest in Europe, non-traditional playing nations in Eastern Europe have also emerged, contributing to the 22% increase seen across the continent as a whole.

Sevens' inclusion in the Olympic Games, event hosting strategies and IRB programmes and investment are given as the reasons for the increase.


By Gareth A Davies, Boxing Correspondent

Rob MccrackenGreat Britain's boxing set-up for the London 2012 Olympics has delivered the devastating news that Rob McCracken, head coach and performance director, has had his licence revoked with immediate effect by the amateur code's world governing body, AIBA.

AIBA have told McCracken, who has been in the job since November 2009, that due to his professional links with Carl Froch, the World Boxing Council super-middleweight champion, he will no longer be able to take part in AIBA-sanctioned events.

Those include Olympic qualifying events, the World Championships and the Olympics themselves in London next year.

In spite of McCracken having been in situ as GB amateur head for 16 months, AIBA claimed yesterday they have only recently been made aware of the link. GB officials are claiming that the rule was created on March 24 this year, but AIBA insisted yesterday the rule has been in place for some time.

AIBA claimed they had invoked a constitutional rule but later contradicted themselves when a spokesman for the organisation admitted that the rule change had been made last month.

It means that McCracken will be barred until he surrenders his professional coaching licence, plus a six-month ‘cooling off’ period before he can reapply to be reinstated. However, the rule change by AIBA just over a year from an Olympic Games seems illogical.

AIBA have invoked a constitutional rule, meaning that McCracken will be barred until he surrenders his professional coaching licence, plus a six month ‘cooling off’ period.

To requalify, McCracken would have to reapply for an amateur licence through AIBA. Regardless of McCracken’s decision, the time lag would mean his missing the World Amateur Championships, which double as the first Olympic qualifier, in Baku in September this year.

McCracken was not available for comment but a British Amateur Boxing Association official said: "We are very concerned by this development. It could have a serious impact on our boxer's prospects at the world championships later this year and the Olympics in 2012."

AIBA claim the rule is nothing new and that had Paul King, the former chief executive of the Amateur Boxing Association of England declared McCracken's professional links, his amateur licence would have been rejected.

As revealed last month, King has been at loggerheads with AIBA following an aborted attempt last year to replace powerful AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu, from Taiwan, who is also an IOC member.

Wu had threatened last month to ban English boxers from amateur events due to an ongoing disciplinary hearing against King.

An AIBA spokesman claimed yesterday: "It is the case that we did not know that McCracken was coaching a professional boxer until it was brought to our attention at the end of last year.

"We have 195 member federations and it is very difficult for us to have close control over all of them. It's a full-time job keeping lots of people in line with the rules and lots of people need to bring things to our attention."


David Bedford

London 2012’s Olympic marathon chief David Bedford has stepped down after expressing his “frustratio

n” with organisers of the Games, it has been revealed.

The former distance runner, who is also race director of the London Marathon, was marathon manager for the 2012 event, but it emerged on Monday that he quit in February.

Bedford told the London Evening Standard: “I quit my role; I resigned. We (London Marathon) are a professional business run by professionals and it was very difficult to work for another organisation who in the main have never organised an event of their own.”

London Marathon chief executive Nick Bitel said Bedford's decision was “personal” and the organisation would continue to work with Games organisers on the marathons and race walk events.

“David has decided not to work on the Olympic events any more,” Bitel told the Press Association. “That's his p

ersonal choice and I very much regret his decision. The decision was due to his frustration with LOCOG's (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) approach to event management.”

Bitel, who would not expand on what had caused Bedford’s frustration, added: “He has incredible knowledge and experience so we regret the fact he's not working on the events, but we are continuing to work closely and harmoniously with LOCOG and we are confident that they will be great events.”

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