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.”

Demand for Olympics tickets at London 2012 could easily outstrip supply with one in five adults in the UK claiming they plan to buy tickets for the Games, a new survey published today has discovered.

But while 70 per cent of people polled believe the Olympic Games will boost the UK economy, only 39 per cent believe this will outweigh the cost of hosting the spectacle.

Organisers are releasing 6.6 million tickets to spectators in Britain, with a deadline of April 26 for applications to join the ballot.

Outdoor advertising agency Kinetic Worldwide said the Games could be "massively over-subscribed", with 10 million Britons saying they plan to apply for tickets.

A further 2.2 million tickets will be available to overseas spectators and organisations sponsoring the Games.

In the capital, 36 per cent of people say they plan to buy tickets, with just 23 per cent saying tickets are too expensive.

Organisers say one quarter of tickets will cost less than £25 ($40) and 90 per cent will cost less than £100 ($161).

The best seats at the Opening Ceremony will cost £2,012 ($3,243).

More than half of Londoners say they are now excited about the Olympics, up 10 per cent since October to 51 per cent.

Across the UK 40 per cent of those surveyed said they are excited.

More than half of those planning to go to the Olympics say they are not sports fans but consider it to be a "once in a lifetime" experience.

James Copley, of Kinetic UK, said: "Our research suggests the level of anticipation and interest in attending the Games is growing and London will see a surge in visitors at the top end of expectations."

Kinetic Worldwide surveys a panel of 500 UK adults every quarter.


Members of the IOC are shown around the Athletes’ Village, where construction of the first of the 11 residential plots has been completed.Construction progress on the Athletes’ Village was praised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today as the first residential plot was completed.

The IOC’s tour of the Village was part of their biannual Coordination Commission visit, and coincided with the release of the new Olympic Park flythrough and latest aerial images.

IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald said, ‘The Olympic Village is at the very heart of the Games experience for thousands of athletes. It represents their home away from home and the place where they will prepare to achieve their Olympic dreams.

‘It is therefore encouraging to see that excellent progress has been made in constructing this accommodation, especially knowing that this Village will become a vibrant new community in legacy.

‘With its close proximity to the Olympic Park, the athletes will undoubtedly take full advantage of being able to walk to events and this will allow them to soak up the atmosphere and live their Olympic experience to the full.’

The other 10 plots of the Village remain on track to be completed by the end of the year. The Village lies adjacent to the Olympic Park and will accommodate the athletes and officials during the London 2012 Games. After the Games the Village will deliver new homes for east London. These homes will be joined by new parks, open space and new education and healthcare facilities in one of the best-connected parts of the capital.

Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) Chief Executive Dennis Hone added: ‘The IOC’s praise for the Athletes’ Village is extremely encouraging and with our first residential plot now completed, we are seeing beds for athletes and new homes for Londoners taking shape.

‘The Village will create a new neighbourhood for east London with the best of city living all in one place where essential new housing will be joined by education and healthcare facilities, new parklands, public squares and open space.

‘With construction work firmly on track, discussions to secure a long-term private investor in the Village are also making good progress with a shortlist of investors due to be selected in the coming weeks.’