News - Olympic Games

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.''



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


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


When London organised the Olympic Games for the first time in 1908 they had less than two years to get ready. So they needed a man of the calibre of Lord Coe to head the Organising Committee. They found one in William Henry Grenfell (pictured below), later Lord Desborough of Taplow.

He was a talented runner, not as brilliant as Coe, but certainly good enough to represent Oxford University over three miles in the 1876 match against Cambridge at Lillie Bridge in West London. He was elected President of the university's Athletics Club, but it was on the water that he shone as a sportsman and had the rare distinction of also being elected President of the Oxford University Boat Club. He rowed in the fabled 1877 boat race which finished as a dead heat and later crossed the Channel in an eight.

He dominated punting competitions on the Thames to the extent that the championship medal bore his likeness. The river was close to his heart and he served on the Thames Conservancy Board for over 30 years. He showed he was at home in the water too. He twice swam across the base of Niagara Falls. Legend has it he accomplished the feat a second time in a snow storm. He was asked what his wife Ethel, known to all as "Ettie", thought of his accomplishment.

"She pretended to be terribly angry with me and demanded to know why I had tried to make her a widow," he replied.

It was perhaps just as well that he had already climbed the Matterhorn by three different routes.

Like Coe, Desborough went into politics. He was appointed High Steward for the Borough of Maidenhead and served at Westminster as a Liberal MP for Salisbury. He resigned his seat in a disagreement over Gladstone's Home Rule for Ireland. Later, he returned to the house as a Tory member for South Buckinghamshire.

He served two terms as Mayor of Maidenhead. On his election some 4,000 locals turned out to greet him in what the local paper reported as: "A magnificent procession, unique in the history of Maidenhead." He wore the chain of office in 1897, the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

"No previous Mayor has been so energetic, no mayor in the history of Maidenhead had placed more dignity upon its corporation" said reports at the time.

He galvanised the locals into subscribing for a town clock. It was eventually unveiled by his wife and can still be seen today. He also put in train the provision for electric light to the town.

He lived at nearby Taplow Court which was the stage for regular intellectual gathering known as "The Souls". Among the guests was Arthur Balfour, a future Prime Minister.

When the British Olympic Association (BOA) was formed in 1905, Desborough became its first chairman. He had plenty of experience in leading sporting governing bodies to say nothing of the local clubs he supported near his home. At one time or another he was President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the Amateur Fencing Association and even the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), which was fitting as he had played at Lord's as a schoolboy with Harrow in 1873 and 1874. He was also a steward at Henley Royal Regatta (pictured above, third right) and led the Thames Conservancy Board.

He was also President of the Royal Life Saving Society and many felt he was a lifesaver for the Olympic Games. In 1906, Rome the designated host city for 1908, was forced to withdraw after the eruption of Vesuvius.

At the time, Desborough was leading a British fencing team (pictured above, second right) to the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens - a tenth anniversary celebration of the modern Olympic movement. Although already 50, he was still very competitive on the piste.

"Lord Desborough was at the top of his game with the epee" wrote his team mate, Sir Theodore Cook.

It was as well that he was at the top of his game in another matter, for while in Greece, Desborough was asked if London would be prepared to step in and organise the Games in 1908. As Desborough's party returned to England on Lord Howard de Walden's boat The Branwen, they discussed the proposition.

"His own sheer force of personality and prestige enabled Lord Desborough to carry out a task which no-one else would have attempted" wrote Cook, who was to join him on the Organising Committee of the London Games.

Desborough certainly had the ear of those who mattered in British sport and before the year was out he announced that London would stage the Games of the IV Olympiad.

"I should not have felt justified in making the announcement were it not for the fact that I have received assurances of support – and it will be no exaggeration to call it enthusiastic support – from nearly everyone of those great associations which control the various branches of sport in the United Kingdom" he wrote in November 1906.

By now an IOC (International Olympic Committee) member, he became chairman of an influential Organising Committee and negotiated a favourable deal with the organisers of the Franco Britannic Exhibition, due to take place at Shepherd's Bush in the summer of 1908. They agreed to build the Stadium (pictured above) to the specifications of, and at no cost to, the Organising Committee. This they did in return for a generous proportion of the gate receipts, but it should be said that these were a real unknown quantity. There was no great rush for tickets at the 1908 Games.

Desborough himself helped lay the first stanchion as construction of what became known as "The Great Stadium" began. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. The running track was itself surrounded by a cycling track and in the infield, there was a swimming pool.

He used his influence with the newspaper magnates of the day to encourage donations from the great and good to cover the running costs of the Games.

"We felt that in the country which may almost be called the motherland of athletics and sport, every effort should be made to make the games worthy of the occasion and of the place where they were held," he said.

He singled out the strongman and physical culture expert Eugen Sandow for special praise. He donated £1,500 to help the Games.

As a steward of Henley Royal Regatta, Desborough made sure that the timing of the Olympics did not clash. There was a sound practical reason for this. Regatta officials and equipment were needed to stage the Olympic event.

National Skating Association official and London 1908 Organising Committee member William Hayes Fisher (later as Lord Downham, a chairman of the BOA) was in no doubt about Desborough's contribution.

"To my mind he rose like a Homeric hero, much like Ajax. "

The 1908 Olympic Games began in April, but the main events were not until July and these came at the Great - and free - Stadium itself. There was a grand parade of teams, and Desborough himself invited King Edward VII to perform the opening.

A few controversies did no harm at all in the publicity stakes. When American 400 metres runner John Carpenter was disqualified for impeding British runner Wyndham Halswelle, his team mates withdrew in protest at what they saw as a blatant home town decision (race pictured above, followed by image taken after the race was stopped). A war of words followed in the press and Desborough's committee felt the need to respond to the criticism by publishing a pamphlet.

There was also a dramatic finish to the marathon. The Italian Dorando Pietri (pictured below, right) staggered into the Stadium exhausted, fell a number of times and was helped to his feet by officials. He was, of course, disqualified, but the British loved a plucky loser. The official report of the Games recalled the "The sympathy felt by every spectator" for Dorando as he "desperately fought against overwhelming physical exhaustion".

The Italian received a cup from Queen Alexandra (pictured below), joined for the presentation ceremonies by Lady Desborough. The picture of Dorando approaching the line remains one of the great images in Olympic history. Such events really put the Olympic Games on the map.

When on the last day of October, the Games finally came to an end, there was no grand Closing Ceremony, but Lord Desborough was euphoric at the farewell banquet held in Holborn.

"Whatever nationality we may belong to, we can all say tonight that both the Summer and the Autumn Games of 1908 have been a success. I will also say that we were able to extend to that great body of athletes a hospitality which will show them that we are not unmindful of the way we have been treated when we have gone abroad," he announced to a chorus of cheers from the gathering before leading the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

When finally, Desborough stood down from the IOC and as Chairman of the BOA, Baron Pierre de Coubertin wrote "I beg to convey our deepest regret and our best thanks for the great services you have rendered to the Olympic cause. It was ever so pleasant for all of us to have you attend at our annual meetings."

Within a few years, Desborough was hit by family tragedy. His sons Julian and Billy were among the millions who perished in World War One. His personal loss makes his words, written at the time of the 1908 Games, seem all the more poignant. "These young men are also representative of the generation into whose hands, the destinies of most of the nations of the world are passing at this moment, and we may hope that their meeting thus periodically, the enthusiasm which they share may have a beneficent effect hereafter on the cause of international peace."

When the time came to unveil Maidenhead's war memorial, he was the obvious choice. He had already been given the Freedom of the Borough.

His other son Ivo was killed in a motor accident in 1926.

Perhaps understandably, Desborough was less active in public life after that, but he served as President of the AAAs (Amateur Athletic Associations) in 1930, their Golden Jubilee year. At the outbreak of war he left Taplow for Hertfordshire. Though he intended to return it never came to pass. He died shortly before the end of the war. He was nearly 90-years-old.

A few months later it became clear that the Olympics would return to London in 1948, this time with another peer of the realm, Lord Burghley, in charge.

-Phillip Barker


Usain Bolt today helped Bob Marley's daughter launch Jamaica's team uniform for London 2012.

The kit, manufactured by Bolt's personal sponsor Puma, has been designed by Cedella Marley, herself a successful reggae artist who has since become a well-known fashion designer.

The designs will be worn by Jamaica's athletics team, who in Beijing four years ago finished fourth in the medals table with a total of 11 medals, including six gold, three of them won by Bolt.

"It is truly an honour to design this collection for my home country and my home team," said the 44-year-old Marley (pictured below with Bolt), who is now based in Miami.  

"It's not even a dream come true because it's something I never dreamed would be possible.

"I ran track in high school in Jamaica and I'm still a huge fan of Jamaican Athletics, so to have a role in creating the outfits for our Olympians is a thrill.

"I admire what Puma has been doing in Jamaica over the years and the Marley family has the same type of give-back philosophy.

"I think this partnership is going to be legendary."

The  collection, launched a special ceremony in London hosted by British DJ Trevor Nelson, incorporates high-tech fabrics and silhouettes engineered to enhance the performance of the athletes hailing from the fastest country in the world.

Marley took inspiration, she claimed, from the vibrant colours and patterns of the Caribbean nation as well as the African influences that have come to characterise that country.

"I can't think of a better person to design our Olympic outfits than Cedella," said Bolt, who had jetted into England from Rome, where the previous night he had won the 100 metres at the Diamond League meeting in 9.76sec, the fastest time in the world this year.

"Puma got that right...hooking up with a legendary Jamaican.

"She's a great designer but also carries on the spirit of our nation through the legacy of the Marley family.

"It's going to be inspirational to run in London with that energy surrounding me."

Puma's Olympic wear will be accompanied by a lifestyle collection of apparel, footwear and accessories which will be available at retail stores globally later this month.

Bolt s confident that the kit will be a hit with Jamaican fans.

"This [London] is the home from over the Atlantic for me," he said.

"I'm looking forward to competing.

"I know all the Jamaicans living in London are looking forward to it as well.

"I'm coming over to put on a great show as always."

-Duncan Mackay


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