By Ian Cole
Andy Hunt defended his appointment as Great Britain’s Chef de Mission for next yearâ€™s Winter Olympics when he faced questions from sports journalists at the SJAâ€™s latest working lunch in Fleet Street earlier today.
The naming of Hunt, the new chief executive of the British Olympic Association, for this important role raised eyebrows in many quarters. Despite his passion for sport, Huntâ€™s previous working experience has been entirely in the business sector.
But this was not a self-appointment â€“ as some had believed. â€œThis was the decision of the BOA executive board,â€ Hunt said. â€œThe consideration was how best to organise ourselves in the run-up to Vancouver.
â€œMy advantage is that I have no preconceived ideas of what the job entails. So I have been talking to the Chefs de Mission of other nations, some of whom see it as an honorary position.
â€œTo us, it is a leadership role. I will be, in effect, CEO of Team GB â€“ which is precisely what I am doing in my day job.â€
Hunt said that he is 151 days into that job at the BOA. There were, he said, 302 days to Vancouver and 1,376 to London.
Already he has had lengthy discussions with administrators of 27 of the 33 Olympic sports. Busy would be an understatement, but Hunt admitted: â€œNobody could have briefed me about the complexities of the job, the people I had to get round, the relationships I had to build.â€
Some of those relationships are with the four home Football Associations. Hunt supports the call for GB menâ€™s and womenâ€™s Olympic football teams in 2012.
â€œIt would be an absolute travesty if the London Games did not feature British football representation. We understand the views of the four home football nations. The next step is for the four home associations to get together and resolve their issues and I refuse to accept that they cannot reach a unified position.
â€œItâ€™s a really important issue for the whole country. Shocking if we canâ€™t sort it out.â€
Hunt was accompanied by BOA communications director Adam Parsons and Hugh Chambers, BOA chief commercial officer. Chambers shares with Hunt the responsibility for ensuring that the Team 2012 scheme, in which the BOA is working together with LOCOG and UK Sport, raises sufficient sponsorship partners to fund all Olympic sports’ preparations through to 2012.
He is aware that in the eyes of the British public, the success or otherwise of London 2012 rests with the delivery of medals. On the contentious issue of funding he revealed: â€œThere will be money going into sports that are unlikely to produce medals in 2012 but only because there is a belief they will be in a position to do so in 2016 or even 2020.â€
The lunch was notable for attracting a different type of journalistic clientele than is usual, the experts on sports politics and diarists being much in evidence.
And only once were Messrs Hunt and Chambers thrown by a question from the floor. Ashling Oâ€™Connor of The Times asked about the purpose of a Â£250,000 donation from Manchester United which featured in the BOAâ€™s accounts. Hunt admitted he was unaware of the item, but immediately made a note. You can bet he has made it his business to find out by now.
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