SJA discusses 2012 co-operation

The Sports Journalists’ Association has held its first talks with Lord Coe and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games over ways in which our organisations can work together and help one another over the course of the next five years, which are likely to be the most important in British sport.

Already planned are two special open days in 2008 exclusively for SJA members, one involving a site visit of the Olympic Park in Stratford, the other a briefing on progress from Lord Coe and other leading figures involved in organising the 2012 London Olympics.

Your SJA committee finally sat down for a meeting with Lord Coe and Jackie Brock-Doyle, the media director for the London organising committee, at the end of September for breakthrough discussions.

As well as the briefings – which we hope to be annual events through to 2012 – we will also be looking jointly to organise the AIPS Congress in London in May 2011.

Meeting at LOCOG’s Canary Wharf HQ, from the 23rd floor of Churchill Place, we could see the flattened Olympic site at Stratford in the distance.

Seb, as we prefer to address the SJA’s four-time Sportsman of the Year, gave an update on five principal areas of progress and answered some key questions frequently aired in the media and by the public.

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Everything, it seems, is on time. Three major sponsors are in place, with two more expected by Christmas and a further two before Beijing next August.

There has been much debate about the Games’ legacy and Coe is clear what he wants that to be.

“I want the child sitting in front of a screen playing Roger Federer to be out there playing on a tennis court. Through television, I want the public to be introduced to sports never before seen played in this country. I want 2012 to be a UK project, as relevant to the people of Aberdeen as to those of east London,” he said.

Coe was aware that the success of 2012 might be gauged on how many medals Britain wins, “every medal is a role model”, he said. But double Olympic gold medal-winner Coe still adheres to the de Coubertin principle of the taking part being more important than the winning, and he avoided embracing the public target of Britain finishing fourth on the 2012 medal table, saying he will be happy to see the London Games deliver some “great British moments”.

Whitewater canoe venue to be scrapped because of pollution problems

The Olympic Delivery Authority admitted today that the site for the canoe slalom events in 2012 may be moved because of contamination on the original site at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

The shift in venues will need to be approved by the International Olympic Committee and the world canoeing federation, probably at a meeting before the end of this year, and it follows negative media reports about the original whitewater canoeing venue location over access and safety issues. The ODA is looking at an alternative venue six miles south of Spitalbrook, also in the Lea Valley area, and close to Waltham Cross and Theobalds Grove stations.

The contamination found in the area of the original venue includes hydrocarbons and tar products connected with previous industrial use of the site.

David Higgins, chief executive of the ODA, said: “Although the Spitalbrook site investigations are still continuing, the initial results indicate that the cost of cleaning up the land for this venue would be prohibitive given budget and time restrictions.

“We will continue to look at the Spitalbrook site but it is prudent to develop robust contingency plans at this stage.

“Venue designs continue to be developed so that a planning application can be submitted once the site discussions are completed. We are on track to complete the venue for test events in 2011.”

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