cricket
The proverbial bad penny 
As PCB supremo, Zaka Ashraf has set himself a lot of big targets. But can he deliver with a team of mostly inept officials?
By Khalid Hussain  
Till a few weeks back, Pakistan’s cricket authorities seemed to be in a hurry to launch their own version of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Headed by Zaka Ashraf, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had even announced it intentions to stage the inaugural Twenty20 league in October this year. Thankfully, they have decided to delay all such plans acknowledging the fact that there wasn’t ample time to host a successful tournament.  
However, the problem with PCB is that time, or perhaps the lack of it, is not the only handicap confronting it. Even worse is the proverbial bad penny that keeps on haunting it — official incompetence.  

What’s wrong with the Windies! 
By Mushfiq Ahmad  
We had been expecting the West Indians to put up a better show in England. They had some good sessions in both the Tests at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, but failed to be resilient when it mattered the most.  

Lights, camera, action!
By Bilal Hussain  
Tennis balls and electrical tape. For many a cricketer in Pakistan and several other parts of the world, it’s a match made in heaven. Over the years, tape-ball cricket has become one of the most popular forms of sport in Pakistan, India and many other countries.  

New man at the Kop
By Zain Qureshi  
A fortnight after removing ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish from his position as club manager, the Fenway Sports Group, owners of Liverpool FC, have decided to bring in former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers for the role.  
It is worth noting that, apart from his time at Swansea, Rodgers, aged 39, has not had experience, as a player or as a manager, in the top tier of football. That said, he was brought into the Chelsea backroom staff by Jose Mourinho, after having spent time at Barcelona, Valencia, Ajax and Twente in a similar capacity since injury forced him to retire from football when he was 20. From a tactical point of view, Rodgers’ style of football is a long way away from Liverpool’s more direct system of play, as embodied by the forward runs of Steven Gerrard and the mazy nutmeg-laden dribbles of Luis Suarez. Rodgers’ Swansea team was thoroughly organised, and relied on possession as a means to dominate the game and wear out opponents. Indeed, this is what Liverpool themselves were subjected to when Swansea came visiting in the last game of the season.  

Leagues end, Euro Cup begins 
By Darman Khan
Football never really goes away, does it? At least, not for me and fervent football lovers for whom football is like oxygen. It keeps tossing around the mind of those who possess a deep, intense passion for it. 
The exciting league campaigns of season 2011-12 have reached their end, but thanks to Euro 2012 there will be no dearth of action for us to watch in our school and college vacations.  After a four-year wait it’s back again for the 14th time as a Championship organised by UEFA for the national teams of Europe. 

Power politics and Olympics-I
By Aamir Bilal
As the cricketing world gears up for the forthcoming T20 World cup in Sri Lanka, the other sport-loving part of the globe anxiously waits for the London Olympics 2012. 
USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Australia, East Germany and China will fight for the top honours in this epitome of global competitive sports. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cricket
The proverbial bad penny 
As PCB supremo, Zaka Ashraf has set himself a lot of big targets. But can he deliver with a team of mostly inept officials?
By Khalid Hussain

Till a few weeks back, Pakistan’s cricket authorities seemed to be in a hurry to launch their own version of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Headed by Zaka Ashraf, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had even announced it intentions to stage the inaugural Twenty20 league in October this year. Thankfully, they have decided to delay all such plans acknowledging the fact that there wasn’t ample time to host a successful tournament.

However, the problem with PCB is that time, or perhaps the lack of it, is not the only handicap confronting it. Even worse is the proverbial bad penny that keeps on haunting it — official incompetence.

Over the years, PCB chiefs have planned big but have almost always fallen way short of achieving their targets. And almost always the prime reason behind their failures was the largely incompetent team that they either inherited or opted to build around them.

Zaka Ashraf, unfortunately, is no exception. As PCB chairman, he has lofty ambitions. He wants to bring international cricket back to Pakistan. He wants to revive bilateral cricketing ties with India besides delivering a successful Twenty20 league.

These are not impossible goals. In the best of times and with a professional team to handle the various projects, Pakistan’s cricket authorities could have achieved all of these targets. But these are hardly the best of times. And about the team of people currently running PCB, the less said, the better.

Let’s just discuss PCB’s plans of launching its own Twenty20 league. The idea isn’t a new one as soon after India staged the inaugural IPL with a bang five years ago PCB has been fancying its chances of playing host to a similar event in Pakistan.

Nasim Ashraf was still weighing the pros and cons of launching the so-called Pakistan Premier League when Musharaf’s departure ended his stint as PCB chairman. Ijaz Butt initially shelved the idea after taking over as PCB boss but later ordered Board officials to work on it before his request for an extension was denied by President Zardari last year.

The ball is now in Zaka Ashraf’s court. He was recently in Chennai as BCCI’s guest to watch IPL 5’s grand finale and was bowled over by all the glitz and glamour. Before that he saw Bangladesh launching its premier Twenty20 league. Australia has its vastly-successful Big Bash while England runs a pro-t20 event. Sri Lanka will be launching its T20 spectacle soon.

Almost all leading cricket-playing nations have their own premier Twenty20 leagues and most of them attract top stars from around the world.

It seems quite logical that as a full-member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Pakistan should also join the bandwagon and look for its share of the Twenty20 spoils.

But the problem with Pakistan is that odds are stacked heavily against them. To even come close to IPL in terms of popularity and profits, Pakistan’s league will have to attract crowd-pulling stars. But in the current situation which has kept international sports persons away from Pakistan, that’s unlikely to happen.

That’s not the only hurdle. What about the finances?

Let’s be honest. Pakistan is no India where business has been mostly booming. There are more billion-dollar companies across the border than there are billion-rupee groups here.

Even if, somehow, PCB manages to convince foreign stars to come and play here it remains to be seen whether it will be able to afford them. In the last five years, IPL has really raised the bar when it comes to paying the cricketers. IPL stars like MS Dhoni and Kevin Pietersen can now compare their salaries with club footballers in Europe.

To cut the story short, a Twenty20 league matching international standards will require millions of dollars in running costs. Does the PCB have the sort of financial wizards, who can pull it off? Judging by the Board’s past performances, I’m not betting on it.

Another factor that played a huge role in IPL’s success was Bollywood. Mega stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Priety Zinta threw their weight behind the Twenty20 league adding big dozes of glamour to the cash-rich project. Can the so-called Lollywood play a similar role for our Twenty20 league? I don’t think so.

These hurdles are just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure Ashraf is well aware of it. But he remains upbeat that the PCB can do it. Maybe he has a few aces up his sleeves.

To the naked eye, however, it’s quite obvious that as far as its team is concerned, fate has dealt PCB a cruel hand. Can the likes of Subhan Ahmed, Intikhab Alam or Zakir Khan deliver a successful Twenty20 league? Do they have the competence and the creativity to mastermind an innovative and financially successful event as promised by the PCB chairman? Maybe they can. But I still fear that with its current bunch of officials, PCB in its attempt to launch a Twenty20 spectacle will be trying to bite off more than it can chew.

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi

[email protected]

caption1

GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: Shoaib Malik dances with his wife, the Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan at an IPL event

caption2

PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf (right) with ICC’s Haroon Lorgat and Sharad Pawar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s wrong with the Windies! 
By Mushfiq Ahmad

We had been expecting the West Indians to put up a better show in England. They had some good sessions in both the Tests at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, but failed to be resilient when it mattered the most.

They put up a decent total of 243 in the first inning of the first Test with Shivnarine Chanderpaul scoring 87. But their bowlers failed to prevent the English from getting a big lead of 155. Then their batsmen did a better job in the second innings, producing 345 runs. Once again Chanderpaul was the main contributor with 91 runs. But because of the first innings lead the English had they needed only 191 runs to win which they got after once being 57 for 4. Roach threatened them by taking three early wickets, but he was helped little by his fellow bowlers.

Their start in the second Test was not encouraging either as they lost six batsmen for 136 runs. But Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, the skipper, gave them hopes with centuries as they took the team to 340 where Sammy departed. One run later Samuels followed and West Indies finally perished for 370 — a first innings total which could have been used to build up a victory. But a triumph for them was not to be.

Their bowlers once again failed to prevent English batsmen from getting a lead despite fall of wickets at regular intervals. The English had only one big partnership — between skipper Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen. Even then they managed a 58 run lead thanks to impressive contributions from the tail. The most terrible thing in this innings was that the West Indians gave away 41 extra runs. It was the third highest score of the English innings. They gave away nine byes, 10 leg-byes, four wides and as many as 18 no-balls. If not for these extras, the English lead would have been negligible.

And then they produced the worst batting performance of the two Tests by crumbling at a paltry total of 165 in their second innings. This gave the hosts a small target of 108, which they went past losing only one wicket.

Looking at these performances, one can easily reach the conclusion that they are failing to win — or even draw — Test matches because of a sheer lack of consistency in their batting and deficiency of firepower in the bowling department.

In the two Tests, only three batsmen have scored runs: Chanderpaul, Samuels and Sammy. A team can’t win Tests with contributions from just three batsmen — especially when the three do not often perform well at the same time. In the first Test, Chanderpaul did well, but others let him down. In the second, Sammy and Samuels rose, but Chanderpaul fell. Had these three performed at the same time, they could have at least secured draws.

Interestingly, there is only one England batsman in the top four run-getters in the series so far: Strauss. But they have won because of decent contributions from Cook, Bell, Pietersen and Trott. All of these four have scored at least one half century and contributed with scores in 30s and 40s on other occasions.

On the other hand, Darren Bravo, Keiron Powell and Dinesh Ramdin and Adrian Barath have all failed miserably. Not even a single fifty from these four in four innings.

On the bowling side, they have been relying on Roach to get wickets. Sammy provides a helping hand. But no other bowler has been impressive enough. A team must have at least two bowlers with ability to take five wickets in an innings. Like Ambrose and Walsh, Wasim and Waqar, McGrath and Warne. Other West Indian bowlers will have to raise their game. Roach cannot get 15 wickets in a match. Now that he is injured and out of the side, others must put in much greater effort. With Roach in the side, they have been losing by wickets. With Roach out, they might lose by an innings if the others failed to improve.

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Lights, camera, action!
By Bilal Hussain

Tennis balls and electrical tape. For many a cricketer in Pakistan and several other parts of the world, it’s a match made in heaven. Over the years, tape-ball cricket has become one of the most popular forms of sport in Pakistan, India and many other countries.

In Pakistan, this version of street cricket caught on back in the eighties and has since then made a major impact on the sport. Many of the leading national players made their bones playing tape-ball cricket on the streets. Shoaib Akhtar, once the world’s fastest bowler, learnt his cricket hurling lightning deliveries with a tennis ball. It was because of his days as a tape-ball cricketer that helped Shahid Afridi sharpen his pinch-hitting style that has helped him become one of the most popular stars in the cricket world.

In recent years, tournaments played with tape-ball have mushroomed all over Pakistan with hundreds of thousands of players taking part in them especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

It was because of tape-ball cricket’s rich history that I decided to follow a few such tournaments and the one that caught my eye was the inaugural TPL Big Bash tournament that is under progress here at the Moin Khan Academy in DHA.

I was there for the semifinals and was pleasantly surprised to see players turn up in smart kits almost like the ones they use for tournaments like the IPL. The floodlights at the ground were dazzling and the lush green field provided an ideal setting for the six matches that were played during the night in front of hundreds of spectators. Photographers were busy taking pictures and one could even see a camera crew recording the action.

I later caught up with Saad Nissar, CEO of TPL Direct Insurance — the event’s sponsors and hosts — to get to know the reasons why his company decided to spend hundreds of thousands of rupees on the event. Here are the excerpts of the interview.

TNS: What were the reasons that prompted you to host a tape-ball cricket tournament?

SN: TPL Holdings has a tradition of hosting big events. In the past we have hosted carnivals, stage plays, trips, movies etc. We have even hosted hard-ball cricket tournaments. However, in those tournaments not all could participate, whereas tape-ball cricket is one which can be played by one and all. The idea is to promote one big happy family. We are providing complete family enjoyment with this competition. Cricket has always been the thing which tends to unite us Pakistanis and this also signifies the union of us all.

TNS: How popular do you think is tape-ball cricket in Karachi and rest of Pakistan?

SN: Tape-ball cricket is perhaps the most popular pastime of many in Pakistan. Anyone can be the hero of their team. We have all seen street cricket with tape balls and still see it. As earlier mentioned, cricket is one game our entire country is passionate about and the most happening mode of practicing this passion is tape-ball cricket.

TNS: What sort of response have you received for the inaugural TPL Big Bash?

SN: The response is simply tremendous. This inaugural tournament comprises 16 teams belonging to Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, banks and telecom companies and we are still getting calls and letters of companies who want to be a part of this. Next year, Insha Allah, we plan to host an even bigger tournament with 32 teams. TPL Big Bash will definitely be a known brand in the coming years.

TNS: Do you think tape-ball cricket has a bright future in Pakistan?

SN: Do you think that the passion for cricket will fade away? Cricket in this country is perhaps the only thing with which each and every national relates to and tape-ball cricket which is played by everyone. I haven’t met a single person who has never played tape-ball cricket. The game is not going away and recently we saw a local tape-ball tournament covered by sports channels. So yes, I see a bright future.

TNS: Will you want to host and sponsor tape-ball events on a regular basis?

SN: Yes most definitely. TPL Big Bash will be an annual cricket tournament and Insha Allah will be a well known brand.

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caption

Forget Tests, ODIs or T20s. If you consider the number of active players involved then Pakistan’s most favourite pastime is tape-ball cricket!

 

 

 

New man at the Kop
By Zain Qureshi

A fortnight after removing ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish from his position as club manager, the Fenway Sports Group, owners of Liverpool FC, have decided to bring in former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers for the role.

It is worth noting that, apart from his time at Swansea, Rodgers, aged 39, has not had experience, as a player or as a manager, in the top tier of football. That said, he was brought into the Chelsea backroom staff by Jose Mourinho, after having spent time at Barcelona, Valencia, Ajax and Twente in a similar capacity since injury forced him to retire from football when he was 20. From a tactical point of view, Rodgers’ style of football is a long way away from Liverpool’s more direct system of play, as embodied by the forward runs of Steven Gerrard and the mazy nutmeg-laden dribbles of Luis Suarez. Rodgers’ Swansea team was thoroughly organised, and relied on possession as a means to dominate the game and wear out opponents. Indeed, this is what Liverpool themselves were subjected to when Swansea came visiting in the last game of the season.

There are two things that will factor heavily in determining if Rodgers can be a success at Liverpool or not. The first of these is whether he will be able to rise to the ‘big club’  mentality that rightly pervades the Anfield atmosphere. This brings with it more media attention, the egos of iconic players and decidedly less patience from club owners. A recent example of failing to handle this myriad of challenges is Andre Villas Boas who, despite managing tremendous success at Porto, could not replicate the same at Chelsea. And this leads us to the next crucial factor; strategy. Villas Boas lost the Chelsea dressing room because the squad were not willing (regardless of whether they were able) to move from their tried and tested systems to the manager’s style of play. The young Portuguese could not stamp his authority on a squad replete with big egos and thus could not get them to perform how he wanted.

Likewise, Rodgers too was cocooned at Swansea, where he was part of a system that had been put in place by Paulo Sousa and Roberto Martinez, who managed the club before him. The core of Rodgers’ team had been with the club for a number of years, and the pass-and-move ethos had been ingrained into them. At Liverpool, Rodgers will have to start from scratch in that he will have to manage a transition from a very direct style of play, focused on two or three players who ‘make things happen’, to an indirect system where the team moves backwards and forwards as a cohesive unit. Using the Swansea side as a template, we can quickly assess the capabilities of the Liverpool squad to suit the kind of passing possession Rodgers espouses.

The system requires a keeper who is good with his feet and has the speed and courage to run forward from his line both to collect the ball from opposition crosses or team passes, and to distribute it efficiently. Reina has the skills to do this, and as a product of the Barcelona youth system, will fit into this role nicely. At the centre, a combination of vision and aggression is needed. The vision and technical ability can be found in either of Agger or Coates, while Carragher and Skrtel are in the mould of defenders with a strong physical presence who can tackle hard. The technical centre back here will be needed to play the ball out of defence and into the midfield. In front of the centre backs will be a holding midfielder whose job is to act as a shield and as the starting point for the attack. This role has Lucas written all over it. With these three roles in the centre, the full backs are given license to play higher up the pitch. On the right, there is a wealth of options in Johnson, Kelly and Flanagan, while on the left, Enrique is the first choice with no real second option, though Johnson may swap flanks if needed.

Two central midfielders are needed to serve two purposes; one is meant to keep possession ticking over while the other has license to run forward and link up with the front line. In Liverpool’s context, Adam or Henderson can be used to maintain possession while Gerrard is the most capable going forward. A natural consequence of this setup is that the passing/possession midfielder may sit deeper, bringing him closer to the holding midfielder. Again, in Liverpool’s context, this is workable, and may be more desirable if Lucas is unavailable and Spearing plays instead.

The latter is markedly more comfortable in a two-man defensive midfield setup. Beyond the midfield, the wingers are expected to be able to cut in and make angular runs behind the defence. This is because natural width will become the responsibility of the wing backs. Suarez will be the standout performer in this role, able to make mayhem when coming in off the wings. Bellamy and Downing ought to be able to do this, but Kuyt less so. The Dutchman would be more suited to the central role this formation demands. In order to spearhead this kind of attack, the centre forward needs to be good with his feet and able to hold up and spread play, all the time exhibiting energy in harassing the opposition defenders. His will be the first job in pressing to regain possession. Carrollís energy and enthusiasm grew towards the end of the season, but while he may be able to compete with Kuyt in terms of ability on the deck and especially in the air, he does not come close the kind of work ethic that has endeared Kuyt to the Liverpool faithful.

So there you have it. Rodgers will be bringing some of his backroom staff from Swansea to Liverpool, and if given the time and resources to mould the squad, the appointment of this young, energetic and visionary manager may be the best thing to happen to Liverpool in a long while. The squad does not lack the capability to adapt, but it will need patience from the players, fans and especially the owners, who will have to stick to their promise of planning for the long term, and planning from the academy roots all the way to the first team, a la Barcelona and La Masia.

The writer can be reached at twitter @zainhqureshi

caption

Swansea's manager Brendan Rodgers poses with the trophy after their English Championship play-off final victory over Reading at Wembley Stadium in London on May 30, 2011 —Reuters

 

 

Leagues end, Euro Cup begins 
By Darman Khan

Football never really goes away, does it? At least, not for me and fervent football lovers for whom football is like oxygen. It keeps tossing around the mind of those who possess a deep, intense passion for it.

The exciting league campaigns of season 2011-12 have reached their end, but thanks to Euro 2012 there will be no dearth of action for us to watch in our school and college vacations.  After a four-year wait it’s back again for the 14th time as a Championship organised by UEFA for the national teams of Europe.

It will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine, begin on June 8 and end on July 1.

Sixteen nations will fight for the title of ‘the European Champions’ and the elegant ‘Henri Delaunay’ trophy, named after UEFA’s first General Secretary who came up with the idea of this tournament.

The teams are divided in four groups. Group A has the co-host Poland with Greece, Russia and Czech Republc. Group B, being referred to as the ‘group of death’ carries World Cup runner-ups Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and Germany.

In the Group C are the defending champions Spain with Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia. The other co-host Ukraine is in Group D with England, Sweden and France.

Top two teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals. The final will be played at the Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine. The official match ball for UEFA Euro 2012 is the Adidas Tango 12, designed to be easier to dribble and control than the World Cup 2010 ball Adidas Jabulani.

Slavek and Slavko are the official mascots designed by Warner bros representing Polish and Ukrainian footballers.

The full name for Euro Cup is the ‘UEFA European Football Championship’ held every four years since 1960. All the teams other than the host nations who qualify automatically compete in a qualifying round and sixteen enter the final tournament.

The 13 Euro titles have been won by nine different teams. The Germans have been the most successful with three trophies from six finals. France and Spain are the next with two titles each. Other winners have been Italy, Czechoslovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and the Soviet Union.

The last Euro Cup co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria in 2008 was won by Spain. Frenchman Michel Platini is the overall top goal scorer of the tournament up till now. His record of nine goals in the Euro Cup of 1984 is still waiting to be broken.

The next Euro Cup ‘The Euro 2016’ is decided to be hosted by France. It’s going to be the first Euro Cup in which 24 teams will compete.

Thinking of the European Champions, the first potential winners that come to one’s mind are the Spaniards as Spain can be called the ‘Brazil of Europe’ nowadays. Spain’s dominance of the football world is almost unchallengeable as they currently possess the FIFA World Cup; Barcelona have their hands on the FIFA Club World Cup; and Atletico Madrid own the Europa league trophy.

As a result, all eyes will be fixed eagerly on Spain for the answer of the question: Will they be able to defend their title? What makes their task difficult is the absence of their main striker David Villa, who has lost the race to be fit for the competition. Villa has been injured for a long time and remained out of the Barcelona squad for nearly the whole season.

Another bolt from the blue to the Spanish side is the absence of Barcelona captain and a remarkable defender Carlos Puyol who was on the verge of playing his 100th game with Spain but has had a knee problem, which is unlikely to go away in time for the Euro Cup.

Athletic Bilbao’s striker Fernando Llorente’s chance for being in the playing eleven is unlikely and Fernando Torres has been an over all flop, guiding the ball into the net only seven times in his Chelsea career.

Even though Torres is a big name among great footballers but he hasn’t proved to be really useful throughout the past years as he was in his good old days.

Roberto Soldado could be the perfect option for Del Bosque after scoring 27 times for Valencia this season.

In spite of Torres’ failure to convince his viewers with his recent appearances for Chelsea, the absence of Villa and lack of strikers could prove to be his way into the playing field.

If not Spain, then who? This one can be answered assuredly. The Germans have a strong chance of becoming the European champions for the fourth time. They are placed in the ‘group of death’, but they are capable of routing tough opponents with strong, talented, experienced and in-form players from German club Bayern Munich, the runner-ups of this season’s Champions League: Lahm the skipper, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Gomez, Badstuber, Boateng and goalkeeper Neuer. Real Madrid’s in-form mid-fielder Mesut Ozil, Khedira and Arsenal’s new man Lukas Podolski boost the lusty German side.

Although England are not expected to be too much trouble for either Spain or Germany they will still not be a ‘no sweat’ opponent with well-known players like Cole, Johnson, Terry, Gerrard, Lampard, Young, Carroll and Rooney.

For the Dutch side, Robben and Van Persie are expected to give some match-winning performances.

Improvement is expected from the Italian, the French and the Portuguese sides.

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Power politics and Olympics-I
By Aamir Bilal

As the cricketing world gears up for the forthcoming T20 World cup in Sri Lanka, the other sport-loving part of the globe anxiously waits for the London Olympics 2012.

USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Australia, East Germany and China will fight for the top honours in this epitome of global competitive sports.

The modern Olympic Games are the brainchild of a French nobleman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The idea originated from the sense of ‘National Shame’ he developed after France’s ignominious defeat in its war with Prussia in 1871.

He considered physical education as a means of restoring the vigour of the French youth. Eventually, as his vision grew, he recognised the possibility of organising an international competition. He then directed the establishment and early development of the modern Olympics.

From the very start, Coubertin had no illusions about the political realities involved in his project as political intrigues, antagonisms and conflicts abounded. He had to persuade officials in different sports to work together for a multisport festival. Then he had to bring athletes of different countries together. He had particular trouble persuading the French and the Germans to compete against each other.

When the games became more established, more national rivalries arose, as between the English and the Americans.

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought a sudden end to the Olympics. When the Games resumed in 1920, Coubertin came forth with new rituals and symbols, most notably a new Olympic flag, displaying the five interlocking rings.

The next twelve years — from 1920 to 1932 — are known as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Games.

The Olympic Movement, as many like to call it, expanded to Latin America and Asia.

The Los Angeles Games of 1932 appeared as the epitome of sport competition during the era of great depression, as an escape from the dismal realities of life and perhaps as an expression of hope for better times.

In 1936, the Nazi regime in Germany, which was challenging the world order with both its domestic and foreign policies, used the Berlin games as evidence the world appreciated the accomplishments of this new order.

Most sport historians agree that Berlin Games constituted a milestone in Olympic history, but they do not necessarily agree as to why and how.

After controlling the development of Olympics over their first quarter of a century, Coubertin had withdrawn from the IOC leadership in 1925, but had left behind an institutional apparatus that could succeed him and perpetuate the Games.

When he died in 1937, the Olympics had become a grand spectacle supported by ambitious hosts who often had motives other than the sheer joy of sports.

The organisation of the Games requires elaborate preparation and painstaking execution, and a complicated network of institutions provides the basic framework. The structure is replete with acronyms such as IOC, IF, NOC and IAAF.

In order to understand this complex structure we have to know the summit known as International Olympic Committee (IOC). The OIC is a private international organisation which is responsible to no one but themselves. Lord Killanin, a former IOC President, called its members the ‘custodians of a trust’ established by Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

The IOC proudly advertises itself a self selecting, self perpetuating body and Killanin has called it the ‘most exclusive  club’ in the world in which membership is by invitation and not by the appointment of any head of state.

Coubertin himself organised the first IOC meeting in 1894, designating its members as ‘ambassadors’ of the IOC to their respective countries or regions rather than as representatives of those regions in the IOC.

He chased men of exceptional intelligence, substantial means, sport know how and influence whom he knew and trusted personally. He claimed his choices represented ‘sports geography’ rather than ‘political geography’.

The committee’s practices have undergone considerable modification since the World War II. With the inclusion of Soviet Union and the Third World countries, the committee came to tolerate a much more active role on the part of governments.

The fundamental task of IOC is to supervise the regular celebration of the Olympic Games, and towards that end, it speaks of promoting the ‘development of those physical and moral qualities which are the basis of sport’.

Centered in Lausanne, Switzerland, it now finances itself mainly through revenue streams generated through sale of television rights and its own marketing programmes.

Since OIC usually meets once a year, its Executive Board handles business and makes recommendations in the interim. The most important post in the IOC is that of President elected by the committee for an eight-year term with the possibility of re-election. The current President is Jacques Rogge from Belgium whose term will expire in 2013.

The IOC itself does not organise the Olympics in various sports disciplines; instead, it works with two basic networks: the International Sports Federation (IFS) and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs). The IOC decides which sport is to be admitted to the Games, and it may set limits for the number of medals to be awarded in any sport.

The IFS stages the competitions for which NOCs provide the athletes.

With the Soviet entry into Olympic family in 1951, the IOC became a cold war arena in which the superpowers competed directly. The committee leaders continued to insist politics had no place in the Olympic Games, but soviet representatives looked at the question differently. They saw the 1952 Helsinki games as a great political test. Soviet displayed great concern about their athletes. The Soviets did not want to stay in Olympic Village. Under their pressure the authorities housed the Soviet contingent in separate housing in Helsinki along with their East European allies. The Soviets competed in all 26 sport disciplines in Helsinki except field hockey.

Helsinki Olympics will always be remembered as Olympics of many new individual records in track, field, swimming and gymnastics.

When the Games had been renewed in London in 1948, the Americans had easily garnered the most medals and points. They presumed they would dominate the Helsinki as they had in London, but to their dismay they discovered the Soviets, were far better prepared this time.

With tremendous strength in women’s events, the Soviet team amassed great numbers of medals from the start. The Soviets were happy that they have made an indelible mark in the sport world except football that the Soviets lost to ideologically heretic Yugoslavs. Stalin reacted strongly and ordered the dissolution of the Army eleven who had contributed the core of the Soviet football team in Helsinki.

To be continued

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caption

Sub-continent’s hockey team in action during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, California

 

 


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