POSTED: November 12th 2010

Three weeks to get ready for London 2012? No problem for Wimbledon

In action: the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon /
In action: the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: Overseeing the Wimbledon tennis extravaganza and then, just three weeks later, the Olympic Games tennis tournament might seem too much of a good thing – or too much of a challenge. Roger Draper does not see it that way.

The ceo of the Lawn Tennis Association can hardly wait for the Olympic buzz to envelop south-west London . . . as he told, in the third and final part of this exclusive interview.

Can you really stage Olympic tennis at Wimbledon . . . just three weeks after the end of The Championships?

Of course. We have only 20 days between the end of the Championships to the Olympics so the biggest challenge for the groundsman will be turning the grass back to its immaculate state - which he can do - so we’re quite confident.

It’s going to be very different to The Championships because it will be a fantastic public event. It will be ‘People’s Sunday’ every day. We’re really excited. We have genuine medal potential in Andy Murray and we believe we can do well in the doubles and mixed doubles.

‘Stages’ such as Wimbledon will be a terrific plus for 2012 won’t they?

When I was chief executive at Sport England [before joining the LTA] we recognised that around the world kids want to grow up playing football at Wembley, they grow up wanting to win Wimbledon, they want to play cricket at Lords.

That’s one of the great things about London and this country: not only do people know the iconic venues but we’re going to have fantastic new facilities. I was involved in Athens in 2004 and Sydney in 2000 and I’ve seen how the Olympics can transform not just cities but the way people think about things, how it makes them feel more positive.

What are your favourite Olympic memories?

Seeing Steven Redgrave win his fifth medal was an amazing, emotional occasion – just as it was seeing Kelly Holmes winning two golds in Athens. Two days before that I’d been on a down because Paula Radcliffe was the one who was going to win gold. Then it all went flat before Kelly Holmes came in to do what she did. That was phenomenal.

You support the Champion Voice programme which the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust runs to help top athletes prepare to transform their knowledge and focus for careers in sports management. Why has this been a problem area in the past?

I think that’s because, historically, the way people have come through to run sports has been up some greasy committee pole. A lot of good people have been blocked along the way; it’s always been very political. So what’s going on now is fantastic.

You know, in Britain we have some of the brightest talent in sport not only in this country but also anywhere.

Ten years ago people said: “We have to hire an Australian.” I’d like to think that, in 10 years’ time, the rest of the world will be saying: “We need to hire a Brit.” Programmes like Champion Voice can really help develop and nurture the talent we’ve got. There’s no reason why there aren’t a lot more future chief execs or chairmen who won’t have come through the old political system."

That means a change of thinking, though, doesn't it? 

Certainly. The old perception was of either athletes with no brains or business people with no passion. I always said the ideal would be to combine them – getting athletes with good business acumen to run a sport.

Running a sport is much more complex than running a business because you have deal with volunteers, people in the clubs, the media, and so on. We don’t have shareholders we have stakeholders and they are a much more complex group. But we do need to use business principles within sport to drive our sports forward.

There’s a really positive group of people coming forward. Hopefully, in 20 years time, when I’m looking back, the next generation of sports leaders won’t be seen as old bufties who cared more about the tickets than about their sport.

* Roger Draper is one of the high-profile sports leaders supporting the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust’s innovative new programme Champion Voice. This has been developed in partnership with the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) and executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

The aim is to help provide retiring sports stars with the relevant experience and skills to be utilised by sports’ national governing bodies and other sporting organisations at strategic levels. Since November 2009, 14 Olympic, Paralympic and world class athletes have participated in the programme and have now been appointed to roles across sport.

Keywords · London 2012 · Olympic Games · Draper · Wimbledon

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