POSTED: June 29th 2011

NEIL WILSON: 2012 football mess illustrates wrong Olympic priorities

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jun 29: Do you think Xavi would think twice if he was asked to play for Spain in next year’s Olympic Games in London? Or Adrian Lopez? Or Anders Herrera?

The two members of the successful Spanish under-21 team at this summer’s European championships would jump at the chance, just as Xavi previously did when it was presented to him in 2000.

It made no odds to Xavi that he is Catalan anymore than it would to Lopez that he hails from Asturias or to Herrera that he is Basque, all autonomous regions of Spain with their own flags and anthems. Just like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are within Britain.

So it goes without saying that any Scot, Irish or Welsh players so honoured when Team GB is chosen next summer will jump at the chance. Just as Rangers captain David Weir, the sixth most capped Scottish international, said they should if asked.

Holding them back, of course, is a bunch of sporting suits whipping up a fandango about  footballing independence for fear that they will lose their places on the FIFA gravy train.

Let us be clear here – the only people who care much about whether Team GB plays at all are the men and women who might represent it. The indifference of the average British football fan is demonstrated by the weakness of ticket sales. Football  ranks with weightlifting and boxing as the great unloved,  the only sports still not sold out.

No credibility

I have had the honour to report nine summer Olympic Games and I have yet to go near a single football match. It lost all credibility for me when FIFA made it the only limited-age sport in the Games just as rugby union failed the credibility test when it presented itself as

Neither should be in the Olympic Games, now or ever. President Jacques Rogge has made a personal mission of keeping the number of participants to 10,500, and to do so has had to cut sports such as track cycling, judo and sailing to a single entry for each country.

So in the Finn class in sailing two of the world’s top three sailors cannot compete in the 2012 Olympics because all are British. The competition will be poorer for it.

Far, far better to get rid of all sports in which the Olympic Games is not the premier tournament. That means football, the two 2016 arrivistes, golf and rugby union, and tennis. That would cut the numbers by many hundred and allow the true Olympic sports greater

As for Team GB’s football team, I hope all those good enough to be selected will accept the honour and accept my apologies for not watching them.

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books

Keywords · Neil Wilson · London 2012 · football · Olympic Games · rugby union

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