Tag Archives: churchill

Fabio Capello booked to address the Cambridge Union

Capello is returning to England… but only to address the Cambridge Union

Liv Lee


13:08 GMT, 12 January 2013



13:19 GMT, 12 January 2013

Ex-England manager Fabio Capello is probably more used to team talks than public speaking, but he will be making his best attempt when he addresses the Cambridge Union at the end of February.

The Italian is booked to appear at the historical debating society, which has hosted sporting names such as Lord Coe is the past.

Capello will be in good company, with the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Ian McKellen and Clint Eastwood all having made appearances.

Fabio Capello will address the Union at the end of February

Returning: The ex-England manager will address the Union at the end of February

The manager walked away from the England job after John Terry was
stripped of his captaincy by the FA in February last year, and since
then has been working with the Russian national team.

They are currently fighting for qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

England rugby international James Haskell is also set to address the students of Cambridge this month.

From Mo Farah to Bradley Wiggins, relive the most sensational festival of sport

When London lit up the world! From magical Mo to wonderful Wiggo, relive the most sensational festival of sport



01:13 GMT, 29 December 2012

We lit the flame and we lit up the world. Those were the simple words of Lord Coe, his neck flexing with exhilaration in front of a global television audience of three-quarters of a billion. He had promised at the opening ceremony a fortnight earlier that we would do it right, and so we had.

The Games of the XXX Olympiad were closing in front of our spoilt eyes and we were left to reflect on the truth that this was perhaps the best thing Britain had done since winning the Second World War.

The transformational qualities of sport were clear on London's streets. A year before, so-called student protestors had urinated on the statue of Winston Churchill. But in the summer of 2012 Britain rediscovered her senses. People were smiling. Football's tribal enmities had yielded to a more generous sporting spirit. Conversation even broke out on the Tube. This carnival gripped the nation.

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden double

Just Momentous: Farah wins the 5,000m final to complete his golden

So much so that, after today's New Year's Honours announcement, an unprecedented four sporting notables await the Queen's sword tip. Arise Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Bradley Wiggins, knights of sailing and cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir David Tanner, the foremost performance directors of their era, from cycling and rowing. Then there is Paralympic swimming and cycling gold medallist Sarah Storey, who becomes a dame. There are 78 high-achievers on the special Olympic and Paralympic list.

I had always been a believer in London's potential to deliver a glorious Games. Coe, with a team led by his meticulous No 2 Paul Deighton, was assiduous. Anyway, the country is habitually good at staging great events. The British public generally come round to such occasions when they arrive.

This particular slow-burner was coming at us from Greece. I saw the torch lit in that ludicrous ceremony concocted by the Nazis for the 1936 Berlin Games among the splendid old stones of ancient Olympia.

A week later, we witnessed the rain briefly lifting at the home of the modern Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, as the torch was passed from Greek hands to British. I reported from seat 10D on board BA flight 2012 as the flame shared the front row with the Princess Royal on our journey to the UK.

But it was in Bath on May 22 that my belief in the project became total. It was the day I ran with the Olympic flame. People were standing a dozen deep on either side of the road. Jason Gardener, relay gold medallist from the Athens Games, was a fellow runner. His eyes were moist at seeing all ages and conditions of men and women cheering and waving on the journey through the handsome streets of his home city.

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

Golden boys: Farah poses with Bolt at the medal ceremony

This scene was replicated virtually every mile of the torch's progress up and down the land until the night of July 27 arrived. The Opening Ceremony was upon us.

What Danny Boyle had dreamed up in his crazy and creative mind set the whole jaunty mood. Occasionally left-leaning, yes, but it was a phantasmagoria that was undeniably bonkers and brilliant. It was unashamedly made for a home audience – Mr Bean and Only Fools and Horses featured, the first with memorable piano humour. The rest of the world was simply welcome to take from it what they could.

The rehearsal and the schedule contained no mention of the Queen's involvement nor any reference to Churchill. Those extra dimensions were revealed only at the last moment. My first-edition piece, filed as the ceremony was starting, excoriated Boyle for the omissions and was followed by a call to the office: 'Where I say there was no mention of Churchill, can we change that to barely a mention'

The Queen staged surely the greatest coup de theatre in British artistic history when she turned round to say 'Good evening, Mr Bond' from her Buckingham Palace desk. She then supposedly descended to the stadium by parachute, which prompted two American ladies watching the beach volleyball to marvel at the 86-year-old monarch. 'Did you see the Opening Ceremony' one said to the other. 'They even got the Queen to jump out of a helicopter. Can you imagine Obama doing that'

Her Maj looked tired by the time the British team – led by Sir Chris Hoy – paraded in. It had been a long but uplifting night. Coe's speech about the power of sport struck me as sensationally good. He hailed a celebration of 'what is best about mankind'. He went on: 'There is a truth to sport, a purity, a drama, an intensity of spirit that makes it irresistible.

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

On the Boyle: a stunning opening ceremony by the film director set the tone for the greatest Games in history

'To the athletes gathered here, I say that to you is given something which is precious and irreplaceable – to run faster, to jump higher, to be stronger.' Then Lord Coe (or Mr Swan, as he called himself by adopting his grandmother's maiden name during his Games stay at the Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane) unwound with Lady Coe ahead of the feast of sport that was to come.

And so it all began. It is difficult at a few months' detachment to think just how much we anticipated Mark Cavendish getting us off to a victorious start in the road race. The rest of the world ganged up in an anyone-but-Cav pact. Our dreams dashed.

But it hardly mattered to the party. The route was lined at every yard out to the Surrey hills and back into London. And when Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the women's race the next day we had lift-off – sort of.

But, still, after four days of sport there was no gold to show for the most lavishly funded British team of all time. The success of Beijing four years before – 19 golds, 47 medals – hung heavily. Don't panic, I wrote, our strongest sports had yet to reach the medal stages.

So it was a relief to be at a windless Dorney Lake at 12.24pm on day five to see two girls in a boat deliver that elusive bullion. Heather Stanning, a Royal Artillery captain, and Helen Glover, a PE teacher, led from the start of their pairs final and commanded the race. The team had found the key to Fort Knox.

Hampton Court that afternoon provided perhaps the most famous image of the Games: Tour de France winner Wiggins, long legs crossed and flashing a Churchillian victory sign, on a gaudy throne after winning the road race. He now had seven Olympic medals – more than any Brit including Sir Steve Redgrave. Again, the crowds were immense. We were witnessing the symbiosis of participants and supporters. Enthusiasm fed success, and success fed enthusiasm.

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

Famous image: Bradley Wiggins on teh throne

was our greatest in Games history when we factor in that the numerical high point in 1908 came in a different world altogether. The first of three London-hosted Games lasted 187 days and a third of all competitors were British. It was the tug-of-war era.

Here the superb volunteers had the delight to announce one night as we headed out of the Park: 'Ladies and gentleman, Yorkshire is leading Australia in the medal table.' Nobody can say we do not love sport. Heats were sold out. Sports we hardly understood against nations we could barely find on a map played to full houses. No other country could boast that, including Australia, whose Sydney Olympics in 2000 were generally acknowledged until this summer as the best. The enthusiasm for the Paralympics, complete with a new host of heroes such as Storey, Jonnie Peacock, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds, underlined the point.

You could soak in the atmosphere for free on the road routes or in Hyde Park. Or for the licence fee. Bad news, so often the staple of newspapers, barely existed. Yes, the performance of Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old Chinese swimming sensation, came under scrutiny. But, suspicions raised, the story faded. A handful of badminton matches were thrown by nations looking to aid their chances in the knockout stages but the stink did not linger.

There were the occasional British disappointments, notably the underperformance of our own swimming team. I sensed the mood in the camp was desperately wrong at the World Championships the year before. They were so downbeat that we can just be thankful they didn't drown.

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

Swim sensation: China's Ye Shiwen

But if swimming failed, gymnastics, equestrianism, boxing all sparkled. Cycling and rowing inevitably soared. Athletics, though falling below the target set by the Mr Tough Love, aka head coach Charles van Commenee, provided the Games' most memorable evening of British endeavour. It was such a Super Saturday that long jumper Greg Rutherford is in danger of becoming a pub quiz question of the future: who was the third Briton to win a gold medal on the night that Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah both won Rutherford's misfortune, if we can call it that, was to reach the peak of his athletics career in the 44 minutes during which two of the Olympics' poster people reached theirs.

Heptathlon gold was virtually assured by the time Ennis started her final event, the 800 metres, turning it into a double lap of honour. Farah's run to 10,000m glory was packed with tension until his big eyes popped out of his head as he crossed the line first.

That day, Britain won six golds in all, the others coming through our peerless coxless four, women's double scullers and our team pursuit women in the Velodrome. It was gluttony.

We returned to see Farah go for the double the following weekend. Tired after the heats of the 5,000m, the crowd hit one of the two most ear-splitting sounds I heard all Games. The other was in the enclosed ExCeL for the boxing, first for Ireland's Katie Taylor and then our own gold medallist, the open, friendly, Nandos-loving Nicola Adams. But back to Farah. The crescendo of noise that helped push him into the front in the final lap and to withstand the late challenge of Dejen Gebremeskel and Thomas Longosiwa broke the photo-finish equipment. The vibrating stadium was too much for the technology. Thankfully, the winning margin was evident to all 80,000 loud and happy souls in the stands. It was one of the single highlights of the whole Games.

My favourite day was the longest day, the middle Sunday. Up before dawn, Tube to Waterloo, train to Weymouth, taxi to the sailing venue. Ainslie was in the latest fight of his life for a gold medal, this time against a red-bearded Viking called Jonas Hogh-Christensen.

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Flying the flag: Ben Ainslie

Our greatest sailor was being frustrated by the tactics of his rivals. 'You don't want to make me angry,' he told them. After losing the first six races to Hogh-Christensen, he wrenched his way back into contention. In the final race, he went in and then out of gold-medal position. Jacques Rogge, IOC president and himself a former Finn sailor, is an avowed Ainslie admirer. He based his whole day around being free to watch the last act of this particular drama, in which Ainslie dramatically prevailed. A sword's tap awaits the sailor's shoulder.

I run to the waiting taxi, queue for the train then squeeze into a seat for more than an hour. Tube to Stratford, walk into the stadium at 9.20pm. Usain Bolt is off at 9.50pm.

The 100m final – that most stomach-turning event of the whole Games – has arrived. Bolt, who finally admitted he had been struggling with injuries we had reported, was up against his training partner Yohan Blake.

Blake, undefeated all year, had beaten the great man in the Jamaican trials. To what extent was Bolt limited by his back-related travails Could the younger man pull off the bravest heist A reputation was on the line more than a world record was in prospect. Bolt delivered gold in 9.63sec.

If only he had been fit. If only he did not party. If only he gave up the junk food. This is a man who lives by his own rules, a point reinforced when he added the 200m and the 4x100m titles to his c.v. He declared himself a legend and nobody could argue otherwise.

Before the Olympics finished, Bolt was acting out Farah's 'Mobot' celebration. Farah was striking the 'Lightning Bolt' pose. Fun and brilliance conjoined.

In the Velodrome, Victoria Pendleton took her golden leave, hopefully happy in that sometimes mixed-up mind of hers. Laura Trott emerged as cycling's new queen, an image given a glitzy frisson when she was pictured in love with her golden team-mate Jason Kenny. The oak-legged master Hoy was emotional on the podium as he bade goodbye. His second gold of the Games, which was won in the keirin, meant he had won more Olympic golds than anyone else in British history, with six to Redgrave's five.

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Cycling's new queen: Great Britain's Laura Trott

Hoy, a modest man of immodest ability, still reckoned that Redgrave's quintet achieved in five separate Games, conferring longevity, is the greater achievement. I am inclined to agree.

There was so much to marvel at here. We almost forget that Michael Phelps left the pool with a career total of 18 Olympic gold medals – and that's because, in London, the American won a paucity of honours by his standards: just the four golds and two silvers.

We saw Kenya's David Rudisha win the 800m like a horse running against men. Coe hailed him as the star of the Games. It was a touching compliment from one of the greatest middle-distance runners of the ages to another. We revelled in our own heroes and heroines: Katherine Grainger, in the double sculls, winning a gold at last after three silvers. Charlotte Dujardin emerging as a double star with gold in the equestrian team event and the dressage. Nick Skelton winning gold at the age of 54 in the team showjumping.

There was triathlon's Brownlee brothers – Alistair coolly strolling through the line with the Union Flag on his back to take gold; Jonny collecting his bronze once he had been treated for exhaustion. Andy Murray's joy at Wimbledon, where there had been tears just weeks before. Jade Jones, funded by a whip-round in her home town of Flint in North Wales, winning taekwondo gold. Peter Wilson, a tall chap with a nice sense of humour, taking the shooting honours in the double trap. Tom Daley, with a diving bronze just a year after his father and mentor died, doing well to make the headlines among the golden hordes.

Too soon, the show closed on this revitalised eastern edge of the capital. Rio was charged with bringing the youth of the world together for the XXXI Olympics four years hence – no pressure there. The more prosaic debate over legacy commitments took centre stage.

Tears were shed as the flame was extinguished. Pride abounded.

London had lit up the world.

New Zealand Haka terrifies Leicester Tigers

Is this the scariest Haka of all time New Zealand Maori terrorise the Leicester Tigers with war dance before kick-off



14:00 GMT, 14 November 2012

The New Zealand rugby team's pre-match Haka is one of the most iconic sights in sport. But when the All Black Maoris faced Leicester on Tuesday night they took the ancestral war dance to new heights.

The players were warned that the Maori version is a cut above the fearful routine the All Blacks perform before Test matches – but nothing could have prepared them for this.

The Tigers fans in a crowd of 17,206 were treated to a loud, explosive and prolonged version of the traditional pre-match war dance which serves to lay down a challenge to the opposition. While the performance motivated the Maori players, it evidently had the same effect on a young Leicester team, who went on to win 32-24.

Scroll down for video provided by Leicester Tigers TV

Kick off: The Maori All Blacks' perform their Haka before the game

Kick off: The Maori All Blacks' perform their Haka before the game

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The result ended the tourists’
eight-match winning streak dating back to 2007, when they lost narrowly
to England Saxons in the Churchill Cup Final.

The East Midlands club’s England No 8
Thomas Waldrom, who grew up in New Zealand and represented the Maori,
was hoping to make it back to Welford Road after training in time to see
the action first-hand. He knew what was in store for his Tigers
team-mates before kick-off.

‘Their Haka is a lot different
compared to the All Black one – it is a lot more passionate and there is
a lot more pride in the Maori Haka,' said Waldrom. 'I would tell the
(Leicester) boys to relax, enjoy it and have fun. It is probably only
once in your life you will play the Maori.’

Back to action: Leicester's Mathew Tait is tackled by Kade Poki of the Maori All Blacks

Back to action: Leicester's Mathew Tait is tackled by Kade Poki of the Maori All Blacks

Waldrom flew relatives over from New
Zealand to watch his home debut for England against Fiji at Twickenham
last weekend and they are staying long enough to see him start the
second QBE International against Australia on Saturday. Despite his Kiwi
accent and background – not to mention some alternative cultural
references – he insists he has been welcomed into the national squad.

‘I get a bit of stick because I don’t
come across sounding English,’ he said. ‘The boys give me stick for
watching Home & Away, so I have switched to Coronation Street!

Afterwards, Mat Tait has revealed he considered quitting the sport during his long recovery from a debilitating groin injury.

2007 World Cup finalist played his first full 80 minutes in 13 months
on Tuesday night and now hopes to rid himself the tag of England’s
forgotten back.

‘It crossed my mind a couple of times,’ he admitted when asked about whether he considered retiring.

the back end of last season I did a skills session and tried to kick a
ball and I felt someone had stabbed me in the groin again. I had to go
back (for surgery) to have a repair on a repair which had failed.

Try time: Charlie Ngatal beats Mathew Tait to score a try for The Maoris

Try time: Charlie Ngatal beats Mathew Tait to score a try for The Maoris

was a fairly bad time which just messes with your head, particularly
when it’s been a long old slog and you feel a bit embarrassed to be at
the club. When you are at a new club you want to be out on the park.’

Tait hopes his injury problems are
over after missing out on almost two years due to a shoulder injury at
Sale and this groin problem, only two months into his first season at
Leicester after he joined for the start of the 2011-12 season.

‘The groin injury was unlike anything I’ve had before, because there was no definitive recovery period,’ he explained.

‘I can’t remember the last time I managed 80 minutes – I played against Bath last season – but before then it was some 18 months ago near enough.

‘It’s been pretty bad. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the sport that at some point you are going to be injured.’

Breeders" Cup 2012: George Vancouver continues Aidan O"Brien and Ryan Moore"s pedigree

George Vancouver continues O'Brien and Moore's Breeders' Cup pedigree



20:44 GMT, 3 November 2012

George Vancouver, ridden by Ryan Moore and trained by Aidan O’Brien, gave Europe its second win at the 2012 Breeders’ Cup meeting after landing the Juvenile Turf.

The son of Henrythenavigator, who had run well in to the top European group ones without winning, was given a precision ride up the inside by Moore as he found a split early in the home straight to finish a length and a quarter ahead to leading US hopes Noble Tune and Balance The Books.

Just behind in fourth was the leading British-trained hope, Roger Charlton's Dundonnell, who lost ground when running wide on the first bend and had a stop-start passage at the top of the back stretch.

On the home straight: Ryan Moore rides George Vancouver to victory

On the home straight: Ryan Moore rides George Vancouver to victory

George Vancouver, who had finished second to Reckless Abandon in the Prix Morny and third to Dawn Approach, was a second successive winner of the Juvenile Turf for Moore and O'Brien who landed the 2011 contest with Wrote at Churchill Downs.

It was a seventh Breeders’ Cup winner for O’Brien and fourth for Moore, who is due to ride Mount Athos in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup in Australia.

George Vancouver has been given 20-1 quotes by Coral for the 2013 2,000 Guineas.

O’Brien explained that the winner had not been able to show his best in Europe this summer because of soft ground.

All together now: George Vancouver came through a strong field to continue the Breeders' Cup pediigree of Moore and Aidan O'Brien

All together now: George Vancouver came through a strong field to continue the Breeders' Cup pediigree of Moore and Aidan O'Brien

On top of the world: Aidan O'Brien

On top of the world: Aidan O'Brien

He had twice been beaten on heavy going before opening his account in July at Dundalk’s all-weather circuit.

The trainer said: ‘Ryan gave him a super ride. He is a typical Henrythenavigator and has been crying out for fast ground all year. During Henry’s two-year-old career it was sodden and he didn’t do what we thought he would do. This horse has been the same.’

Moore said: ‘All the way round we were able to save petrol on the inside. There was only a small gap but he had plenty to through it and I was probably in front a bit to soon on him.

‘You always think it is a short straight at Santa Anita but it is longer than people give it credit for.

‘When he got to the front he gave a look and hung to the right. So I think there is a bit more in the locker.

Moore, whose season has again been disrupted by injury, but who will ride in Hong Kong and Japan in the next few months, added: 'It’s frustrating when you have injuries but that is part of racing. It would be nice to get through the year in one piece but it is not the end of the year yet.’

Saving petrol: Moore stuck to the inside track from the first corner

Saving petrol: Moore stuck to the inside track from the first corner

Dundonnell’s trainer Roger Charlton said he was satisfied with his colt’s run.

He added: ‘It was the first time he had encountered a sharp left hand bend and it took him a bit by surprise. He got in a good position but faded. He had every chance and in the end I’m pleasde he hung on for fourth.’

Of the other Europeans, Godolphin’s Artigiano never threatened after a slow start but stayed on without being hard ridden by Frankie Dettori into fifth.

O’Brien’s Lines of battle was sixth and Jeremy Noseda’s Fantastic Moon 10th of the 12 starters after he also blew the start.

George Vancouver’s success followed that of French filly Flotilla in Friday’s Juvenile Filly Turf.

Olympic Torch makes its way through Bath

I was swept along by a river of people as I carried the Olympic Torch



21:59 GMT, 22 May 2012

Runner 93 – aka Sportsmail’s Olympics Correspondent Jonathan McEvoy – sees the beautiful city of Bath fall in love with the Games as he carries the flame through the West Country.

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

The greatest inaccuracy relating to the coming Games appears to be contained in the reference books. There the boffins put the population of Bath at around 80,000.

At least travelling through the beautiful spa city yesterday brought to mind one of the greatest lines written in the Daily Mail, when Vincent Mulchrone reported the scene on the eve of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral. ‘Two rivers run though London tonight, and one of them is made of people,’ he reported.

Well, if Bath’s population is truly just 80,000 then every single one of them was out there close to the Avon, cheering and waving flags, as the Olympic torch relay called by.

They were young and recording the day on iPods and smartphones. They were old and leaning on walking sticks. They were babies carried in their mothers’ harnesses.

They were peering out of sash windows three storeys up. Some wore school uniforms, some were suited and booted, others simply clad in T-shirts and shorts.

A swathe of middle England was falling in love with the Olympics before our very eyes.

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath


Wednesday – Day 5: Bristol-Cheltenham via Swindon and Stroud.

Celebrity bearer: Didier Drogba.

Jason Gardener, gold relay medallist from the Athens Olympics, is Bath born. And as the bus carrying him and the other torch carriers pulled out of Bath University, the campus was lined perhaps a dozen deep. I swear his eyes were moist. That is, at least, how it looked to me.

I was runner 93 on Day Four as the torch relay snakes its way across Britain on its journey to the Opening Ceremony on July 27. Runner 93 is also a cynic when the situation demands. I should also add that I was running as a guest of Coca-Cola. I can assure you my approval cannot be bought for anything so soft, or fizzy.

But having seen the flame lit in ancient Olympia and having flown over with the lanterns last week, I can only attest that this was the most special moment.

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Here in Bath, warmed in mood by an unbroken blue sky, I was reminded of what Daley Thompson (if you will forgive the name-dropping) told me as we drove over here. I asked that most infectious of sports enthusiasts what it would mean to him if he were selected to light the Olympic cauldron in the Stadium. ‘You know what,’ he said, aware the identity of that person is as yet unknown and will remain a closely guarded secret. ‘It would be better than being made a Sir or a Lord. It would be the best thing in the world.’

That feeling would be understood by my fellow runners yesterday. They all had their achievements to commend them: James Eynon, the teenager I succeeded in the relay, helped save his school from closure. Kate Pocock (nee Allenby), to whom I handed the flame, took the bronze pentathlon medal in Sydney 12 years ago and is now a teacher in Bath. One man had lost 16 stone and runs marathons. A mother had beaten a brain tumour and dedicates herself to charity work in Africa.

Humbly, I can only claim to have got the torch my 300 metres without incident.

London 2012 Olympics: Charles van Commenee promises athletes "mother of all speeches"

Van Commenee promises “mother of all speeches” to inspire Team GB athletes

Charles van Commenee admits he is already working on the “mother of all speeches” to inspire the likes of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis before they compete for gold at next summer”s London Olympics.

The Dutchman, responsible as Britain”s head coach with garnering medals in the Olympic stadium, is planning to evoke a never-say-die spirit among the British team.

Van Commenee said: “Every time I go to a championships I speak to them the night before they compete.

Brit of alright: Team GB

Brit of alright: Team GB”s (left-right) pole vaulter Steve Lewis, long jumper Chris Tomlinson, head coach Charles van Commenee and hurdler Jack Green

“That speech is always related to the location. When we were in Berlin I spoke about what Jesse Owens did there. In Doha I spoke about the desert. Every time I come up with something special.

“Probably (in London) it will have to do with national pride and those things. In the last three or four months I have been getting ideas when I am driving or brushing my teeth and I make a scribble and collect them.

“This has to be the mother of all speeches. It has to be. British spirit for me has to do with the concept of fair play and being unaffected in difficult times. I read a lot about the Second World War and the role Britain played. Britain was the last hope for other countries, for my country for certain.

“We owe Britain a lot in terms of liberation and Britain suffered a lot with the bombing in London but they always stood up.

“(Winston) Churchill was the personification of that phenomenon. He is the man with the best speeches of all time although I would never try to copy anything.”

National pride: UKA chief Van Commenee praised the British spirit

National pride: UKA chief Van Commenee praised the British spirit

Van Commenee, whose target has always been eight medals in London, including one gold, insists the British team, despite bringing home seven medals from the recent world championships in Daegu, South Korea, including gold and silver for Farah and silver for Ennis and Phillips Idowu, still have room to improve.

“We”re not ready,” said Van Commenee, who was speaking at a London event to celebrate Aviva”s 13-year association with athletics, said: “We need these eight months. Every athlete can make a difference.

“I am pleased with the progress we made in 2011. We raised our game, but we need to take another step to be really competitive in London.

“The lesson learned from Korea is that gold medals are very difficult to win. Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu can confirm that and Mo Farah, who was the favourite in the 10,000m, didn”t win. That should tell everybody that you can be a candidate for gold but it doesn”t mean you are going to win it.”