Team GB are homing in on Olympic gold this summer – the Woodward way
23:26 GMT, 17 July 2012
The hard yards that shaped Sir Clive Woodward's fondest Olympic memory were pattered out in front of his own eyes in the Loughborough of the late Seventies.
He was captain of the university rugby team, marvelling at the determination of a fellow undergraduate putting his young, slim body through a work ethic on a scale he had never witnessed before. 'We were the same age and in the same year,' recalls Woodward, now director of sport at the British Olympic Association. 'We would go to watch him train. It was amazing.'
The figure in question was Sebastian Coe, now ennobled and the mastermind behind London 2012.
Focused: Sir Clive Woodward has made a series of videos to help athletes prepare for the Games
Woodward says: 'I didn't know him well but well enough to say “good luck”, so seeing him win his first gold medal in Moscow in 1980 is my outstanding recollection of all the Olympics I have enjoyed over the years.
'If we had worked at rugby as hard as he did at running, we'd have been almost unstoppable. That's what we did with England. We arrived at the start of every game with the opposition knowing we were the fittest, strongest, most powerful team ever.'
The sports have changed from rugby through a brief excursion into football to Olympic sport but it is clear, as Woodward contemplates the capital's imminent sporting carnival, that his credo has remained fundamentally unaltered since before we knew him as England's World Cupwinning coach.
It could translate as: no stone left unturned. He has agreed to a rare interview, breaking from his painstaking role overseeing the detail he believes will allow all 542 British athletes to compete to their potential in the Olympic arena.
Dressed in suit, tie and button-down shirt, he shuffles a couple of pages of neatly typed notes he has prepared as a prompt so that nothing slips his mind.
'It's about producing that magic moment when it really counts,' he says. 'It's not like rugby or football, where your regular home and the familiarity with the actual surroundings is a positive influence. The venues are new – the Olympic stadium, the velodrome.
Support system: It is Woodward's role to help all competitors perform to the best of their abilities
'But you ask any coach or athlete in any sport whether they would like to play home or away and they would all say home. All the Olympic stats bear that out.
'Look at Andy Murray. He lives for that moment at Wimbledon. I thought he did fantastically well and his chance will come again. But he has a lot of opportunities. The Olympics, on the other hand, only come every four years and we have to make sure that home advantage does kick in.'
Woodward has 30 staff working on his 'holistic' approach: gathering and developing knowledge across all 26 Olympic sports, the winter and youth programmes.
A key ingredient for London is something as seemingly mundane as 'a whole series of small videos', undertaken with the help of Belinda Moore, a former BBC producer and wife of former England hooker Brian Moore.
'We have given the videos to the coaches so they can dripfeed them to their athletes over the past 12 months,' explains Woodward. 'Seventy per cent of the British team are going to their first Olympics and for 100 per cent this is their first home Olympics.
'We've spent a huge amount of time
speaking to athletes from abroad who have experienced a home Games,
including Ed Moses, Michael Johnson, Ian Thorpe. Their insights were
fascinating and lots came out of it.
On top of the world: Woodward guided England to success in Australia nine years ago
'The idea is about making our athletes aware of the pitfalls and instead enabling them to see the Games as a normal event. Athletes have told us about going into the stadium and spending the first 10 minutes looking for their mum and dad or girlfriend in the stands. We can learn from that.
'It is about preparing every athlete properly so they can concentrate when their moment arrives rather than be distracted by the unexpected.'
Team GB's supporters, including British Airways, have been assisting athletes in that process. A smart, homely room is set aside for 'nearest and dearest' in Team GB House at the entrance to the Westfield shopping centre.It is a private place for athletes and their families to meet.
All this comes at a cost – the total provision for the impressive ninth floor House is estimated at 2million, half of the expense offset by sponsorship. Woodward would have it no other way.
'If we couldn't afford it, we wouldn't do it,' he says. Victory at all costs, then Thankfully – and emphatically – not.
The jingoistic 'Own the Podium'
nonsense that blighted the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver – where
foreign countries were unwelcome to try out venues to help them prepare –
is not the BOA model.
'You don't want to go over the line,'
says Woodward. 'The Canadians went too far. They made themselves very
unpopular in the village. We don't want to do that. The opposite in
fact. We want to welcome the world to London.'
Final countdown: Woodward's team are in place to help those competing
This broader perspective touches on another Woodward maxim: how do you want to be remembered
'It is not only about how you perform but also how you conduct yourself off the pitch or out of the pool,' he says. 'How you support the team in good times and bad. Whether you make the whole country proud of the team for their all-round behaviour.'
Which brings us to Dwain Chambers, the drug cheat who is back in the Olympic fold after the BOA's bylaw banning the serious dopers for life was overturned. Too late, alas, to go back on that. But what of the expletive-ridden bile Chambers snarled down the BBC cameras after sprinting himself to victory at the trials only last month.
How does Chambers wish to be remembered And how will Woodward, architect of the One Team GB standards of behaviour code, deal with miscreants
'We remind people of their responsibility through their head coaches. And we apply common sense.'
Woodward, 56, is on an 'on-going' contract at the BOA, happy as Britain's Olympic deputy chef de mission to the chef himself, Andy Hunt, and looking ahead to the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the next summer edition in Rio. But does rugby really beckon post-London
Final countdown: The Olympics begin next week
'It's not on my agenda – and you can only go if a job comes up,' he says, turning his approving attention to England's head coach Stuart Lancaster in dealing with the aftermath of the dwarf-throwing antics of the World Cup.
'The new guy came in to a dream job in some ways. They were in such a poor position and he has done a great job of resetting the standards. You have to have high standards 24/7.
'I don't understand how the drinking and the rest happened during the World Cup. I know the people involved and I can't imagine it because they were so, so professional.
'But it was the pictures of them bungee jumping between games that was more significant. You think, what is going on If you saw Chris Hoy or Rebecca Adlington bungee jumping in the week of the Olympics, you would laugh. They just wouldn't do it.'
British Airways delivers home advantage
As the official airline of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, British Airways has been supporting our athletes, flying them around the world for training and
competition ahead of London 2012.
In the final stages before the Games the airline has been rallying the nation to get behind Team GB and give them the ultimate 'home advantage'.
British Airways is even encouraging its customers not to fly and to stay at home to support Team GB during the Games. The airline is also
offering free flights so athletes can fly back that special someone, whether it be an old coach, mentor, family or friends, to help boost their performance.
In the Olympic Park itself British Airways is proud to present Park Live. This dedicated area for up to 10,000 fans has a giant double-sided screen
broadcasting live London 2012 coverage.
Home advantage: BA are hosting Park Live during the Games
'BA Hosts' will be on hand to help visitors enjoy their day and boost our athletes' home advantage. Plus interviews on the British Airways presentation stage will allow fans to hear first-hand from medal-winning
athletes and other stars.
For more information visit www.facebook.com/britishairways or join the conversation on twitter using #HomeAdvantage