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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

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UPDATED:

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
double

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.

NFL want to beat West Ham to Olympic Stadium Americans

It was the home of Britain's greatest sporting triumphs, now the Mayor is in talks for the Olympic Stadium to be the new London home of America's NFL

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UPDATED:

19:29 GMT, 31 October 2012

The Olympic stadium in Stratford could become the London home of the NFL after talks involving Mayor Boris Johnson.

The ambitious plan is for NFL franchises to become the 'anchor tenant'. It would leave West Ham scuppered in their attempt to turn the East End venue in their new home.

'Sunday’s
game at Wembley, in front of more than 80,000 fans, further cements
London’s reputation as the natural home of American football outside of
the US,' the mayor's spokesman said.

Mayor Boris Johnson is heckled by protestors as he visits Bristol yesterday. West Ham fans may feel the same way about him.

Mayor Boris Johnson is heckled by protestors as he visits Bristol yesterday. West Ham fans may feel the same way about him.

West Ham's bid to take on the tenancy has hit a stumbling block and Johnson – the chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation who operate the stadium – opened talks last weekend when four NFL teams were in London playing regular-season games at Wembley.

A spokesman for Johnson added: 'Given the ever-growing popularity of gridiron this side of the Atlantic the mayor and his team have held a number of meetings with senior executives in the last few days to explore further opportunities for NFL in London.

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

'The talks were exploratory and we are at an early stage but the signs are encouraging.'

West Ham are also looking to take over the anchor tenancy but the Treasury’s refusal to hand over the 337 million Olympic-contingency underspend to help install retractable seating is hampering their bid.

The retractable seating is expected to cost in the region of 200 million and the Mayor will be expecting any anchor tenant to make a significant contribution.

It is understood West Ham are willing to offer more than 8million a year in rent and related payments in addition to a reported multi-million lump sum.

The club are understood to be unwilling to reveal the true nature of their financial package due to confidentiality issues.

Touchdown: The NFL arrived in London last weekend

Touchdown: The NFL arrived in London last weekend

West Ham also believe that as several other events will be taking place at the Olympic Stadium throughout the next few years – such as the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the 2017 World Athletics Championships – they should not be the sole party asked to foot the bill.

A decision on the future of the stadium was expected to be announced by the end of October but negotiations are ongoing. Other contenders for the stadium tenancy are Leyton Orient, a football business college and a group wanting to host a Formula One race at the Olympic Park.

The NFL proposition is an attractive one as the stadium would only be required up to 10 times per year – compared to up to 25 times a year for football. This would free up time for other events such.

Boris takes to the microphone with opera singer Katherine Jenkins at Wembley on Sunday

Boris takes to the microphone with opera singer Katherine Jenkins at Wembley on Sunday

Boris meets the officials before kick-off between the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams in London on Sunday

Boris meets the officials before kick-off between the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams in London on Sunday

Bringing in other sports such as gridiron to the capital on a more regular basis is something that the Mayor's office are keen on exploring.

'Only last week the mayor, in conjunction with the NFL, announced an expansion from one to two regular-season matches in London from 2013. That means in total an additional 44 million in revenue for the capital from next year,' the Mayor’s spokesman added.

Euro 2012: Ukraine prepares to host first matches

Ukraine faces its acid test: Fans stay away but co-hosts promise to put on a show

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 8 June 2012

Concerns about Ukraine's suitability as a Euro 2012 host nation will finally be put to the test as two venues with question marks over them host eagerly anticipated matches in Group B.

Travel experts who visited Poland and Ukraine in the lead-up to the tournament reported that, while the former appeared geared up and ready, the latter appeared anything but.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the venues of Kharkiv and Lviv that host matches between Holland and Denmark and Germany and Portugal.

Armed: Riot police battled protestors in Kiev this week

Armed: Riot police battled protestors in
Kiev this week

Euro 2012 email button

The signs were not good yesterday as flights from Kiev to Lviv were delayed by six hours before being cancelled.

In Kharkiv, meanwhile, hotel accommodation is so thin on the ground and so expensive that most supporters will fly in from their home countries on the day of their games and straight out again in the early hours.

None of this is conducive to the carnival atmosphere that is supposed to surround these tournaments and it will be up to the four venue cities – Kiev and Donetsk being the other two – to prove that the Ukrainians have the appetite and the wherewithal to make the tournament work.

Certainly Grigoriy Surkis, president of the Ukrainian football federation, remains convinced his country can deliver a spectacle to rival that of its western neighbour.

Surkis said: 'This tournament has caught the imagination in Ukraine, with the period of preparation being called the “five-year renaissance” here.

'The championship will last less than a month but our young state's rejuvenation will benefit many generations of Ukrainians.

Peaceful: Fans watched the opening games on giant screens in Kiev

Peaceful: Fans watched the opening games on giant screens in Kiev

Peaceful: Fans watched the opening games on giant screens in Kiev - where England will face Sweden

'The legacy of Euro 2012 is not just four fantastic stadiums but also modern infrastructure.'

Sadly, fears – that may yet prove unfounded – of fan violence and racist problems have prevented many supporters from travelling to Ukraine for the duration of the tournament.

Just 3,000 fans are expected to follow England to Donetsk on Monday. The game between Holland and Germany in Kharkiv next Wednesday should also be one of the highlights of the group stages.

How unfortunate, then, that the majority of travelling supporters have been encouraged to arrive at the host city as late as possible and leave soon after.

One reason for that is the prohibitive cost of travelling around this vast country while another is the shortage of hotels in a city of more than 2,700,000 people.

Big moment: Ukraine authorities plan to put on a big show

Big moment: Ukraine authorities plan to put on a big show

Once again, Surkis is adamant that his country will prove itself to be worthy.

'People will see the positive changes for themselves and enjoy visiting a hospitable Ukraine,' he said. 'I have no doubt Euro 2012 will be the greatest tournament ever staged and that the games will take place in the best possible conditions. People will see how important football is to Ukraine.'

With the national team's first game taking place on Monday against Sweden in Kiev, coach Oleg Blokhin will not appreciate being reminded of his racist outburst about foreign players in the Ukrainian league in 2006 and will hope his team can produce something more positive on the pitch.

This, after all, is an important three weeks for his team as well as for his country.

Anti-F1 feeling grows in Bahrain as protestors target Grand Prix

Anti-F1 feeling grows in Bahrain as protestors target Grand Prix

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UPDATED:

07:30 GMT, 17 April 2012

Anti-government protesters in Bahrain
are expected to step up their campaign this week which is set to have an
impact on Formula One.

A demonstration, declared by one as
'a huge rally', is planned for Tuesday in the village of Al Dair on the
doorstep of the Gulf kingdom's international airport.

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

It is understood the focus will not only centre on pro-democracy rights, but also anti-F1 as the race returns this weekend after a two-year absence.

On Wednesday, when most F1 personnel are due to arrive, what has been described by a risk assessment group as 'a vehicular rally' is to take place along the two highways that lead up to the airport.

Although the protests appear to be the latest in a long line of campaigns that have taken place since the 'Day of Rage' 14 months ago, the suspicion is the rebels are intent on taking their cause closer to F1 as Sunday's race looms.

Green light: FIA president Jean Todt confident Bahrain race will go-ahead

Green light: FIA president Jean Todt confident Bahrain race will go-ahead

Gatherings are also planned in Bab Al Bahrain in north Manama, and Tubli, a village south west of the capital.

Of greater significance, however, is a demonstration scheduled for Thursday in Manama, which has avoided any unrest of late.

The protesters have so far been confined to the villages, which has prompted many to claim Bahrain is peaceful and fit again to host the race.

For the most part that has certainly been
the case, with the FIA claiming on Saturday security was not an issue,
and the reason why they decided to give the event the green light.

Campaigners are set to step up the protests

Concern: Anti-government protesters are expected to step up their campaign

However, whilst the demonstrations mentioned are planned, what is unknown are the actions of a dissident group known as the Coalition Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution.

The Coalition have previously declared 'three days of anger' over the course of the race weekend, and have vowed to do all they can to disrupt proceedings.

Regardless, FIA president Jean Todt insisted on Sunday there are 'good and secure conditions'.

Todt finally broke his silence on Bahrain following the race in China, speaking to German television station RTL.

Race must go on: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says Bahrain GP will go ahead

Race must go on: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says Bahrain GP will go ahead

Todt said: 'We have spoken… with representatives of the government, with the embassies and with neighbouring countries, as well as with European foreign ministries.

'We have made an extensive examination with a lot of checks. It is clear the grand prix can go ahead.

'There has been some controversy about it, but the FIA is a sports organisation. We are only interested in sport, not politics.'

Despite that, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has become the latest MP to call for the race to be cancelled.

Alexander said: 'F1 bosses should call off the scheduled Bahrain Grand Prix.

'To go ahead at present risks sending the wrong signal at a time when the authorities in Bahrain should be focused on delivering real reform.'

Bahrain Grand Prix 2012: Formula One"s key players set Saturday deadline

Saturday deadline in place for Bahrain as F1 teams plan showdown talks with Ecclestone

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 10 April 2012

Formula One's key players have set a deadline of Saturday to decide the fate of the Bahrain Grand Prix as violent political unrest continues to disturb the Gulf kingdom.

Representatives of the 12 teams will meet with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of motorsport's world governing body the FIA, at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Trouble ahead: Graffiti marked in the village of Barbar in protest at the scheduled Bahrain race

Trouble ahead: Graffiti marked in the village of Barbar in protest at the scheduled Bahrain race

The move comes after Ecclestone
claimed the decision to take part in the Bahrain race lay with the
teams, although he admitted that opting to pull out would see them
breach commercial agreements.

Before sitting down with Ecclestone
and Todt, teams will discuss their growing safety concerns about staging
a race in a country where anti- government protests are increasing by
the day.

Violence: The latest outbreak of disturbances in the Gulf state has given serious cause for concern

Violence: The latest outbreak of disturbances in the Gulf state has given serious cause for concern

The aim is to reach consensus on
whether they will race at the Sakhir Circuit on April 22 and try to
present a united front to the sport's two most powerful figures.

Publicly the teams continue to
profess they will leave the final decision in the hands of Ecclestone
and the FIA, but their sense of unease has grown after news that seven
policemen were injured, three seriously, by a homemade bomb in Bahrain
on Monday.

Clash: Anti-government protestors run away after tear gas is dispersed

Clash: Anti-government protestors run away after tear gas is dispersed

Bahraini authorities show no signs of
repeating their decision of last year to axe the race but there remains
the possibility that the teams will refuse to participate, although
that is likely to be via a mass withdrawal rather than some electing to
go and others not.

Ecclestone conceded: 'We've no way we
can force people to go there. Commercially they have to go, but whether
they decide to or not is up to them. I've had no-one say anything other
than, “We're going to be racing in Bahrain”.'

Over to you: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone insists teams will have final say over whether the race goes ahead

Over to you: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone insists teams will have final say over whether the race goes ahead

Phil Duncan F1 blog

Despite Ecclestone's claims that
Formula One is 'not involved in any of the politics in Bahrain',
prominent activist Dr Ala'a Shehabi, a British-born Bahraini and an
economics lecturer in the kingdom, claimed via Twitter she had been
contacted by the 81-year-old regarding the fate of jailed activist
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has been on hunger strike for more than two
months.

Dr Shehabi tweeted: 'Bernie Ecclestone just gave me a call on his way to China.

Unrest: Police have clashed with protestors on a daily basis

Unrest: Police have clashed with protestors on a daily basis

'He is very concerned with the
situation in Bahrain and with Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Ecclestone told me he
is being told that Alkhawaja has had breakfast, lunch & dinner. I
told him he is being force-fed, which is torture.'

Three-time world champion Sir Jackie
Stewart said: 'I think that it should go ahead because I think it has
far bigger ramifications, not only for Bahrain, not only for the region
of the Middle East but also on a global basis,' he told Al Jazeera.

'If this Grand Prix doesn't take place, it's an extraordinarily bad message for the rest of the world.'

Bahrain Grand Prix: Bomb wounds seven policemen

Further doubts over Bahrain GP as seven policemen are wounded by bomb

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UPDATED:

00:14 GMT, 10 April 2012

Events at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix are in danger of being overshadowed by uncertainty over whether the following race in Bahrain will go ahead amidst continued political unrest in the Gulf state.

At present, Formula One teams are working on the principal that the Bahrain Grand Prix is still on despite concerns over the safety of their employees and misgivings about staging a race in a country whose human rights record has been brought into question.

Up in flames: A flash-bang grenade is thrown by police as they storm a march

Up in flames: A flash-bang grenade is thrown by police as they storm a march

Such concerns are sure to have been heightened by the news that seven Bahraini policemen were wounded on Monday, three of them seriously, by a home-made bomb during a protest near the capital Manama calling for the release of an activist on a two-month hunger strike.

'We consider this an act of terrorism,' a Interior Ministry spokesman said of the explosion.

Running battle: Protestors clash with the police on Sunday

Running battle: Protestors clash with the police on Sunday

One team principal, who did not wish to be named, admitted: 'I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain. If I'm brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lock-down there.

'I think that would be unacceptable, both for Formula One and for Bahrain. But I don't see any other way they can do it.'

Violence: The Bahrain is due to go ahead next Sunday

Violence: The Bahrain race is due to go ahead next Sunday

With groups opposed to the ruling Bahrain royal family heavily critical of the decision to return the grand prix to the calendar following its cancellation last year, and with potentially violent protests expected to increase in intensity as the race on April 22 draws ever closer, teams have put in place contingency plans in the event it is called off yet again.

It is expected that most teams will fly their personnel to Middle East states such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman and Qatar rather than directly to Bahrain following Sunday's race in Shanghai.

On the Button: Bahrain hasn't hosted a grand prix since the season opener in 2010

On the Button: Bahrain hasn't hosted a grand prix since the season opener in 2010

Thus, if the race does indeed go ahead as planned teams face only a
short flight to Bahrain to carry out their normal grand prix
preparations.

But in the
event it is cancelled, the majority of Formula One personnel can fly
home to Europe without ever setting foot in Bahrain.

The worst case scenario for the teams is, of course, for the race to be
cancelled once they have installed themselves at the Sakhir circuit as a
consequence of the situation on the ground deteriorating to such an
extent that it is not deemed safe to proceed.

Trouble: There have been growing calls to scrap this year's Bahrain Grand Prix

Trouble: There have been growing calls to scrap this year's Bahrain Grand Prix

World motorsport governing body, the FIA, insist they are monitoring
events in Bahrain on a daily basis and remain in constant contact with
the government authorities who continue to assert it is safe to stage
the race.

Meanwhile, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone remains adamant the grand prix will go ahead.

Ecclestone is due in China this weekend as is FIA president Jean Todt
with the teams certain to seek a meeting with the Formula One power
brokers regarding the situation in Bahrain.

Bahrain Grand Prix: Bomb wounds seven policeman

Further doubts over Bahrain GP as seven policeman are wounded by bomb

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UPDATED:

20:38 GMT, 9 April 2012

Events at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix are in danger of being overshadowed by uncertainty over whether the following race in Bahrain will go ahead amidst continued political unrest in the Gulf state.

At present, Formula One teams are working on the principal that the Bahrain Grand Prix is still on despite concerns over the safety of their employees and misgivings about staging a race in a country whose human rights record has been brought into question.

Up in flames: A flash-bang grenade is thrown by police as they storm a march

Up in flames: A flash-bang grenade is thrown by police as they storm a march

Such concerns are sure to have been heightened by the news that seven Bahraini policemen were wounded on Monday, three of them seriously, by a home-made bomb during a protest near the capital Manama calling for the release of an activist on a two-month hunger strike.

'We consider this an act of terrorism,' a Interior Ministry spokesman said of the explosion.

Running battle: Protestors clash with the police on Sunday

Running battle: Protestors clash with the police on Sunday

One team principal, who did not wish to be named, admitted: 'I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain. If I'm brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lock-down there.

'I think that would be unacceptable, both for Formula One and for Bahrain. But I don't see any other way they can do it.'

Violence: The Bahrain is due to go ahead next Sunday

Violence: The Bahrain race is due to go ahead next Sunday

With groups opposed to the ruling Bahrain royal family heavily critical of the decision to return the grand prix to the calendar following its cancellation last year, and with potentially violent protests expected to increase in intensity as the race on April 22 draws ever closer, teams have put in place contingency plans in the event it is called off yet again.

It is expected that most teams will fly their personnel to Middle East states such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman and Qatar rather than directly to Bahrain following Sunday's race in Shanghai.

On the Button: Bahrain hasn't hosted a grand prix since the season opener in 2010

On the Button: Bahrain hasn't hosted a grand prix since the season opener in 2010

Thus, if the race does indeed go ahead as planned teams face only a
short flight to Bahrain to carry out their normal grand prix
preparations.

But in the
event it is cancelled, the majority of Formula One personnel can fly
home to Europe without ever setting foot in Bahrain.

The worst case scenario for the teams is, of course, for the race to be
cancelled once they have installed themselves at the Sakhir circuit as a
consequence of the situation on the ground deteriorating to such an
extent that it is not deemed safe to proceed.

Trouble: There have been growing calls to scrap this year's Bahrain Grand Prix

Trouble: There have been growing calls to scrap this year's Bahrain Grand Prix

World motorsport governing body, the FIA, insist they are monitoring
events in Bahrain on a daily basis and remain in constant contact with
the government authorities who continue to assert it is safe to stage
the race.

Meanwhile, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone remains adamant the grand prix will go ahead.

Ecclestone is due in China this weekend as is FIA president Jean Todt
with the teams certain to seek a meeting with the Formula One power
brokers regarding the situation in Bahrain.

Damon Hill fires Bahrain Grand Prix warning

We must put the human cost before F1: Hill fires warning over Bahrain Grand Prix

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UPDATED:

11:08 GMT, 5 April 2012

Damon Hill expressed concern at the prospect of visiting Bahrain for next month's grand prix.

Hill was particularly vocal a year ago at a time when the season-opening event was postponed in the wake of anti-government protests that resulted in a number of deaths prior to it being cancelled completely.

Protests: Hill has questioned whether this year's Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead

Protests: Hill has questioned whether this year's Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead

However, following a visit to the Gulf kingdom earlier this year, alongside FIA president Jean Todt, Hill expressed his support and championed the positive aspects the race could bring to Bahrain.

Since then, though, the protests have continued, with police clashing on almost a daily basis with demonstrators, combating petrol bombs with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Violence: Protestors have clashed with the police on almost a daily basis

Violence: Protestors have clashed with the police on almost a daily basis

With this year's grand prix just a fortnight away, Hill said: 'What we must put above all else is what will be the penalty in terms of human cost if the race goes ahead.

'It would be a bad state of affairs, and bad for Formula One, to be seen to be enforcing martial law in order to hold the race.

'That is not what this sport should be about. Looking at it today you'd have to say that the race could be creating more problems than it's solving.'

Running battles: A protestor stocks up on petrol bombs

Running battles: A protestor stocks up on petrol bombs

Hill, now an expert summariser on Sky Sports F1, has admitted the pictures and video he has witnessed over the past few weeks means the situation in Bahrain is 'a worrying state of affairs'.

Hill is not advocating the race be cancelled again, instead he is expressing his misgivings given the situation, and is calling on the FIA to 'tread carefully'.

Up in flames: An anti-government protester hurls a molotov cocktail at riot police

Up in flames: An anti-government protester hurls a molotov cocktail at riot police

Speaking in The Guardian, Hill added: 'I hope the FIA are considering the implications of this fully and that events in Bahrain are not seen as they are often sold, as a bunch of yobs throwing Molotov cocktails, because that's a gross simplification.

'If they believe that, they ought be more wary. You don't get 100,000 people risking their lives in protest for nothing.

Making his point: Hill is wary of the Bahrain race taking place this season

Making his point: Hill is wary of the Bahrain race taking place this season

'If we go, we all go, but there is obviously still a great deal of pain, anger and tension in Bahrain.

'It would be better for F1 to make it clear it properly understands this, and that it wants only the best for all Bahrain, or whatever country it visits. I think F1 is sailing very close to this limit.

'But there is an even more troubling thought, which is this: is F1 playing brinkmanship for purely financial reasons while people are putting their lives in peril to protest against this event'

Cheltenham Festival 2012: Three horses die on first day

Welfare groups denounce Cheltenham organisers after three horses die on first day

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UPDATED:

19:38 GMT, 13 March 2012

Animal welfare groups have reacted angrily after three horses tragically died on the first day's racing at the Cheltenham Festival.

The victims were 11-year-old Scotsirish, 13-year-old Garde Champetre and seven-year-old Educated Evans who died on the course which has killed nine horses in the last five years.

Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were both racing in the gruelling cross-country chase while Educated Evans had been entered into the final race of the day – the two-and-a-half mile novice's handicap chase – when disaster struck.

Fatalities: Educated Evans (not seen) died during the Novices' Handicap Steeple Chase

Fatalities: Educated Evans (not seen) died during the Novices' Handicap Steeple Chase

Scotsirish and Educated Evans broke hind legs while Garde Champetre suffered a serious injury and had to be destroyed.

Animal Aid's Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall said: 'The race in which Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were killed should never have taken place, given that it was run on dangerously firm ground.

'The layout of the cross-country course does not allow the operators to soften the going by watering what was officially termed “good to firm” ground.

'Rather than take the precautionary step of calling off the race, officials risked the lives of the horses, and two paid the ultimate price.

Outrage: Animal Welfare groups claim the Cross Country Chase should not have been run

Outrage: Animal Welfare groups claim the Cross Country Chase should not have been run

'Novice horse Educated Evans was unable to survive in an extremely crowded race that tested his ability to breaking point.

'More horses have been killed at Cheltenham Racecourse than at any other in the country over the past five years – a little known statistic that the owners of the course will not be keen to share with the paying punters.

'Animal Aid protestors will be at Cheltenham Racecourse on Wednesday to remind race-goers of the heavy price paid by horses at this notorious event.'

The news come less than 12 months after two horses died in horror-falls at the Grand National, played out in front of a
worldwide television audience of 600 million.

Ruby Tuesday: The day's big winner of the Champion Hurdle under Noel Fehily

Ruby Tuesday: The day's big winner of the Champion Hurdle under Noel Fehily

The Aintree race had to divert round the fences where the fatalities had occurred to avoid the bodies of the victims.

Meanwhile, Rock On Ruby ran out a
most impressive winner of the Stan James Champion Hurdle under Noel
Fehily, comfortably beating favourite Hurricane Fly who finished third.

Assistant trainer Harry Fry, who effectively looks after the training of Rock On Ruby in Nicholls' satellite yard, said: 'I'm speechless. This is what you dream of.

'It's great to be part of the team. With Richard (Barber) and Paul, you wouldn't ask for better.'

Bahrain Grand Prix moves step closer as employees are reinstated

Bahrain Grand Prix moves step closer as employees are reinstated

Bahrain took a step closer towards hosting this season's grand prix by reinstating employees previously dismissed following last year's protests.

The move is in accordance with a royal decree from king Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa as part of the implementation of recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.

The commission, set up to look into the events that occurred last year when a number of protesters were killed as political unrest swept the island kingdom, reported their findings in November.

Off the calendar: The Bahrain Grand Prix was scrapped last year

Off the calendar: The Bahrain Grand Prix was scrapped last year

The independent report made a number of findings, including with regard to the treatment of dismissed workers who were deemed to be in breach of contract during the protests.

The management team of the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) has already contacted the relevant staff with regards to reinstatement.

The BIC now hopes to see all employees returning to work as soon as possible.

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa, chief executive of the BIC, said: 'The reinstatement of our BIC colleagues is part of an important initiative towards national reconciliation and unity for the kingdom as a whole.

Ongoing protest: Pro-reform protestors gather on Tuesday

Ongoing protest: Pro-reform protestors gather on Tuesday

'I therefore welcome back our colleagues into the BIC family as we now look to focus on the future and the important job at hand.

'The BIC, and in particular the Formula One Grand Prix, is of huge significance to our country, acting as a strong unifier, given the support it receives from all sections of Bahrain society.

'I now look forward to working with all BIC colleagues to ensure we continue to provide world-class track events, which every citizen of Bahrain can be proud to support.'