BBC BLOGS - Ollie Williams

Archives for January 2010

Apprehensive, skint and reasonably good: Team GB for Vancouver

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Ollie Williams | 11:35 UK time, Saturday, 23 January 2010

This is a big week for British athletes hoping to compete for Team GB at Vancouver 2010, at the end of a month many of them may want to forget.

The Winter Olympics are less than three weeks away and, on Tuesday, the British Olympic Association will confirm almost every remaining place in the squad.

Bobsleigh - whose British athletes tore their way to internet infamy last week - will hope their team launch is a more seamless affair.

But Tuesday is largely about Britain's skiers, with the teams for alpine, cross country and freestyle skiing, plus snowboarding, all set to be selected. And what a bleak build-up to the Games it has been for them, culminating in the news last week that their national governing body is on the verge of going bust.

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GB handballers hope for landmark Finnish flourish

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Ollie Williams | 11:03 UK time, Thursday, 14 January 2010

It's often said the British invent sports, spread them around the world, then get beaten by the rest of the world in short order.

The British men's handball team have taken a shortcut to the third stage. They play a sport nobody in Britain has heard of, but which is popular elsewhere - particularly northern and eastern Europe - and cannot buy a win, for two reasons.

The first is that the GB men have only been a team for 18 months. They won one early friendly against Oman, and can claim a draw against Luxembourg last October, but otherwise have found their inexperienced players routinely trounced by both international and club opponents.

The second reason is the team have barely any money with which to buy that win, after handball was hit by UK Sport's financial cutbacks in January 2009. Though the International Olympic Committee stepped in with some funding, a centralised programme in Denmark has been forced to close, and players now struggle to earn a crust on the European club circuit.

But a place at the London 2012 Olympics beckons if the team can demonstrate they are competitive. They hope to start down that road at their first major tournament this weekend - by beating Finland.

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If teams don't show for the FA Cup, nor will fans

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Ollie Williams | 17:39 UK time, Sunday, 3 January 2010

Nobody is going to pretend Wigan Athletic v Hull City, on a freezing cold day in January, was a tie likely to sparkle with the fabled verve of an FA Cup classic.

With both teams mired in the Premier League's relegation battle, their supporters - and players, and accountants - have more pressing concerns than chasing some unlikely silverware.

That may be why just 5,335 people turned up to watch. Wigan didn't even bother opening one of their stands, for an all-Premier League clash in the FA Cup third round on what used to be one of the most important days in the domestic football calendar.

Wigan fans were not alone in finding better things to do with the first Saturday of a new decade. Half-empty stadia were in evidence across the country, from Middlesbrough to Portsmouth.

Have the nation's football fans given up on the FA Cup as a meaningful competition?

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