Harry S Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, once said: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
It was exactly the kind of home truth for which this humble man, who ran the world’s most powerful country for eight years from 1945, was famous.
It is also the kind of home truth that the people who run Olympic sport in this country would do well to remember over the next five years.
Unlike the US, we don’t do tidy constitutional arrangements here. We don’t even do constitutions.
The picture, whether it is in the arts, business, politics or sport, tends to be more complicated. So much so that it is often difficult to work out where, to paraphrase Truman’s most quoted maxim, the buck does stop.
Take London 2012, for example. On the sporting side alone, the British Olympic Association (BOA), UK Sport and the governing bodies of the (currently 35, soon to be 33) Olympic sports share responsibility for the preparation of the team that British sports fans hope will deliver shed loads of medals in five years’ time.
But how that responsibility is shared, and who is in charge, is the subject of some debate.
The BOA is the National Olympic Committee mandated by the International Olympic Committee to look after all things Olympic in this country.
It is the BOA that officially picks Team GB for the summer and winter Games, and it is the BOA that manages that team when it is at the Games and in the pre-Games holding camps.
The BOA is independent and privately funded. It was this independence that allowed it to ignore Margaret Thatcher and send a team to the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
But the BOA has never been particularly rich (or, some would say, professional). As a result it has tended to focus on its administrative roles in and around the Games. It is for this reason that it has sometimes, perhaps harshly, been described as a glorified travel agent.
UK Sport, on the other hand, is a government quango set up to distribute public money (although it is increasingly coming from the Lottery) to our elite sports men and women.
It was established in 1996 - largely as a response to Team GB’s dismal showing at the Atlanta Games – and bears many similarities to the all-conquering Australian system.
Over the last 11 years, UK Sport (in conjunction with the English Institute of Sport) has developed a widespread and well-resourced network of support services for elite performance.
But UK Sport is clearly not free from government influence. It is also, by its nature, elitist. At its heart is a virtuous circle that rewards success with a bigger slice of the funding pie.
This is, of course, a rational and transparent way to use public money (and cycling, rowing and sailing keep delivering) but it doesn’t help the talented kid in a less successful Olympic programme, does it?
Which is where Sir Clive Woodward, one of only two Englishmen to actually mastermind a world cup triumph in a major team sport, should come in.
Without doubt an innovator and a proven manager of sporting talent, Woodward could be exactly what those under-performing/under-resourced sports need to contribute to Team GB’s “stretch target” of fourth in the 2012 medal table.
He may also have helpful contributions to make to the sports that are already genuinely world class.
We won 11 golds in Sydney and nine in Athens to finish 10th in the table. Woodward thinks cycling, rowing and sailing can contribute that many themselves in London, but the extra golds we need to get to the 18-20 required will have to come from elsewhere.
So what’s the problem?
Hmm, where do you start?
Woodward has been the BOA’s elite performance director for a year now and it is clear many of the questions that followed his surprise appointment remain unanswered, and new questions have arisen.
Why Woodward? How can one man, with no previous experience of Olympic sport, have any impact across so many different disciplines? What is the BOA up to? How is it going to pay for this? Haven’t we already got elite performance directors at UK Sport? Et cetera, et cetera.
Woodward has come in for a wee bit of criticism for not doing the rounds of British Olympic sport in his first 12 months in the job but I think that’s unfair.
He says he’s been to a cross-section of the sports, here and abroad, and that seems reasonable to me. After all, there are common features in all sports and an endless round of meeting and greeting would not have achieved a great deal.
He has also been working on a template for sporting success that he has based on a golfer called Melissa Reid. Yes, a golfer, and yes, she’s a 19-year-old amateur. That also has raised eyebrows within the Olympic family.
But here too, I don’t think this is the fundamental problem that Woodward represents/faces.
No, my real concerns about Woodward’s role, and more importantly for Team GB’s London preparations, are to do with the relationship between his employers and UK Sport.
The latter was not remotely happy when such a high-profile figure (not known for his observance of diplomatic niceties) arrived on what it sees as its patch. Woodward’s preparation of an “elite performance model” that appears to work outside the UK Sport-funded framework has not helped this perception.
I think one national performance director said it best when he described Woodward’s plan as putting the cart before the horse. What needs to happen first is for the BOA and UK Sport to settle their differences and start working in unison.
Genius is a word that is far too frequently used, particularly in sport. But it’s a word that Woodward likes so I’m going to use it now.
What he and the BOA need to understand is that there are lots of other geniuses already out there (many of them at the sports themselves) and if we can get them working together there is no reason why Team GB cannot meet its 2012 targets.
Perhaps this is a time for Woodward to lead not from the front but from the centre.