The Olympic triumphs of Gold Medalists Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and other British stars "have inspired a new interest in athletics," according to Doward, Heap & Norton of the London GUARDIAN. Last year, "the number of athletes over the age of 11 affiliated to English clubs rose by almost 10,000, to 130,000" -- but many of those clubs are facing a crisis as their funds run dry. The latest Active People survey "shows that two million adults now take part in athletics for at least 30 minutes a week." However, if you speak to people in the lower levels of the sport, "a less rosy picture emerges." Many of the clubs, "the incubators that produce the future Farahs and Ennises, are struggling." Most "have always operated on a shoestring, relying on the goodwill of volunteers to keep them going," but there are concerns that money and volunteers are disappearing just when they are needed most. London Athletics Chair Tony Shiret said, "The issue for most athletics clubs after the 2012 Games is that interest has undoubtedly increased. But the clubs have been underfunded for a very long time, the political will to support them has been lacking and the national governing bodies continue to be uninterested in volunteer-based clubs." Sponsorship "is another concern." Frozen food company McCain "has confirmed that it will not renew its five-year deal," that led to £5M ($7.6M) being invested in the lower levels of the sport, when it expires this year. Insurance giant and main supporter of athletics in Britain Aviva "chose not to continue its own sponsorship deal when it expired" in '12 (GUARDIAN, 3/23).
Seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer said that golf's future "lies in the growth" of the int'l game and a return to the Olympics, according to Steve Keating of REUTERS. After 112 years, golf will return to the Olympic program at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Palmer said, "As the Olympics cast their influence on the world with golf becoming an Olympic sport it is going to have a great affect on the game. I would have enjoyed that (playing in an Olympics) had it been part of the program but I am happy that it's doing what it is doing." But while the Olympics are sure to attract the world's best golfers, Palmer is "not as convinced" that the course layout for the Summer Games will be of the same high quality that they have become accustomed to. A "renowned course architect himself," Palmer is concerned that delays in construction could mean the Olympic course "will not be of a gold medal standard." Palmer said, "I am still little nervous about the Olympics and how that will transpire in 2016 simply because they are a little behind the gun already and they are going to have to pick up pretty quickly. It takes a little time to build a golf course and takes a little more time for it to mature into a championship type golf course" (REUTERS, 3/23).
The IOC delegation started its four-day visit in Istanbul on Saturday "after paying visits to other candidate cities Tokyo and Madrid." The group "will make visits to the sports facilities in Istanbul, including the 76,000-seat Ataturk Olympic Stadium, and the 52,000-seat Seyrantepe Stadium" (XINHUA, 3/24). ... Organizers of the 5th Fazaa Int'l Athletics Competition said that Dubai's position as the opening host city in the Int'l Paralympic Committee's inaugural Athletics Grand Prix "is crucial to the future of the sport" in the UAE. The event, taking place this week at the Dubai Police Officers Club "received a resounding endorsement from the IPC when it was chosen to kick-off the governing body's new, six-leg global circuit." Such recognition "can already be quantified in the interest generated among the para-athletic community, with more than 450 entrants representing 35 countries registered for the four-day event," which began Friday evening (THE NATIONAL, 3/23). ... The Shanghai Sports Bureau "has denied claims they signed an agreement with a hospital to provide free life-long medical insurance to Olympic and world champions as well as their coaches." The sports authority, which has twenty-three athletes listed in the program, clarified on Wednesday "that the insurance program includes both personal and commercial medical insurance supported by the Shanghai Sports Development Foundation" (XINHUA, 3/23).