Australian and GB Olympic chiefs go toe to toe
The Australian and British team bosses squared up at London’s Olympic village in a demonstration of a friendly rivalry which is destined to become a sub-plot of the 2012 Games.
FISTS clenched but smiles firmly in place, the Australian and British team bosses squared up at London’s Olympic village in a demonstration of a friendly rivalry which is destined to become a sub-plot of the 2012 Games.
“Let the Games begin,” Australian chef de mission Nick Green declared as he stood toe to toe with his British counterpart Andy Hunt.
His bring-it-on message might have looked more threatening had the pair not been flanked by BK – the giant boxing kangaroo on one side and Britain’s Pride Lion on the other.
The two team mascots also made a show of fisticuffs and argy-bargy but the effect was spoilt somewhat by a few outbreaks of cuddling in between.
Despite the playful banter there is a serious side to the rivalry.
Host nations traditionally pour millions of extra dollars into their Olympic teams in an effort to flex their sporting muscles before the world. Sydney 2000 was no different.
Britain pushed Australia out of the top five in the Beijing 2008 medal count.
The Australians are determined to shove their way back in, but it would be a major surprise if they topped Britain in the charts this time.
That would be a major national embarrassment for the host nation.
“We are fierce opponents on the field of play but great mates off it,” Green said at the Olympic village on Tuesday.
“Our rivalry is historic. It will continue at the Olympic Games and it will continue post Olympic Games.”
Green could do nothing but agree with an earlier comment from London organising committee (LOCOG) chief and former athletics great Sebastian Coe: “Never underestimate Australians.”
The British-Australian rivalry has been a constant undercurrent to 2012 Olympic preparations.
Never was that more evident than when diving champion Matthew Mitcham appeared at a media conference with Green this week.
While the Australian chef de mission spoke of the rivalry in frank but diplomatic terms, Mitcham blurted out: “I think we always want to stick it to the Poms.”
Green said the British team would perform well if it handled the pressure of an expectant nation, but added: “If they don’t it might be a different story.” – AAP