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British Olympic Association chief criticises move to give prize money to track and field gold medallists | UK News

A decision by athletics bosses to pay Olympic gold medallists was inappropriate and has created problems with other sports, Team GB’s boss has told Sky News.

Last week’s announcement by World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe was a surprise because sports have never awarded prize money in the 128-year history of the Olympics.

Gold medallists in track and field will earn $50,000 (around £39,400) in Paris this summer before silver and bronze winners are also paid from Los Angeles 2028.

The decision stunned the British Olympic Association, which Lord Coe chaired until 2016.

“What wasn’t great about the announcement last week is when one sport goes off and does something on their own, doesn’t include the sports, doesn’t include the IOC, doesn’t include the National Olympic Committees,” BOA chief executive Andy Anson told Sky News.

“They create a problem because now other sports are clearly going to get some scrutiny or even pressure from athletes saying, ‘Well what about us? How can this sport do it and not others?’.

“I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate or helpful for one sport just to announce that.”

The International Olympic Committee was only informed by World Athletics just before the announcement last Wednesday and not consulted by Lord Coe.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. Pic: Reuters
World Athletics president Lord Sebastian Coe. Pic: Reuters

Read more:
$50,000 for a gold – athletics becomes first sport to offer prize money to Olympians

Mr Anson warned of the risks of creating a divide between sports and said it “seems even worse” athletics was only initially paying out to Olympic champions.

“We’ve got to look at it holistically and make sure that we don’t create a two tier system,” he said.

Team GB is targeting a top-five finish on the medals table, having ranked in the top four at every Summer Olympics since 2008.

Mr Anson said: I know there’s all these political issues knocking around.

“But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that in 100 days, we’ve got the most exciting Olympic Games happening on our doorstep, in the most beautiful city, with the most beautiful venues, with hundreds of thousands of Team GB fans crossing the Channel to go and support our team.

“And I want everyone to feel the excitement because in this building we’re ready to go. We’re prepared.”

Mr Anson was speaking in an interview to mark 100 days – today – until the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics, which is being staged in an unprecedented manner down the River Seine.

Group of athletes at the track ready to run. Pic: iStock
Pic: iStock

But French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged for the first time this week that the show might be restored to the traditional stadium setting if the security threat is deemed too great.

I’m clearly concerned,” Mr Anson said. “It’s one of the most important things that we have to manage from a risk perspective.

“We’d be naive if we weren’t thinking about that. Our number one priority is to keep all our athletes, our broader entourage and our fans safe.”

He said the opening ceremony “is a high risk environment and that’s got to be managed accordingly, but the French are very, very aware of that”.

The risks are heightened by conflicts in the Middle East and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

But the UK government has ended its opposition to athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus even competing as neutrals in Paris.

Mr Anson said: “The restrictions in terms of no military personnel, no one who supported the conflict publicly… means that you are getting proper neutrality. And I think now it’s time to move on from that debate.”

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Another debate in sport is over transgender eligibility policies and Mr Anson leans towards the government’s view that only those born female should compete in women’s sports.

“We’ve got to protect the women’s category and make sure it’s sacrosanct – and that women are competing fairly on a fair stage,” he said.

“We know that in the broader context, we also have to be sympathetic and embrace diversity and make sure that people feel included and not victimised in any way.”

Team GB is not expecting to have any trans athletes qualify for Paris.

The generally accepted position seems to be, if you have gone through puberty as a male, you have an inherent advantage for the rest of your life,” Mr Anson said.

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Sprinter CJ Ujah named in Team GB relay squad for first time since drugs ban
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A separately challenging issue for Team GB is the potential return to the Olympics for sprinter CJ Ujah following a 22-month drugs ban.

Team GB was stripped of silver in the 4X100 relay at the Tokyo Olympics after he tested positive for traces of ostarine, used to treat muscle wasting, and S-23, which promotes muscle growth.

The 30-year-old has been selected in Britain’s relay squad for the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas in May, opening a path back to the Olympics.

“He let everyone down by what he did in Tokyo, without a doubt,” Mr Anson said.

“So he now needs to go a step further than everyone else in proving that he’s beyond that, that he is actually helping other people address the issues that he created. So yeah, so it doesn’t sit that comfortably.”

CJ Ujah is back in the fold after serving his ban. Pic: PA
CJ Ujah. Pic: PA

But Team GB is unable to punish an athlete twice for the same offence.

“We have to accept that if he’s nominated, he’ll be part of the team,” Mr Anson said. “But we’ll make sure that we impress on him that he needs to help others avoid the pitfalls that he created for himself and others in Tokyo.”

Awaab Ishak: Housing association boss apologises for two-year-old ‘s death – but will not resign | UK News

The chief executive of the housing association that oversaw the home so mould-ridden it led to the death of a two-year-old has apologised – but will not resign.

Gareth Swarbrick, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) chief executive, said “no apology will ever be enough” for the death of Awaab Ishak, but he said conversation around his position had “begun to overshadow” the issue.

So, in a statement, he confirmed: “Having spoken to the board, I can confirm that I will not be resigning.

“They have given me their full backing and trust to continue to oversee the improvements and changes needed within RBH.”

Awaab died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in the one-bedroom flat where he lived with his parents in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

The inquest into the toddler’s death concluded the property he lived in was exposed to “extensive” mould for “some considerable time”.

Politicians have said the death of the two-year-old should be a “catalyst for change in housing standards”.

Mr Swarbrick said he had spoken to Housing Secretary Michael Gove to discuss Awaab and the “issues we face in social housing”.

The minister had summoned him to explain the failures that led to boy’s death.

Awaab Ishak's home
The family’s home

Mr Swarbrick went on: “I want to start by saying how sorry I am to Awaab’s family for their loss – no apology will ever be enough.

“We back the government’s commitment to strengthen the Decent Homes Standard and the importance of the tenant’s voice, which will be reinforced by the Social Housing Regulation Bill.”

Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH). PIC: PA
Gareth Swarbrick

He said the Association had made a “raft of changes” since Awaab’s death, including changing its disrepair policy, so work to tenants’ homes would not be held up by a legal process.

They have “better connected IT systems” and have introduced mandatory training on damp and mould, as well as improvements for dealing with tenants where English is not their first language.

“We agree with the coroner that the tragic death of Awaab will be, and should be, a defining moment for the whole housing sector,” he added.

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Gove summons housing chief to explain failures

Alison Tumilty, RBH’s board chair, admitted mistakes had been made, and they had “let down” Awaad’s parents Faisal and Aisha

“Having spoken to the board, I can confirm that we have full confidence in Gareth’s leadership. He has the trust of the board. He has extensive knowledge of the sector and the communities of Rochdale.

“Together, we will work to restore the trust of the people of Rochdale and demonstrate that we are a mutual landlord that cares, and cares deeply about our tenants.

“Rochdale Boroughwide Housing is committed to do better, and we will do better.”

The housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway has said he will launch an investigation into more complaints about mould in homes in Rochdale after an inquest into Awaab’s death.

Peabody housing association ‘sorry for our part’ after leaving woman dead in her flat for more than two years | UK News

A housing group said it is “devastated” and “sorry for our part” in failing to realise one of its tenants had been left dead in her flat for two and a half years.

Sheila Seleoane, 58, was last heard from in August 2019, the last month she made a rent payment.

When police forced their way into her flat in Peckham in February 2022 – after neighbours noticed a balcony door swinging open following Storm Eunice – her body had to be identified by dental records.

Residents had reported the presence of maggots and flies to Peabody Group “within weeks” of the August date she had last been confirmed alive, but the housing association closed the case the month after.

“We didn’t ask the most fundamental question – is Sheila ok?” said Peabody’s chief executive, Ian McDermott.

“I am so sorry this happened,” he said. “We’ve apologised to the family. We’re deeply sorry for what happened.

“The biggest apology though I think does go to the residents of Lord’s Court. They did tell us that something was wrong.”

Six months after Ms Seleoane made her last rent payment, Peabody made an application for direct payment of Universal Credit.

The housing association has not repaid this money but has pledged to do so.

According to an independent investigation commissioned by Peabody, the COVID-19 lockdown “exacerbated the length of time the body remained undiscovered, but was not the cause of the delay”.

Peabody said that it had recorded 89 attempts to contact Ms Seleoane, but recognised these were not substantive and none were successful.

By October 2020 the housing association had contacted the Metropolitan Police to perform a welfare check on Ms Seleoane and an officer incorrectly told them she was safe and well.

The force said that the staff member had since left the force but would have faced a professional standards enquiry if they had still been employed.

A coroner’s inquest this week found that the police and Peabody had missed numerous opportunities to discover her body.

Dr Julian Morris delivered an open verdict and said: “To lie undetected for in all likelihood over two years is difficult to fathom in 2022.”