From Front Page- Olympic Report From The Guardian.
No seriously, handball just could be your route to Olympic glory
By John Inverdale
a guy who goes to a pub near me who once rowed in the Olympics.
I know this because, even though I've only been in there half a dozen times over the past 18
months, on every occasion he's managed to somehow get the conversation around to life on the river. From which I deduce that
either he only has one topic of conversation or he's just pretty damned proud about the achievement. And justifiably so. I
don't know about you, but every time I meet anyone who's taken part in any discipline on the greatest stage of all, I'm impressed.
You know how many sacrifices were made to attain that goal.
And so, last weekend, there were six of us in a (different)
pub, engaged in just that very debate. How much we would all like to have taken part in an Olympics at some point, and whether
even at our advanced age, with six years or so of intense dedication, we could maybe sneak into the archery team for London
2012. We even got as far as looking in the Yellow Pages for archery clubs and discussing possible training regimens, before
reluctantly agreeing that a deterioration in eyesight probably ruled that option out.
Then we hit on it. Handball. As host
nation we presumably get automatic entry into every event. Nobody plays handball in this country. Mug up on the rules, get
fit, and there we'll be - Olympians all - at the opening ceremony, representing our country and reliving our youth in the
Olympic village with competitors young enough to be our children, or in some cases grandchildren. We will bring to handball
what Eric the Eel gave to swimming.
Time to ring the British Handball Association. Now some of you may be rather taken aback to
learn that such a body exist, but indeed they do. In fact, let's go back a bit. You may not have the foggiest idea what handball
is, because the best moments of the Olympic final tend to be screened at around 3 o'clock in the morning between bouts in
the Greco-Roman wrestling. Suffice to say it's a kind of hybrid sport, mixing elements of netball, basketball, football and
rugby. If that makes it sound a bit of a mess, maybe it is, but believe me when I say that, at the top level, it's one of
the most exciting spectacles you can see in a sporting environment. It's origins are fought over by various nordic nations
Its first appearance at an Olympic Games was in Berlin in 1936, when it was played outdoors
on a football pitch, but it then slipped rather strangely into sporting oblivion before reappearing as an indoor sport in
Munich in 1972. And that is probably all you ever wanted to know about handball, but were afraid to ask.
There are 400 registered members of the BHA. You're probably
surprised there are that many. Apparently 5,000 people are playing the sport recreationally. The national men's champions
are the splendidly named Great Dane - so called because they were founded by the Anglo-Danish Student Society in the 1970s.
The Ruislip Eagles are the best women's team, and handball is currently two years into a 10-year play to develop the sport
nationwide. But here's the rub. Have a guess how much funding the entire sport of handball gets every year. Go on, have a
guess. Well, it's all of £10,000. That's £7,000 from Sport England and £3,000 from Sport Scotland. And with that derisory
sum they have to try to piece together a team to take on the world in six years' time.
Paul Bray is the ambitious but realistic chair of the BHA marketing
committee - an organisation who have the right to forfeit their place in 2012 if they feels the teams will be humiliated.
"There's no point in us taking part and being a laughing stock,' he says. "But I firmly believe that 2012 is the perfect springboard
for us to launch interest in the sport, and even though we won't be winning medals in six years' time, we can use it as a
way of catapulting the sport into the public consciousness so as to make us serious contenders eight years after that."
is why the British Handball Association are linking up with other national governing bodies to offer some of their nearly-men
and women the opportunity of a sporting lifetime. They're targeting top-level rugby, netball and basketball players who are
having doubts about what their future might hold, and dangling a huge carrot before them: the chance to represent Great Britain
in London 2012. Make no mistake, this is a serious proposition. Some of you reading this might be just what the BHA are looking
Which, alas, is more than can be said for the six sad men in the pub. I offered our services. Paul Bray has promised
to get back to us.''