At the London 2012 Olympics, I was given the very special honour of taking the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the athletes that were competing in the Games.

As I held a corner of the Olympic Flag that special night, I declared: "In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

It was a magical moment to say those immortal words at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in front of 80,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience of around 900 million.

Unfortunately in the London 2012 taekwondo competition, I didn't manage to repeat my Olympic medal-winning performance from Beijing 2008 but I will still never forget what an amazing and inspiring few weeks those Games were; not just for me and all the other athletes, but for the whole of the UK.

The really important thing now is that we continue to build a real legacy of sports participation from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, particular for young people.

As one of Sport England's Sporting Champions, one of my roles now is to meet with young people to inspire them and motivate them and I will be looking to do exactly that later this month at the Sainsbury's School Games in Greater Manchester.

The event is something that I'm really looking forward to, not least because it will be taking place at the superb Sportcity in Manchester, which is the location where I spent a lot of time training in my bid to become one of the world's best athletes in my sports.

The Sainsbury's School Games is backed by crucial National Lottery funding from Sport England and designed to increase the opportunities for young people to take part in sport across the school year. It is also an event that allows them to give their best in the sporting arena, make new friends and have lots of fun. At the end of the day, that is what sport is all about.

The concept of the Sainsbury's School Games takes me back to that Olympic Oath I made at the start of London 2012.

Although there are still some out there who struggle to see the huge benefits of participating in sport; it is in my mind unquestionably a force for good.

When taking that Olympic Oath, my words highlighted the importance of abiding by the rules, of being committed, of not cheating and of competing in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

These underline the three Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence.

These values are something that all young people should strive for both in sport and in life.

By doing so, they will keep Olympic Flame burning brightly and the inspirational legacy of London 2012 very much alive.

Sarah Stevenson is a British taekwondo athlete who won a bronze medal for Team GB at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. At the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, she was chosen to take the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the athletes competing. She is also one Sport England's Sporting Champions that will attend the Sainsbury's School Games.


The U.S. Olympic Committee has tapped a veteran Los Angeles banker and a top officer with Stanford University to head a new foundation to support athletes.

Gordon Crawford, a former fund manager for the Capital Group Cos., is to become the chairman of the newly created U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation, while Jon Denney, a top fundraising executive with Stanford University, will become its president, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the foundation and the USOC's development efforts.

Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the USOC, said the foundation is seeking to raise $50 million annually from high-net-worth individuals to supplement revenues the organization collects from television rights and sponsorships.

The USOC raised about $17 million last year. But just $10 million came in major gifts, which still is about five-times as much as its major gifts program brought in as recently as 2009.

As more countries have emphasized winning medals, training Olympians has become a financial arms race.

But unlike most national Olympic organizations, the USOC doesn't receive direct government support.

"Our goal is to support every member of a national team, which is about 2,500 athletes," Mr. Blackmun said.

The USOC has cultivated 52 trustees who have committed $300,000 each over the next four years.

Mr. Crawford, who has an extensive collection of Olympic memorabilia, including a collection of Olympic torches from every Games and sets of medals going back to 1896, said the foundation will hand all of its money over to the USOC. Donors won't have a say in how the money is spent, though they likely would be able to attend the Games potentially as guests of the USOC.

"This is going to be an educational process in teaching people that if we want to be competitive and give our young people a chance then we're going to have to support that privately," Mr. Crawford said.

The USOC reported revenues of $338 million and expenses of $247 million for 2012. It now spends about $60 million annually directly subsidizing some 1,500 winter and summer athletes. The organization consistently produces the world's largest Olympic teams, in addition to running training centers and employing doctors, trainers and coaches.

A former All-American swimmer for Stanford, Mr. Denney participated in the Olympic swimming trials and has deep ties to the wealthy Silicon Valley region, which has proved fertile ground for USOC fundraising.

One potential concern is whether the USOC fundraising efforts will cannibalize the fundraising that the national sports federations already do.

Mr. Crawford insisted the USOC will be able to find new donors.

"If someone has a natural affinity to certain national governing body and sport we're going to encourage them to give to that sport directly," Mr. Crawford said. "The idea is to make the pie bigger. We're going to find new donors. It's untapped," he said.


As Jacques Rogge called the executive board meeting to order, signs of change were staring him right in the face.

Four of the six candidates vying to succeed Rogge as International Olympic Committee president were sitting around the same conference table. The two other contenders were down the hall in the same Russian convention center, mixing with the delegates.

With just over three months until the election, the IOC presidential campaign is one of a series of hot-button issues stirring up the Olympic movement.

Rarely have so many critical questions and decisions come together at the same time -- the president's race, the bidding for the 2020 Olympics, the fate of wrestling and proposed new sports, the role and future of the World Anti-Doping Agency, muscle-flexing by various power brokers and kingmakers.

"There's a lot of politically loaded decisions that will have occurred in the last six months of my mandate," Rogge told The Associated Press.

Rogge's departure in September after 12 years as president has created the opportunity for power plays around the Olympic world. Organizations and individuals are staking out positions and forging alliances, each trying to secure a place in the shifting landscape.

The political maneuvering was in overdrive at last week's SportAccord convention and IOC meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia, where presidential hopefuls, bid cities, sports federations, national Olympic committees, consultants, strategists and spin doctors all lobbied furiously for their agenda.

"With the elections, things are changing a little bit," veteran Swiss IOC member and international ski federation chief Gian-Franco Kaspar said. "There's a lot of rumors, a lot of gossip, but things are really moving at the moment."

Added Canadian member Dick Pound: "Certainly a lot of the stars and planets are lining up at roughly the same time."

The road show moved to New York this week, with the key players attending the 3rd International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development at the United Nations.

The presidential contenders are everywhere: IOC vice presidents Thomas Bach of Germany and Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, amateur boxing association head C.K. Wu of Taiwan, former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka of Ukraine and rowing federation chief Denis Oswald of Switzerland.

Next stop on the campaign trail: the Association of National Olympic Committees assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland, on June 14. The candidates return to Lausanne on July 4 to present their manifestos to IOC members. The meeting will be held behind closed doors, with each candidate given 15 minutes to make a pitch.

From there, it will be a mad sprint to the finish line in Buenos Aires, with the 100-plus IOC members voting by secret ballot on Sept. 10.

Bach, a former Olympic fencing gold medalist, has been seen as the front-runner but faces the most crowded field ever for an IOC presidential race. Carrion and Ng appear to be the top challengers, but anything can happen in IOC elections.

Many of the candidates have spoken of a need to review the way sports are added to or dropped from the Olympics, reflecting dismay with the process that led to wrestling's surprise removal from the 2020 Games in February.

Wrestling is now back on a shortlist with squash and baseball-softball, competing for a single spot on the 2020 program, which will be decided by a Sept. 8 vote in Buenos Aires.

None of the candidates is espousing radical change. Instead, their manifestos have centered on common themes: giving more power to IOC members, controlling the size and cost of the games, engaging with youth, fighting doping and irregular betting, and protecting the Olympic ideals.

"Everybody's come together to try to occupy the middle and hint at perhaps some of the tougher edges," Pound said.

Personal friendships and relationships are likely to count more than any specific issues.

"It's almost ridiculous," Kaspar said of the material he has been receiving from the candidates. "We all know the candidates since 20 years or whatever. Why the hell should they try to inform the IOC members all of a sudden who they are and so on? It's more for the media.

"At the end, they are more or less on the same level, the same direction and philosophy."

Change is also afoot for WADA, which has come under criticism from sports federations it accused of not doing enough to catch dopers. The IOC and federations insist WADA is a "service organization" created to support the sports bodies, not order them what to do.

A new WADA president will be elected in November, succeeding John Fahey. It's up to the Olympic movement to nominate a candidate. Prospective contenders include British IOC vice president Craig Reedie, who sits on the WADA executive committee, and former IOC medical director Patrick Schamash.

Meanwhile, other movers and shakers are making their mark in the Olympic world.

Among those working the corridors of power in St. Petersburg were Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah of Kuwait and international judo federation president Marius Vizer.

Sheik Ahmad took over last year from Mario Vazquez Rana as head of the Association of National Olympic Committees. He has raised eyebrows by proposing a multi-sport ANOC games and is seen as a key ally of Bach in his IOC presidential bid.

The sheik also was seen hugging Vizer, after the Romanian-born Hungarian was elected as head of SportAccord, the umbrella body for Olympic and non-Olympic sports. In a direct challenge to the IOC, Vizer proposes holding a "United World Championships" for all the federations every four years.

"We have some guys like the sheik and Vizer who come in with a lot of power and a lot of money and their intentions are quite interesting," Kaspar said. "What do they want?"

Almost overshadowed by the politicking has been the bidding for the 2020 Olympics, with Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo making up the field. They made their first presentations in St. Petersburg, with each portraying itself as a safe and financially sound choice.

The presentations came before the anti-government rallies and police crackdown in Turkey that have raised issues for Istanbul.

"That's the elephant in the room for Istanbul: Is the country willing and able to remain secular?" Pound said. "People will now be looking a little more attentively at it."

The three cities will make technical presentations to the IOC members in Lausanne on July 3, a potential turning point ahead of the Sept. 7 vote in Buenos Aires. It was at a similar meeting in 2009 when Rio de Janeiro seized the momentum in the race for the 2016 Games.

With all this activity swirling around him, Rogge said he still has plenty to do before handing over to his successor.

"My agenda will be full until the very last day," he said. "It's an agenda with major decisions. It's not an agenda of someone running out of his mandate quietly."


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened the bidding process for the sale of broadcast and exhibition rights in Asia for the Sochi 2014 Winter and Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, as well as the Nanjing 2014 Youth Games.

The IOC says it will consider bids for television rights from 24 countries across the continent - namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The world sport governing body also said it would consider supplemental bids for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and the 2020 Olympics, whose host city will be named later this year.

"The IOC will assess bids on their ability to meet the highest standards in broadcast quality, their capacity to reach the broadest possible audience across different media platforms, their commitment to promoting the Olympic Games and the values of the Olympic Movement, as well as on the financial offer," read a statement.

"The IOC will consider bids from organisations who can guarantee full exploitation of the rights either on a multi-territory or country-by-country basis."

The bid submission deadline has been set at 17.00 CET on July 5 this year.


As the opening date for the London Olympics nears, Beijing's acclaimed Olympic venues are saddled with high maintenance costs and are struggling to get by. And the most famous, the Bird's Nest stadium, has been repudiated by its own creator, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Even the state-run government mouthpiece, the China Daily, worries that Beijing's iconic structures risk becoming "white elephants."

To the bang of drums and the roar of the crowds, Beijing's 2008 Olympics opened with a boom. The spectacular opening ceremony was fitting for the spectacular Bird's Nest. Girdled with strips of concrete, it was an ambitious structure for a new superpower.

But four years on, the Bird's Nest is looking tired and empty.

A 'Kind Of Dirty' Construction Zone

These days, a smattering of mostly Chinese tour groups trickles though the stadium. Visitor numbers are in free fall: They plummeted by half in the first six months of 2011 compared with a year before, according to state-run media. The Bird's Nest cost $480 million to build, and its upkeep costs $11 million a year.

But the only international visitors sitting in the stands on a recent day aren't impressed.

"For me, it's just a huge concrete place," says German tourist Christian Lodz. "Personally I think, after four years, it looks a little bit shabby."

"What I think is interesting is that it's just not used for anything useful," says his countryman Henne Zelle, waving at a crane and tarpaulins in the middle of the stadium. "There's a construction zone there, and it's kind of dirty."

The problem is how to fill the empty expanse of seats; the stadium is designed to house 91,000 spectators.

Since the Olympics, a number of tactics have been tried: The construction of man-made ski slopes turned it temporarily into a winter wonderland, and tightrope walker Adili Wuxor spent two months living suspended on a tightrope above the Bird's Nest trying to set a new world record.

It's a far cry from the world record set by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who set the mark for the 100 meters and the 200 meters in the packed Bird's Nest. Now, tourists wobble around the same track on Segways, which they hire for just over $20 for 15 minutes.

There's even a small waxworks museum, exhibiting figurines of all the past and present presidents of the International Olympic Committee. When he called Beijing's Olympic venues "beautiful" and "unprecedented," current IOC President Jacques Rogge can hardly have known he would be immortalized in wax inside one of those venues, always photo-ready, should the visitor be willing to part with $1.50 for the privilege.

But the long-term future of the stadium is unclear. The Beijing soccer team, Guo'an, shied away from making it their home, perhaps wary of the costs. There are few events that can fill enough seats.

This summer, the stadium stands unused — except as a tourist destination — for three months, from the end of an equestrian show in May until its next engagement, a soccer match between British teams Arsenal and Manchester City at the end of July.

Cube's Qualified Success Story

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, on the other hand, has found an afterlife. Known as the Water Cube, the translucent color-shifting building, where the swimming events were held, is the only Beijing Olympic venue that was financed by public donations, in this case by 350,000 overseas Chinese.

Now, one part of it has been turned into a water park, where swimmers shoot down colorful tubes into the pools of water. It's even launched a line of branded goods, including Water Cube alcohol, which sells at a cool $150 a bottle.

But still, turning a profit isn't easy.

"It's extremely, extremely difficult not to lose money," Yang Qiyong, the Water Cube's deputy manager, says with a frank laugh.

He angrily denies state-run media reports that the facility lost $1.5 million last year. But according to the state-run Global Times, Yang says the Water Cube attracted nearly 2.1 million visitors in 2011, 30 percent fewer compared with the year before.

"Although we put in a lot of effort, the trend of diminishing numbers can't be reversed," he says.

Yang says the Water Cube narrowly broke even last year, though it required $1.5 million in government subsidies.

"Without that money, we couldn't hold important sports events. Some international competitions clearly lose lots of money. But in order to maintain our venue's image, we must host them," Yang says.

And it's all about image.

"It really is worth it," Yang says. "Regardless of whether you're talking about Beijingers or Chinese people, we needed a landmark venue, a place whose image is beautiful."

China's Pride Or Propaganda?

Chinese tourist Wang Xiaoyu feels the same way, as he stands inside the Bird's Nest for the first time.

"I'm proud that China has this great architecture, that it can build such a great world monument. How can you not feel proud?" he asks, beaming from ear to ear.

The official audio tour describes the stadium in these symbolic terms: "The Bird's Nest, as a symbol of the rise of the Chinese nation, will follow the nation's footsteps in its rise to glory."

But the Chinese artist who helped conceive of the Bird's Nest now says he regrets having designed such a monument to China's Communist leaders.

Ai Weiwei designed the stadium, together with Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. But Ai has never set foot inside the finished building.

He told NPR that the stadium has become entirely divorced from ordinary people.

"We love this building, but we don't like the content they have put in, the kind of propaganda. They dissociated this building [from] citizens' celebration or happiness; [it's] not integrated with the city's life," Ai said. "So I told them I will never go to this building."

The triumphant music pumped out into the Bird's Nest over video of cheering crowds now falls into a vacuum. It was designed as a stage for China's coming-out party, to send a message to the world. But in this land of government-backed vanity projects, this empty, echoing stadium now sends a very different message.

-Louisa Lim