August 22nd, 2013
02:58 PM ET

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Horse Racing
March 7th, 2012
09:47 PM ET

Why golf must get it right for 2016 Olympics

An illustrative version of the proposed Olympic golf course in the Rio suburbs.
An illustrative version of the proposed Olympic golf course in the Rio suburbs.

Not Jack Nicklaus, not Annika Sorenstam, not Greg Norman, Lorena Ochoa nor Gary Player. Instead, it’s the American architect Gil Hanse who takes the honor of designing a course fit to host golf’s return to the Olympics in Rio in 2016. It would be fair to say it’s a surprise.

It’s not that Hanse isn’t good. In fact he’s very good indeed. His design for Castle Stuart, now host to the Scottish Open, won "Best New International Course" in 2009, and his portfolio includes the Boston Golf Club, Craighead at Crail and courses in South Korea and Japan. Donald Trump has just entrusted him with refreshing the Blue Monster at Doral.

Golf will be back in the Olympics after a gap of 112 years. It didn’t take quite that long for Rio and the International Golf Federation to choose a designer – it just seemed that way. A series of delays led to rumors that the selection committee had been split. FULL POST

Posted by , ,
Filed under:  Golf
October 1st, 2011
05:07 AM ET

'Auld enemies' bring rivalry to New Zealand

Scotland captain David Sole epitomized the fierce rivalry between the two neighbors.
Scotland captain David Sole epitomized the fierce rivalry between the two neighbors.

(CNN) - No matter what the sport is, major tournaments always throw up intriguing match-ups, contests that go beyond a simple sporting rivalry between two opponents.

New Zealand’s largest city will witness such an occasion this weekend when one of rugby’s great battles takes place. FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Rugby
September 23rd, 2011
09:59 AM ET

Bagpipe ban puts wind up Scottish rugby fans

Bagpipes are a huge part of the occasion for Scottish rugby fans. (Getty Images)
Bagpipes are a huge part of the occasion for Scottish rugby fans. (Getty Images)

 (CNN) - Last year’s soccer World Cup in South Africa was memorable for many reasons, not least because of the distinctive sound of the vuvuzela.

The colored horns provided a unique soundtrack at every match and despite the predictable complaints from killjoys, the din added to a carnival atmosphere.
FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Rugby
February 17th, 2011
07:39 AM ET

Bangladesh excited to host Cricket World Cup

Bangladesh will host eight matches at the 2011 Cricket World Cup. (AFP/Getty Images)
Bangladesh will host eight matches at the 2011 Cricket World Cup. (AFP/Getty Images)

It's hard to travel around Dhaka this week without running into Stumpy, mascot to the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. The city is dotted with posters of the upbeat, cartoonish blue elephant. In each one, he's holding a cricket bat-shaped clock, counting down to the second the World Cup begins.

As if anyone in cricket-mad Bangladesh could forget. FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Cricket
November 29th, 2010
10:31 PM ET

Can La Liga steal Premier League's Asian thunder?

Barcelona's David Villa, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid are among La Liga's galaxy of stars. (AFP/Getty Images)
Barcelona's David Villa, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid are among La Liga's galaxy of stars. (AFP/Getty Images)

Like countless football fans around the world, the highlight of my Monday was watching the Clasico: Barcelona versus Real Madrid, two of the biggest clubs in world football going head to head.

Unlike countless fans, I had to wait until 4 a.m. for kick-off ... because I live in Hong Kong. But it was worth it to see a thrilling match in which Barca crushed their Spanish title rivals 5-0.

I am the reason Real Madrid president Florentino Perez signs players like Zidane, Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo: I'm an Asian fan passionate about European football, eager to support a club in a far-off town as if it were my own, and happy to spend my money on all the shirts, shorts, balls and related merchandise that clubs mass-produce.

There's just one problem for Mr. Perez. My heart belongs to the English Premier League's Liverpool, and I'm not alone.

FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football
June 30th, 2010
09:59 AM ET

Forget Capello – give Beckham the England job

David Beckham was welcomed onto the England coaching bench in South Africa by Fabio Capello. (AFP/Getty)
David Beckham was welcomed onto the England coaching bench in South Africa by Fabio Capello. (AFP/Getty)

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) - Germany did it with great success. Argentina and Brazil are doing it right now, and both teams are setting the pace in South Africa. Holland did it with less impressive results. But these great footballing nations weren’t afraid to try it - and now it’s time for the English Football Association to fast-track one of its favourite sons into managing the national side.

The FA has told Fabio Capello that he will learn his fate soon. Capello is a proud man with an enviable record in the game – he's a proven winner. But despite the hype surrounding his appointment - not to mention his wage demands – he has proved to be another disappointment for the FA and English football fans.

FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football
June 12th, 2010
02:09 PM ET

The noisiest, most colorful World Cup ever?

South Africans watch Friday's match on a giant screen in Soweto. Geoff Hill/CNN.
South Africans watch Friday's match on a giant screen in Soweto. Geoff Hill/CNN.

Soweto, South Africa - It was quite simply one of the loudest and most colorful starts to a football match, but the players and the pitch were nowhere to be seen -– except on a giant TV screen.

More than 20,000 fans dressed in yellow and green descended on Soweto’s Elkah Stadium to witness the start of Africa’s first ever World Cup.

Crowds started to gather hours before the match eager to soak up the atmosphere, which could easily be summed up in one word: loud.

FULL POST

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football
April 16th, 2010
04:42 PM ET

Is it all Gillett and Hicks' fault?"

As a Liverpool fan, it’s very easy to blame George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks for the current position of the club I love. But is it fair?

George Gillett and Tom Hicks purchased Liverpool in 2007.
George Gillett and Tom Hicks purchased Liverpool in 2007.

Gillett and Hicks have owned the club for just over three years. In that time, Liverpool have won nothing; success in the second-tier Europa League this season would represent the owners’ first trophy during their time in charge. Liverpool have been knocked out of the Champions League at an earlier stage each successive season under their ownership, and currently lie sixth in the English Premier League— well off the final Champions League spot, let alone the title race.

Soon after they took over, manager Rafael Benitez challenged them to spend big in order to catch up with Manchester United and Chelsea. That summer, they broke the club record to buy Fernando Torres. In all, they bought six players in three years for over $15 million:

Fernando Torres
Ryan Babel
Javier Mascherano
Robbie Keane
Glen Johnson
Alberto Aquilani

That is not a bad record by any means. But those big buys stand in contrast to times where the manager has not been able to spend what he’d like.

After Benitez hinted in 2007 that he’d like them to open their wallets to spend in the January transfer window, Tom Hicks lashed out publicly at his manager, telling him to “quit talking about new players”.

And there are the times Benitez was told he had to sell before he could buy. The best example came in the summer of 2008: Benitez had to sell Xabi Alonso to fund the purchase of Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry. Alonso’s transfer to Juventus fell through — and Liverpool never met Villa’s asking price for Barry. By the time Alonso was finally sold to Real Madrid the next summer, Barry had already moved to Manchester City.

Was the manager given enough financial support by the owners? It’s hard to say. He’s certainly had money to spend on major players, but his record in the transfer market has been criticized — Alberto Aquilani hasn’t found a consistent place in the team, while Ryan Babel has endured a troubled few seasons at the club and Robbie Keane was sold just six months after his arrival. But the fact remains that Liverpool do still lag behind their rivals in the transfer market. As Benitez pointed out: United can even afford to have Zoran Tosic, a player worth $18 million, out on loan.

While it’s true Liverpool have gone backwards in Europe — from the final in 2007, to the semifinals in 2008, to the quarterfinals in 2009, to the group stage this season — until this season there has been progress in the Premiership. Liverpool were 21 points behind the champions in 2007. That gap was sliced to 11 the following season. And last season was Liverpool’s finest in the Premier League, pushing Manchester United right to the end of a title race that Liverpool actually led for most of the season.

It’s hard to blame this season’s poor performance on boardroom instability when frosty relations between Gillett and Hicks are scarcely any different to the last — and last season Liverpool finished second.

What it comes down to at the end of the day is the new stadium. Or to be precise, the lack of one. The stadium project has been revised and delayed so many times I can’t find a proper timeline listing all the twists and turns it has taken. Not that it matters: the bottom line is that the new stadium does not yet exist. We have no idea when it will be built and who will pay for it. In that sense we are no further towards a new stadium than we were when the Hicks and Gillett took over — and they took over on the promise of building a new stadium.

Don’t mistake me for an apologist for Hicks and Gillett. The bottom line is that Liverpool have not won anything under the two owners. Gillett and Hicks make a good scapegoat — but to blame them entirely would be unfair.

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football
April 10th, 2009
07:29 AM ET

Why Ferguson is a man for all seasons

LONDON, England - I never thought I'd have the chance to meet my childhood hero. Despite growing up in Manchester and countless pilgrimages to Old Trafford, the only place I ever managed to see Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was on television. And it is television, in it's unique way, that finally afforded me the much sought-after opportunity to cross his path.

Alex Ferguson, pictured here being interviewed by CNN, has been a hero to fans of Manchester United for more than two decades.

Alex Ferguson, pictured here being interviewed by CNN, has been a hero to fans of Manchester United for more than two decades.

In the mid-late eighties, as a 10-year old boy desperate to see an end to Liverpool's dominance of the (then) First Division, Ferguson offered a rare commodity in football-mad Manchester: hope. The instant I met him this week, it was that same feeling that came flooding straight back, a sense of purpose and a dream that remains true to the original I had as a child.

Shaking hands with Fergie is an experience akin to the one my dad always taught me to expect of an authoritative figure. His grip was brief, firm and yet warm, encouraging. The great man himself can only be described as sprightly, light on his feet. He wore pulled-up socks, shorts and a tucked-in United shirt with AF emblazoned in gold stitching on the front. Alex Ferguson right in front of me, shaking my hand with a warm yet piercing smile and intelligent eyes.

I've always thought that people should choose their heroes carefully, they're meant to stick around for the long haul and be there for you as a reference point. A yardstick with which to measure the passage of time, an authority figure to measure up to.

In that respect idolising someone from the fickle and tumultuous landscape of football may have been foolish. I even remember various levels of disdain at my initial selection, be it from cocksure playground Liverpool fans or discerning family members hoping for a more conservative choice of say politician, literary figure or activist. I have never needed to look back and question that choice.

Twenty-two years later Manchester United have won countless trophies, the team has been re-invented three times over with the likes of Beckham, Cantona, Solksjaer, Keane, Hughes, Robson, Schmeichel, Bruce and Pallister all coming and going. All with Ferguson as their father figure.

Anyone wondering whether a football manager cuts it as a good choice of "hero" should take careful notice of the enduring qualities that Ferguson still continues to embody: success, passion, drive and consistency. And lest we forget the obvious, he's a manager who has produced some of the most exceptional football and footballers of the last three decades and built a club that at the very least counts as one of the best in the world.

So did it feel good to meet Alex Ferguson? Yes. I instantly recaptured that fleeting memory of youth; a time when I actually felt urged to "choose" a hero. He is a man for all seasons and I hope he has many more left in him yet.

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football