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from Left field:

Spain’s sporting state of grace

pauPau Gasol's triumph with the LA Lakers has prompted more articles in the Spanish media celebrating the country's incredible run of sporting success.

Gasol was a vital cog in the Lakers machine this season and joins a long list of Spanish champions in individual and team sports.

Spain's soccer team, after winning Euro 2008, has cemented its hold on the number one ranking by extending its unbeaten run to 33 matches, Barcelona strolled to the Champions League title last month with a humbling of holders Manchester United, Rafael Nadal is the top-ranked men's tennis player and Spain Davis Cup champions, Jorge Lorenzo is joint leader in the MotoGP world championships and Carlos Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France, the third Spanish victory in a row.

"Another success for Spanish sport," Nadal wrote of Gasol on his website on Tuesday. "It's hard to take in everything that we are achieving," he added. "We should be very proud."

British Olympic soccer team becomes right royal farce


There has not been one since 1960, the Scottish don’t want its return, neither do the Welsh, nor the Northern Irish and yet the prospect of a British soccer team at the 2012 London Olympics remains.

The English Football Association is refusing to relinquish an idea that nobody else seems to care about.

Britain’s Beijing heroes can teach soccer a thing or two


British Olympic medal winnersStanding in the reception of a Heathrow hotel watching a roll call of British gold-medal winners file past, the overriding impression was just how normal they all seemed.

There was something wonderfully natural and down-to-earth about these luminaries of Britain’s finest Olympic effort in a century.

View from the Bird’s Nest


Beijing 2008It’s been a little quiet around here lately. That’s because I’m in Beijing covering the Olympics, and I hope you won’t mind a shameless plug for the relaunched Reuters Olympic blog — View from the Bird’s Nest.

From August 8-24 the focus will be on the Beijing Games rather than the football world, although we will of course have plenty to say about the soccer tournament at the Olympics, which Argentina, Brazil and the rest will be taking very seriously indeed.

Messi takes a step closer to Beijing


Messi scoresBarcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi took a step closer to Beijing on Wednesday when FIFA ruled that clubs are obliged to release players aged 23 or under to play at the Olympics.

Barcelona and Bundesliga clubs Werder Bremen and Schalke, who want to keep Diego and Rafinha out of the Games, will probably fight on in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but for now FIFA has made the right decision, one that’s for the good of the game as well as the Games.

Diego the latest to be blocked from Games



Werder Bremen have dashed the Olympic hopes of Brazil playmaker Diego, telling the 23-year-old they will not release him and thus depriving the Games of perhaps one of the world’s most exciting young players

Werder sporting director Klaus Allofs said there was no legal reason for clubs to release their players because, he said, the Olympics are not part of world soccer’s governing body FIFA.