Nine years ago, Nick Newlife from Oxfordshire laid a bet of £1,520 (Sh198,780) at odds of 66-1 that the champion Swiss tennis player, Roger Federer, would win seven Wimbledon titles by the year 2019. Mr Newlife died in 2009, aged 59, but he left the betting slip to the charity Oxfam in his will.
Earlier this month, Federer defeated Britain’s Andy Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon final, nailing down his seventh win there. Oxfam collected £101,840 (Sh13.3 million) from bookmaker William Hill.
The Chinese are said to be the world’s most obsessive gamblers, but I would take a bet (if I could get fair odds) that my fellow countrymen would run them close. Everybody here seems to have a bet on the Grand National steeplechase once a year and fixed-odds betting has become popular with sports fans.
Now with the Olympics under way, the bookmakers are offering thousands of wagers on any of the 26 sports on show as well as on many crazily whimsical non-sporting events that might be vaguely connected with the two-week London Olympiad.
Longest odds on offer from William Hill include 1,000-1 that a flying saucer will appear over the Olympic Stadium, 250-1 that every team in the 4x400-metre relay will drop the baton and 33-1 that London Mayor Boris Johnson will set his flowing blond hair alight with the Olympic torch.
Ladbrokes are offering 50-1 that it will rain every day and 10-1 that a strike will halt the train service to the Olympic Park.
Saner bets are expected on the events themselves, though the range of possibilities is mind-boggling with 10,500 athletes from 205 nations involved in 302 events covering 26 sports.
The most heavily backed race, as well as the star event, is expected to be the 100-metre sprint, in which the Jamaican Usain Bolt is odds-on favourite, though he had a poor run-up to the Games. Ladbrokes have already taken a £10,000 (Sh1.3 million) bet on Bolt and expect much larger punts in days to come.
The Guardian suggested the safest of all bets is Kenya’s David Rudisha to win the men’s 800 metres. His odds as I write range from 8-1-on to 12-1-on, meaning, if you go with William Hill, you would need to put down £12 (Sh1,570) to win £1 (Sh130).
Kenya had the top 20 fastest marathoners in the world in 2012, so there is little likelihood of making much money from Kenya entrants in these events, indeed in any distance race, for men or women.
The Kenya team’s chaotic preparations have been well documented here but success is nevertheless expected in areas of traditional African dominance. One reporter predicted golds for Mary Keitany in the women’s marathon, for William Kipsong in the men’s marathon, for Vivian Cheruiyot in the women’s 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres and for Asbel Kiprop in the 1,500 metres. Plus Rudisha, of course.
And if these particular runners fail, there are plenty more Kenyans able to take their places on the top step of the podium.
The Total Medals table at the end of the Games is not expected to look much different from Beijing 2008, with most experts predicting USA, China, Russia, Great Britain, Germany and Australia to take the leading positions. However, one sports blog, Sportsmyriad.com, predicted Russia would sneak ahead of China. It also suggested that despite its distance running strength, Kenya would win only 13 medals in 2012 as opposed to 14 in Beijing.
The London Olympiad headlines at least one significant breakthrough: it is the first time all 205 competing nations will stage women competitors. After pressure from human rights groups charging violations of the Olympic spirit, three Islamic nations despatched females for the first time. Four came from Qatar (swimming, table tennis, athletics, shooting), two from Saudi Arabia ( judo and athletics) and one from Brunei (athletics.)
IOC President Jacques Rogge said the agreement for women’s participation had been secured after intense negotiations with Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan will also send one woman, sprinter Tahmina Kohistani, who will run in long trousers, long sleeves and a headscarf.
Another first for 2012 involves the United States. Its women’s team for London outnumbers men – 269 against 261.
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A group of 45-year-old men decided to go out for a meal and they chose Riley’s restaurant because the waitresses wore low-cut tops and short skirts.
Ten years later they met again, opting for Riley’s because the food was good and the restaurant had an exceptional wine list.
The meal was by now a tradition and at age 65 they got together, once more at Riley’s, because there was no background music and no children.
After another 10 years, aged 75, the men converged on Riley’s, arguing that it was wheelchair accessible and catered for special diets. One decade later, they were all 85. After a prolonged discussion, they decided to go to Riley’s because they had never been there before.