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Four lives, one death, a million little choices

Lives slowly unravel in devastating fashion as One Night reveals the connection between four ordinary people.THE butterfly effect, it turns out, has its own body count. The smallest decision, however inconsequential it might seem, can result in someone ending up dead on the concrete of a bleak London housing estate.
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Each of the four episodes of this reasonably gritty new BBC drama focuses on a single character's experience and interpretations of the events that lead to the mysterious tragedy. (The identity of the deceased won't be revealed until later.)

Tonight's first instalment begins with a 13-year-old boy turning in a handgun at a police station and then keeping his mouth shut as the coppers try to interrogate him about the shooting at the centre of everything.

After that, it's all about Ted (Douglas Hodge), a kitchen salesman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It seems he's just had a deal fall through, he thinks he's going to lose his job, his boss is coming for dinner and he's struggled home with the groceries only to realise he's forgotten the charcoal for the barbecue. To top it all off, a group of sassy girls from the estate drops a chip packet outside his tidy little middle-class terrace. When he tells them to put it in the bin, they give him an earful.

It's about this time that Ted should give up, go inside and help his wife (Saskia Reeves) with dinner. But he's had it with the girls being ''all earrings and attitude'', so he drives to their school to complain. This results in Rochelle (Georgina Campbell) being unfairly suspended and brings immediate retaliation in the form of a used condom being pushed through the mail slot in Ted's front door.

Through all this, Hodge plays Ted as a believably sweaty, strung-out and put-upon white-collar drudge, sympathetic if not altogether endearing. But things are about to take a sudden lurch into Falling Down territory.

While Ted and Sally are trying to entertain their guests (Neil Stuke and Kellie Bright), a rock comes through the kitchen window and Ted loses it completely. He runs out into the street, collars a black lad, kicks the stuffing out of him and then locks him in the garden shed.

It's a scene likely to leave viewers as agape as it does Ted's dinner guests, but hopefully they won't tune out. The kid is soon released and Ted realises that pretty much everything is his own fault. Having decided to try to make amends, he walks onto the estate and into this episode's cliffhanger - is he the one who gets shot?

Series creator Paul Smith is intent on moving further from his background in comedy into drama. Tonight's episode might seem a little closer to melodrama at times, but it would be hard to write Ted a perfectly calm meltdown.

The next episode, which focuses on Rochelle, is more satisfying.

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Exposing sport’s brand of absurdity

IT'S an exercise in understatement to suggest the ABC has had some difficulties with its Wednesday night line-up in 2012.
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The venerable music game show Spicks and Specks had, until it was cancelled last year, apportioned the public broadcaster a high-rating anchor on which to assemble a big viewing audience.

So successful was it, Wednesdays became known as the ABC's ''Broadway'' slot.

This year, however, could be called a disaster. A succession of shows such as Randling, Outland, Nice, In Gordon St Tonight and Laid have all floundered on Wednesday nights.

It's into this somewhat unnerving environment that one of the ABC's most sturdy, highest-rating - and consistently entertaining - franchises returned last week. But rather than look more broadly at selling, Gruen Sweat announced itself as an irreverent four-week examination of the issues behind the way sport is advertised and marketed at us.

It's a strong idea. In the past few years, the Gruen suite of shows has unequivocally influenced the way we perceive advertising and the tools companies use to persuade us to buy. So a juncture such as the London Olympics, when sport is permeating popular culture even more than usual, looked an ideal time to examine just how influential it is.

Last week's debut, ambitiously pitted against the season finales of Australia's Got Talent and MasterChef, proved the show's audience remains. More than 900,000 watched what proved to be a strong piece of counter-programming.

Gruen was created by Andrew Denton's production company Zapruder's Other Films, and former Fairfax journalist Jon Casimir, who wondered why an industry worth $500 billion a year globally was not examined more often.

This year there will be four sporting-themed episodes, followed by another 10 in the Gruen Planet incarnation - which applies the show's framework of discussing and illustrating the power of persuasion to the world of spin, PR, branding and image control.

There was much to like, however, in the first episode of Sweat last week. Hosted by comedian Wil Anderson with his two mainstays, advertising-executive panellists Russel Howcroft and Todd Sampson, a significant difference was the introduction of two athletes to the panel.

Jane Flemming and Steve Moneghetti - champions in their own right - were able to provide insight, humour and context to the marketing theories expounded by Howcroft and Sampson.

Sampson declared that the organisations sponsoring the Olympics are collectively paying the International Olympic Committee hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the International Olympic Committee.

''In the commercial world, it would be like Apple paying Coca-Cola to promote Coca-Cola,'' he mused.

As it goes, the Olympics brand is second only to Apple as the most valuable in the world. So the panel eagerly dissected just how companies can go about exploiting that.

There was intriguing information relating to the thinking behind spending money as a sponsor. In typical Gruen fashion, however, many laughs were drawn out of the protectionism taken by the IOC. Elements such as London's so-called brand exclusion zones and, most amusingly, its ''brand police'' - employed to ensure members of the public do not inadvertently engage in their own brand of ambush marketing - were pursued for comedic value.

Indeed, in dissecting the construction of the world's biggest McDonald's outlet or the inadvertently hilarious Qantas Olympics safety videos, we were exposed to both ''sides'' of the marketing equation. Sampson and Howcroft winced at what they deemed to be cheesy footage of athletes participating in a Qantas safety demonstration. Tellingly, the former athletes Flemming and Moneghetti considered it an amusing diversion.

It will be interesting to see how far the show goes in the next couple of weeks in its exploration of polarising sporting figures and their brand damage. Last week much time was devoted to both Stephanie Rice and Nick D'Arcy. Sampson's utter disgust and outrage at the mere concept of representing D'Arcy was something to behold.

The series' inspired closing segment - a weekly look at the worst performance of an athlete in a TV commercial - has almost limitless potential.

Sweat will surely halt the ABC's Wednesday ratings decline in coming weeks, and the Gruen brand and its franchises have established an impressive legacy. Whereas some may have deemed advertising an annoying but necessary evil, the show has demonstrated that the ad world is often a sharp, forward-thinking and intelligent contemporary workplace.

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Doctor in the house

Laura Leighton and Thomas Calabro have returned for the rebooted Melrose Place.DR MICHAEL Mancini, the baby-faced love rat of '90s drama series Melrose Place, has been good to his alter ego, actor Thomas Calabro. The role for which Calabro will forever be recognised propelled his career from jobbing LA actor to prime-time star. He was the only original cast member to stay for the show's entire run, from 1992-99. But over the decade since, Calabro has found it hard to shake the scheming Mancini. Television roles have been confined to guest spots on shows such as Nip/Tuck,Cold Case,Without a Trace, and, most recently, Glee, or appearances as himself on nostalgia shows such as I Love the '90s (2004). When I spoke with him in 2010, as the series relaunched to lukewarm reviews in the US and was scheduled to screen on Channel Ten (which then shelved it for two years), Calabro said it was with trepidation that he agreed to resurrect his role as a regular on the redux version of Melrose Place.
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''I think any actor who has been on a successful series would say there's a very small, small chance that that would ever happen again, and so I felt very fortunate and shocked to be asked back,'' he said. ''My ex-wife actually lives in the huge success of the first time around. We bought a big house and now she has it.''

Revisiting Michael Mancini and his various loves (Laura Leighton reprises her role as the voracious Sydney, and Josie Bissett appears in a guest role as Michael's two-time wife, Jane), was confronting Calabro's own past.

''Michael's everything I wouldn't want to tap into,'' he said. ''Just like I wouldn't want to tap into myself 10 years ago. They say every seven years, every cell in your body rejuvenates, so for me there was no need to go back and repeat that. It was most important that I find out who he is now.''

The pilot episode sees an older, wiser Michael doing a very good imitation of a family man with a wife and five-year-old son, but there's the complication of his fraught relationship with his now grown-up son David (Shaun Sipos), who is embroiled in a love affair with Sydney, who has replaced Amanda (Heather Locklear) as queen of the apartment building.

''Michael has got more self-confidence than he's ever had before,'' Calabro said. ''The first time around he was always seeking greater heights and doing things to achieve [positions such as] chief of staff or a new kind of love, to see how he could get ahead and serve himself. Now he's on top of the world. Now he's in a position where he's got more to lose, so he's defending the castle rather than trying to attack it … But Michael is Michael and in any incarnation of Melrose Place, he's going to be Michael and he will get what he wants just the way he wants to get it.''

Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) directed the pilot episode for producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer (Smallville), who have faithfully re-created the late Aaron Spelling's glamorous world of troubled young things. The series opens with all the familiar elements: a love tryst, fracturing relationships, a moral dilemma, and a dead body in the pool.

''What I really enjoyed about Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin's vision was that it is their own,'' Calabro said. ''They were going to bring back a sort of high-pitched drama but they certainly had their own world that they were going to try and create … They weren't trying to be Aaron Spelling.''

Melrose Place screens on Sunday at 10.30pm on Channel Eleven.

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A refreshing world view

YOU don't have to look too far to see where the producers of The Amazing Race Australia derive their inspiration for putting contestants on the reality adventure series through the wringer: Channel Seven started this year by putting the show's second season on at 9pm on Wednesday nights, forcing it to compete in the ratings game at a distinct disadvantage.
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The move didn't make sense, given that when it was introduced last year the show drew critical praise and strong audience figures at 8.30pm on Monday nights. Anyone who harboured memories of Channel Nine's dire effort to transplant Survivor to this country would have been more than pleasantly surprised. The remake was exceptionally well cast, it didn't look like a cheap knock-off and it had a distinctly Australian ethos.

Several weeks ago, with the local edition's popularity starting to fade, Seven moved it back to Monday nights. In the 7.30pm slot it started adding viewers, even though the season was all but half over. Last Monday the show - in which teams criss-cross the globe undertaking challenges - drew just more than 1 million watchers in the capital cities, achieving a pass mark that appeared unlikely as recently as June.

Seven is holding the final three episodes of this season, including a 90-minute finale, and will screen them on consecutive nights, from Monday, August 13, to Wednesday, August 15, after the London Olympics. If you haven't been watching until now, catch up during the next 10 days and be ready for the final burst because this is a standout production.

There's always been a fear that Australian editions of successful American shows would suffer because we lacked the necessary egotists and fame whores willing to debase themselves in the pursuit of money and/or celebrity. But while The Amazing Race Australia has a smattering of those types, it proves there's enough in our national psyche - competitiveness, hope, self-deprecating humour - to make for entertaining viewing.

At the start of the show, for example, it appeared that Victorian alpha male Paul, who was partnered with workmate Steve, was to be the season's villain. Pumping himself up with comical self-belief - if you put that much air into a tyre it would burst - he was soon rubbing other teams the wrong way and engaging in skirmishes. But the episodes, which are carefully edited, soon let you see that sometimes Paul was just hoping to convince himself he was OK and he was trying to compensate for insecurities from the past.

It's become apparent that another duo, New South Wales siblings Joseph and Grace, are acting appallingly, having been caught cheating. Grace has acted with myopic disdain towards certain teams while asserting that she hopes to be a deferential wife and that her brother should naturally take charge. It's as if one of the destinations were 1957.

The Amazing Race Australia has also benefited from taxing contests along the way in challenges that have been unexpectedly hard to complete. One memory-based Roadblock in Istanbul stumped two teams, both of which had to take a four-hour penalty in lieu of successful completion, while another episode finished with a spiky Queensland couple, Kym and Donna, giving up and sleeping in their car.

If the simple lesson of good reality television is not to judge those involved on simplistic first impressions, then this year the series has hit the mark. Blonde cheerleaders are a staple of both the American and Australian versions but NSW twins Michelle and Jo have been front-runners for much of the year.

The most enjoyable teams, however, are garrulous Victorian police officers Shane and Andrew, who can't quite shake the shadow of Inspector Clouseau, and NSW sisters Lucy and Emilia, who are slightly hopeless at nearly everything but completely charming thanks to their pluck and perpetual banter. Somehow, both teams are in the final five.

At a time when the dull fakery of Being Lara Bingle and The Shire have been vomited on our screens, The Amazing Race Australia has proved to be great fun and culturally authentic. That's a rare, but welcome, double bill.

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Push on to rename IR watchdog

AN INQUIRY into the operation of Labor's industrial relations legislation has recommended the name of Fair Work Australia be changed.
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This reflects reputational damage done to the organisation by its handling of the Craig Thomson-Health Services Union affair, as well as the appropriateness of a more neutral name.

The case for the name change was put strongly by the president of FWA, Iain Ross.

The Fair Work Act has not harmed Australia's productivity, according to the inquiry report, which will open a new round of the politically charged industrial relations debate.

Released by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten today, the report argues the act has delivered fairness for employees and flexibility for employers without reducing competitiveness or excessively raising costs.

But among its 50 recommendations the report is expected to propose Fair Work Australia be given the power to arbitrate when bargaining on greenfields resource and construction projects breaks down. Employers, being forced to negotiate with unions, have complained they are being held hostage by them. Despite this, the report generally will be criticised by sections of business for not going far enough.

The report is expected to say that FWA's tribunal and administrative functions should be more clearly separated. There will also be proposals on how to enhance the organisation's role in encouraging more productive workplaces.

A survey commissioned by the US Society of Human Resources Management and the Australian Human Resources Institute and reported this week found Australia 50th of 51 countries in productivity growth. was undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The review has been done by former Federal Court judge Michael Moore, John Edwards, a member of the Reserve Bank Board, and Ron McCallum, a workplace relations academic.

The government made it clear the inquiry would not be a root and branch overhaul.

The panel has not recommended reintroducing statutory individual contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements), open-slather greenfields agreements where unions can be excluded, or limits to unfair dismissals.

It found Labor's industrial relations law, which replaced WorkChoices, is operating as intended.

Mr Shorten will have a round of consultations before the government announces what changes it will make, but it will be made clear to business and unions that this will not be an opportunity to revisit propositions that the panel rejected.

The government will use the panel's findings to counter opposition and business arguments that substantial reform is needed in workplace relations. It will also step up pressure on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to release his policy on IR.

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‘Blade Runner’ ready to make his mark

Oscar Pistorius thinks his greatest value to South Africa's 4x400-metre relay team will be running in second or third place and the double amputee, nicknamed 'Blade Runner', on Wednesday welcomed a decision by the sport's governing IAAF to allow him to run in any position at the London Games.
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Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fibre prosthetic blades, started the relay off for South Africa at last year's world championships amid concerns about the safety of other athletes during relay changeovers.

Following an IAAF council meeting in London on Tuesday, however, IAAF President Lamine Diack said it was not their place to determine the relay orders.

"If they want him to go from the second leg, he can run the second leg. It is no problem for us," he told reporters.

Diack had said last year at the world championships in South Korea that Pistorius must run first.

"The only thing we said to the South African federation is that if he wants to run in the relay, he must run the first leg to avoid danger to other athletes," he said.

On Wednesday, Pistorius said the safety concerns were overblown and both the IAAF and International Olympic Committee (IOC) were content to let the 25-year-old run in any position.

"I've run so many relays since 2004 and there's never been an incident," he told a packed media conference. "I ran the first leg last year, and the IAAF and IOC are happy with me running any leg.

"I ran in the African Championships a couple of weeks ago on the third leg, and there's never been an incident or any reason for me not to run."

Pistorius said starting the relay off would not be his first choice.

"I think second or third makes sense for me. On starts, with my prosthetic legs, I'm just very slow. On a running start I'll probably be a lot more use or value to the team."

DIFFERENT SHOES

Born without a fibula in both legs, Pistorius fought for the right to line up against able-bodied competition.

Banned from running in able-bodied events by the IAAF in 2007, he appealed successfully to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the decision was revoked in 2008.

Pistorius said he had been rocked by the decision to ban him in the first place.

"We were taken aback because athletes had been using the same leg that I was using since 1996, and of the top Paralympic athletes there was never an athlete to run close to the times I was running in the 400," he said.

"I was thinking if this leg provides such an advantage then how come everybody isn't running the same times?"

Growing up Pistorius played a variety of sports with his older brother Carl.

"My mother used to tell us in the mornings, 'Carl put on your shoes, Oscar you put on your prosthetic legs, and that's the last I want to hear about it,'" he recalled.

"So I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes."

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Cook’s motley crew has a final surprise in store

They've almost completed mission impossible – and Sarah Cook says it's time to take risks in the pursuit of Australia's most unexpected medal of the Olympic Games.
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The women's eight rowing team will have a chance to prove all of its doubters wrong when it races in the final tonight at 9.30pm (Canberra time).

Just seven months ago Rowing Australia refused to enter the team into Olympic qualification.

But after a protest and defiant rally, the women's eight was finally given the chance it needed.

Now it is on the verge of winning a medal, with Canberra's Cook declaring the "motley crew" of the Olympics has one more surprise left for its competitors.

"It's definitely a relief to get through," Cook told The Canberra Times.

"I feel like we can just do anything from here on in, for us it has just been about achieving the impossible over and over again.

"By no means are we at the bottom of the pile. I feel like we have a real shot, we can take some risks and step it up another gear."

Australia finished third behind the Netherlands and Romania to book its place in the final.

Its time wasn't on medal pace, but Cook insisted the team was ready to burst out of its bubble to cause a major boilover.

The women's eight has been notorious for controversy.

First there was the 'lay-down Sally' incident when Sally Robbins stopped rowing in the final of the event at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

With the London Olympics looming, Rowing Australia decided there wasn't enough talent to fill the boat to compete at Eton Dorney.

Now it's a team of misfits and rejects which has continually defied the odds on its Olympic journey.

"The job isn't done yet . . . we just stayed in our bubble [in the semi-final] and executed our plan . . . the final is about stepping it up a notch, throwing a few surprises and really racing for that medal," Cook said.

"It's really exciting that we've ticked the boxes we've wanted . . . we haven't put it all out on the course yet. We've definitely got another gear to go, we'll put it out there when it matters and see what we get back."

Cook also competed at the Beijing Olympics in the double, but she didn't make the final with partner Kim Crow.

Should the women's eight win a medal, it creates a significant dilemma for Cook.

She revealed last week she had planned to take time away from rowing after the London Olympics before returning for another campaign in Rio in 2016.

Her comeback would have been driven by the desire for an Olympic medal.

"If I do that now . . . if I was to come back it would be to pursue that goal of a medal and if I do it now would I still have that drive," Cook said.

"If I won an Olympic medal now, it would be about thinking what I want to achieve. It's the ideal scenario, but whether I would have the drive [for a comeback] is a question I can't answer until I'm faced with it. I'm just excited because what this squad has done is amazing."

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How a former runner could have plenty to crow about – in rowing

Kim Crow competes in the women's single sculls in London.It's fast becoming one of Australia's feel-good stories from the London Olympics.
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Kim Crow, the one-time aspiring 400-metre hurdler, is closing in on two gold medals – not on the track, but in the Thames as a rower.

The story starts at the Victorian Institute of Sport in 2004, where she was recovering from injury. Working out at the gym, Crow was punching out some minutes on the rowing machine while coaches were working with the institute's rowers.

From just a few minutes on the machines, Crow's ability was recognised and her track career ended, replaced by one in the boat.

Tonight, she will race the semi-final of the single sculls before chasing gold in the double sculls just an hour later.

While her story is unique, it isn't necessarily new. And it's a road well-travelled by many successful Australian athletes.

It's the world of talent identification and talent transfer programs – a concept that started more than 20 years ago at the Australian Institute of Sport, when Professor Alan Hahn created a pilot program to identify young talent and turn them into world-conquering rowers.

Since then talent identification has developed and changed, but the end-goal remains the same: producing elite athletes.

AIS senior talent identification and development specialist Jason Gulbin said talent ID was responsible for a huge amount of success since Hahn's pioneer program.

"You don't always know how people have got into the sport," he said.

"But it's contributed to many thousands of national medals at a senior level, and obviously many, many more medals at a junior level.

"Certainly senior world championships and Olympic medals, too."

But what exactly makes a good athlete? And how do you identify one?

An expert in talent ID for more than 13 years, Gulbin said it's not quite as simple as using a tape measure and some weights.

"I suppose everyone thinks in talent ID you run a tape measure across, and they've got a big armspan, a big height, they've got a big engine . . . but that's the very easy bit – you can pick talent for certain sports just by your eye," he said.

"The real sophistication comes in how you can increase the probability of selection by knowing more about the biopsychosocial elements together.

"Yeah, you have good biology, some good physical attributes – your height, arm span, leg length, your physiology. It's also about the psychological elements. How mentally tough are you? How resilient are you? How dogged and determined are you? Are you coachable?

"All of those qualities are very important.

"And then there is the social element – the quality of the coaching, the quality of the cohort you train with – that you are training in a good-quality group that is pushing you. And then the other social aspect is the network of support you might have."

That's not to say physical requirements mean nothing.

ACT Academy of Sport sports program manager Andrew Stainlay said the academy held try-outs for sports in an effort to identify talent.

"We advertise for kids, and then have a whole battery of tests, invite people in, and from there go through all the stats and data," Stainlay said.

We've got to be smart with talent identification in Australia – we don't have the population base, so we have to be smart with what we've got.

"We've got the know-how from a sports science point of view and we've got quality coaches."

It's a far cry from 1990, when a 16-year-old Queanbeyan girl tried out for Hahn's program.

Megan Marcks (nee Still) teamed up with Kate Slatter, and with victory at Atlanta in 1996 became the first Australian female rowing crew to win gold.

"It's amazing how one day can change your whole life, and that day did exactly that – I mean I wasn't even a water sports kind of person," Marcks said.

"It was only that I heard the words 'Australian Institute of Sport' and thought, that's the place you want to be if you wanted to be successful in sport."

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Canberra coach in stadium lockout

25 April 2012, Sport, Journalist: Lee Gaskin. Canberra Times Photo by Jeffrey Chan. Runners and training buddies (rear from left) Lauren Boden, Brendan Cole and Melissa Breen with Coach Matt Beckenham before training at the AIS Athletics Track. They are about to go to Japan for a pre-Olympic competition. Matt Beckenham with his crew Lauren Boden, Brendan Cole and Melissa Breen.
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Helpless athletics coach Matt Beckenham will drop his stable of athletes at the Olympic Games gates and hope they can "star in the class" in his absence after being denied access to watch their races in London.

In a cruel twist to four years of preparation, Canberra coach Beckenham will watch sprinter Melissa Breen and hurdlers Lauren Boden and Brendan Cole from a big screen rather than the inside of the main stadium when they compete.

It's like parents dropping their kids at the school gates for the first time and watching them disappear into a life-changing experience.

Beckenham is with the Australian team as a "personal coach" for his three athletes and is not one of the main coaches.

It means his accreditation gives him access to most areas, including the warm-up area, but not the Olympic Stadium.

He put off buying tickets not knowing where his accreditation would allow him and he is still exploring every option with officials for a late call-up.

But Beckenham could be forced to hear the roars of the crowd while watching from the warm-up track just a few hundred metres away.

"It would be great to be in there, but they're big kids so they'll be able to look after themselves," Beckenham said.

"There's not much I can do from now, they're in good shape and you've just got to hope they can go into the classroom and can star in the class. I'm just hoping there's a big screen at the warm-up track, it is about the athletes and it's not the end of the world . . . I'm still going to look at every option available."

Beckenham raced at the Sydney Olympics in the 400-metre hurdles and has imparted his knowledge to his talented squad.

Breen will be Australia's first female in 12 years to race the 100m sprint, while Boden and Cole have been strong performers in the 400m hurdles.

Beckenham has been with them on every part of their journey from Canberra unknowns to the biggest stage in the world.

He has been on the emotional wave of tight losses and personal best times, but will have a unique experience if he can't find his way into the Olympic Stadium.

The tight-knit training group works at the Australian Institute of Sport and has been in Europe for the past month finalising preparations.

Athletics Australia officials are working with Beckenham to try to get him into the events, which will begin when Breen and Cole race this Friday.

But Beckenham said they were bound by quota systems and he was unsure if he would be given a chance to be in the venue.

The athletes moved into the Olympic Village on Monday, while Beckenham remains at the Athletics Australia base in Tonbridge – an hour outside London.

He said his trio of athletes was primed for strong performances at their debut Olympic campaigns after impressive lead-up work.

"The hard training is basically done now and it's about the confidence and getting it right," Beckenham said.

"Lauren's training has been great and I'm still optimistic she'll run well.

"Mel is jumping out of her skin after running a PB [two weeks ago] and BJ [Cole] is tracking on exactly the same form line he had domestically, which is fantastic.

"I'm confident when they get on the big stage they'll step up and run well."

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Fears funding row will hit work with homeless

THE national goal of halving homelessness by 2020 is unlikely to be achieved if state and federal governments fail to renew an historic funding agreement that is running out, community leaders say.
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They fear the homeless will be victims of rancorous relations between the federal government and non-Labor states demonstrated in negotiations over the National Disability Insurance Scheme, an issue with much wider community support.

About 180 projects nationally - 80 in NSW - have been funded by the commonwealth and states under the $1.1 billion National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. The agreement, signed by the states, was the centrepiece of the Rudd government's commitment to halve homelessness by 2020.

But the four-year funding agreement runs out on June 30 next year and community leaders have failed to get assurances of an extension. Some organisations have been told by state officials their projects will not be re-funded and plan to close them this year or early next year.

The chief executive officer of Homelessness NSW, Gary Moore, said: ''Unless there's new money the goal of halving homelessness by 2020 has Buckley's. Four years [funding] is not long enough.''

The only possible way the goal might be achieved would be if the Australian Bureau of Statistics changed the definition of homelessness, a process under consideration, he said.

State and federal government concerns over budget deficits and the wrangling over the NDIS have given advocates for the homeless cause for pessimism.

''We are anxious seeing the fraught negotiations over the NDIS that an issue like homelessness without such broad-based support won't be resolved,'' said the chief executive officer of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, Tony Davies.

The chief executive of Marist Youth Care, Cate Sydes, said a $2 million project to help homeless youth in the Nepean region would be closed at the end of December after state officials informed her the three-year contract would not be extended.

And the Samaritans Foundation, with a $1.8 million grant to provide tenancy support, has been told the service would have to finish by June 2013.

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