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Judges must boycott Woolwich

First, let me reiterate The Sportsman’s Association’s stance on the Olympic clayshooting at Woolwich. We fully support our shooting sportsmen and women and encourage everyone to support them in order that they are able to compete successfully at the Olympics. We are, however, against UK shooters and judges supporting the infrastructure needed to run the games if they take place at Woolwich.

The latest fiasco, the discovery of the need to erect a 62ft-high ballistic screen, has added to the growing list of reasons not to hold the Olympic clayshooting at Woolwich Barracks. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) emphatically stated on its website that the Royal Artillery Barracks will provide an appropriate backdrop for shooting events for both Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. That is, however, no longer true.

On the 18 September, The Daily Telegraph revealed that this iconic backdrop will now be a ballistic screen that will stretch across the shotgun range to prevent lead pellets falling on nearby homes.

This controversial screen is not guaranteed to achieve its aim, however. If any other organisation submitted plans for a shooting range with the criteria adopted by the ODA, it would be laughed out of court by the authorities. The normal rules that apply are being twisted for the ODA. I am shocked that the Health and Safety Executive is allowing this. Once more, it is one rule for the Government and another for law-abiding shooters.

The Woolwich shooting range has problems that would not occur if the shooting events were to take place at Bisley. The screen is a waste of taxpayers’ money. It would be better if the additional money it is costing was put towards training our shooters for the games. The loss of the “iconic background” should have brought the ODA to its senses and prompted it to agree to move the event to another location, but I am afraid it has not.

Unless a miracle of common sense happens, we will have a much devalued shooting competition at an unsuitable venue, we will lose the advantage of having a home range for our marksmen to practice on, and we will end up with substandard ranges, which will inhibit shooting performances. Furthermore, despite claims to the contrary, there will be no legacy from the £42million needed to build the Woolwich ranges.

So, what can we shooters get out of this fiasco? The answer is nothing, unless we protest and the only way to make a meaningful protest is to refuse to man the shooting events at the Olympic Games, so that the authorities are forced to call in foreign labour. The resulting embarrassment will generate the publicity needed to help us put our case forward. Then, and only then, will the Government listen.

Our shooting organisations are sleepwalking into the oblivion of shooting sports. This international event is our last chance to make clear that ours is a legitimate sport and that we will not be treated like second-class citizens.

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