New Year messages are common at this time of year but one of the most depressing was the statement by Hugh Robertson, the UK Olympics Minister, that he considers match fixing to be the biggest threat to the reputation of the Olympics.

Britain is to mount an unprecedented security operation in 2012 against betting syndicates trying to bribe athletes into fixing events at the London Olympic Games this summer.

There is increasing evidence of Olympic competitors and officials in sports including football, tennis and handball being offered bribes to fix matches. Gambling syndicates largely in the Indian sub-continent and Far East are expected to bet billions of pounds on the Olympics.

In a recent high profile court case in England three Pakistani cricketers were found guilty of corruption in a test match at Lord’s. The fixers were from the Indian sub-continent.

New evidence has been submitted to the International Olympic Committee of attempted match-fixing at previous Olympics.

In one case, a Chinese fixer claimed to have bribed members of the Ghanaian team with $550,000 to throw a match with Japan at the Athens Games in 2004.

Ghana lost 1-0. Players admitted being approached but said they had refused the offer to fix the match.

Handball, a sport with the third-highest viewing figures at the Beijing Games, has also been embroiled in controversy.

Two Olympic handball referees, Bernd Ullrich and Frank Lemme, who were in charge of the men’s gold medal match, were banned after $50,000 was found in their luggage after a match in Russia. They admitted being approached by a fixer, but denied accepting cash and successfully appealed on “procedural grounds” against the decision to ban them.

Fixing the result of matches is one thing but the more recent increase in spot betting is more difficult to identify.

Bets are now made on when the first corner or free kick will be awarded or when the first caution will be issued in football, when the first double fault will take place in tennis or when the first no ball will be bowled in cricket.

Previously performance enhancing drugs were the big problems in many sports – although possibly less in football than some other sports – but now the big challenge is to fight corruption which is a threat to all the major sports.

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