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The long-anticipated Olympic version of the Ashes battle is yet to get going but another fascinating duel is developing between Russia and Brazil, hosts of the next two Olympics. It is clear both countries see London as their springboard, much as Britain did Beijing.

Russia want the 2014 Sochi Winter Games to revive their sporting fortunes, which have been in decline since the collapse of Communism. As if to mark the first step, amid much joy at the ExCel Centre on Saturday, Arsen Galstyan beat Japan’s Hiroaki Hiraoka for the under 60kg title, a first Russian Olympic judo gold since the dissolution of the USSR.

But the Russians could not match the joy of Brazilian fans as Sarah Menezes became the first woman from her country to win judo gold, dethroning reigning champion Alina Dumitru in the under-48kgs. To some of us nearby, it seemed for a moment the joyous Brazilians might jump into our laps.

A bigger Russia–Brazil battle looms in volleyball with the South Americans, whose women won gold and men silver in Beijing, keen to make sure the Russians do not improve on the men’s bronze they took four years ago.

      

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