The Olympic Games have affected me. I didn’t think they would. I thought I would be able to switch off the TV and go for a walk when all those fit young things started running, jumping, cycling, boxing, hurdling etc etc… But I couldn’t. I was hooked. Glued to the screen I watched in total admiration and wonder and the sheer tenacity, determination and strength of those who were competing. It made me feel very inadequate and a bit limp in mind and body!
It was reassuring to see two British men in their fifties riding like the devil to win gold in the show jumping. A little hope for all of us past the first flush and all that. I didn’t feel quite so old, fat and unfit after watching them. And Mary King is not young, either. But most of the golden boys and girls, like Greek gods and goddesses, are young. What fantastic role models they are, every one of them. When I think that this time last year, London was on fire, with riots and looting and hundreds of kids roughly the same age as these Olympians, running amuck in the streets and winning nothing but jail sentences, how a year can change things.
What I want to know now is will this last? This feeling of can do? This elation that makes us feel we are winners and not losers? Can all this translate into the way disenfranchised kids feel about themselves and their lives? It will take more than televised medal ceremonies to do that. It will take a real committment by our government to encourage sports in schools and communities by funding initiatives, nationwide. I hope sports don’t go the same way as the Arts in schools. There is an ongoing fight to get music and drama in schools on the same level as other subjects. If sport is to be pushed, then the Arts should be, as well.
It was interesting to read that most of our best athletes have been educated privately. That’s because private schools have always had a tradition of sporting achievement and have produced a whole range of winning sportsmen and women. We need to see the same approach from all schools and that will take money. Will this government put its money where its mouth is? They have done a great job, putting what many people have seen as The Greatest Show on Earth. In the world’s eyes, we’ve done it. We can hold up our heads and say that from that fantastic opening ceremony to the halfway mark this week, it’s been a joy. The work involved in producing these Games leaves me breathless. The endless volunteers who have given up their time to help. The technical people, the paper pushers, the backstage crews – all amazing and that’s before the athletes get out of bed!
This week, I have been really proud to be British. I have wanted to say I am British. I have felt, the first time in a long time, pride in my country. That ghastly sinking feeling that I felt last year when I watched London burn during the riots, has gone. It’s been replaced by a sense of real wonder and a feeling that from here, we can go nowhere else but UP!
Viva Team GB! Viva the Olympic Games 2012!