How I fell in love with the Olympic Games and what I learnt
I admit it. I was sceptical when London first won the Olympic bid back in 2005. Unless it’s the World Cup I usually avoid sporting events on television and find it about as interesting as watching grass blowing in the wind.
The ticket debacle and the predicted commuter hell on the tubes added to my feeling that the Games were going to be as successful as the Millennium Dome. I was expecting it to be all hype, a build-up leading to a feeble, whimpering mess but now I have been won over. I am an Olympics convert and have been transformed from a sceptic to an enthusiast and I’ve been watching the Games unfold intently.
It all began when the torch relay came to my local area the day before the Opening Ceremony. As I stood by the side of the road watching and waiting for the torch bearer, there was a wonderful atmosphere that somehow started to infect my cold, hardened cynicism. Added to this, there was a group of little children chanting “Great Britain rules” and for the first time in a long time I felt like part of something and secretly a little bit excited.
As my Olympics doubts started to unravel I tried to hold fast to my conviction that I would not enjoy any of it. Once again I was proved wrong, this time it was Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. I had been unimpressed by images released of a field in the middle of the Olympic Stadium complete with live sheep.
When the ceremony did kick off I thought my worst fears of a naff pastoral nightmare had been confirmed. However, as the night went on and I watched the proceedings things suddenly took a turn for the better when the Queen and James Bond popped up before Mr Bean’s brilliant little skit. The whole thing was a stunning and eclectic spectacle that ended with a wonderful fireworks display.
Everything finally all came to a head when I started watching the events themselves and I welled up with sense of national pride that took me over and I even started to get teary. It all became weirdly addictive, I was captivated by Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield’s synchronised diving and watching Jessica Ennis’ heptathlon performance. It wasn’t just national pride though but an admiration towards all these athletes for everything they had worked towards over the past four years.
Let’s not forget Andy Murray’s gold medal victory either, it was a deserved win for the Scot who has the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders every year. Perhaps Britain can appreciate him more now that we have seen all the hard work and training that both he and all the other members of Team GB have put in.
For me, the Olympics are about more than just the sports and the medals, there is all the training and preparation beforehand. Practicing the same things over and over and over again for an event that may only last several minutes, working up to that one moment, it is truly inspiring. It’s hard to imagine dedicating years of your life and putting training before all else.
It is an extreme example but athletes represent what hard work and commitment can achieve, in the era of fast fame and quick money they provide a sobering effect. Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins are the real faces of success rather than X Factor contestants because their path to glory has been far harder and the sacrifices far bigger. They have had to physically push their bodies past their limits in order to be the best, for them there is nothing to hide behind if they lose a race. There is only winning and losing and very little in between.
The other dimension is that athletes are people and come across as quite humble rather than untouchable human beings. We see them at their most fragile and vulnerable in the pool or on the track, they rarely come across as glossy and media savvy instead they all seem to be well-grounded and therefore likeable.
To add to this there are the personal stories, the battles, the tragedies and the setbacks which all make for fascinating reading. Whether it be Kelly Smith’s battle with drugs and depression to regain a place on the women’s football squad or British silver medal-winning judoka Gemma Gibbons looking upwards and mouthing the words ‘I love you mum’ as a tribute to her late mother, they are all such inspirational people with their own stories. It’s safe to say that audiences across the world have been left emotional by what they have seen and heard about these extraordinary individuals.
Hopefully, the Games will create a sporting legacy that will encourage people – not just children – to vacate the sofa and get active. More than that, I hope that the Games will inspire children and young people to reach higher not just to become athletes but to pursue any career.
The Games have lifted the national spirit which has been slumped in economic gloom for so long and it has inspired a sense of positivism that will hopefully carry on. From the wonderful buzzing atmosphere on the streets of the capital to watching these athletes set their sights on winning, the whole experience of London 2012 has changed my opinion of the Games. I’ve learnt that sport is a metaphor for life and despite the adversities that may come our way, hard work and tenacity does pay off but sadly there is no quick route to success.
I’ve also learnt that Isambard Kingdom Brunel looks a lot like Abraham Lincoln.
Image credit: Getty ImagesTagged in: London 2012 Olympics, olympics legacy, Sir Chris Hoy
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