This is really late; it should have been posted last Monday! But with a mission of a week, I’ve only just had a chance to do it. Please ignore the fact it’s almost completely irrelevant now the Games are well over, ta.
Well it’s all over.
And what a Games it was. Mo Farah’s double, Usain Bolt’s treble – the two swapping poses on Saturday night – Jess Ennis, Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, the equestrian haul, the first Saudi women allowed to compete… and more. The Torch relay, the volunteers, the police and organisers – everyone involved was friendly and cheerful and contributing to the magnificent atmosphere.
On the train on the way back from the dressage on Thursday, I was reading a Telegraph article by David Robson on the Olympics as a whole. It was comparing the mood of the country to that felt during the 1966 World Cup. It’s not just the home success, by a long shot, but the way that, despite the economic problems, the whole country got behind the Games. It’s been something everyone here will remember for ever.
The motto of the Games was “inspire a generation” and now, everyone is talking about the legacy of London 2012.
The week before last, at work, I got a phone call from a reader. We’d printed a story about end-of-year prizes at one of the secondary schools and the reporter thought, and I agreed, that it would be a nice boost for the winning kids to see their names in print. Everyone’s a winner, we thought.
But this woman, with an angry bloke in the background egging her on, was chewing my ear off for the piece, and the fact the headline writers had used the headteacher’s quote about the “brightest and best”. What damage were we doing to the others’ egos, the woman asked aggressively. By printing the winners’ names and using that quote, we were “making the others look thick”. Not making any assumptions about whether or not she had a child at the school and whether or not he’d won a prize, I pretended not to understand her point and eventually, she slammed the phone down on me.
This just goes to show what needs to change if this Olympic success is to be repeated. Everyone’s heard of this ridiculous ”don’t have winners and losers”approach, as naming losers is supposedly bad for children. But if we carried on like that, there’d be no Olympic medals, no football leagues – no anything. Also, if children never fail or achieve in school sports, they’ll never be able to cope when success doesn’t come easily in real life.
The other thing about inspiration is that these athletes should be kids’ role models in future. Gymnast Beth Tweddle, for example, who won bronze on the uneven bars. At 27, she’s old for her sport. She’s had more operations than I’ve had hot dinners, including knee surgery in May and sleeping with an ice machine on it since, she’s eaten, slept and lived her sport for years – and she was rewarded with a medal that meant everything to her.
I think the “everything for nothing” culture, as demonstrated by so many of the “celebrities” we see at the moment, the widespread dependence on benefits, the “X Factor effect”, has a lot to answer for…
But if young people can be inspired by Tom Daley, who got straight As in his A levels this year as well, and Jess Ennis rather than those that are celebrities because they’ve been on Big Brother and slept with famous people, if they can aspire to be those who work hard for success rather than expecting it to fall into their laps, if they value true achievement over momentary fame…
Then that’s what the Olympics is all about.