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Monday 13 August 2012

London 2012 Olympics - The Legacy

Firstly, congratulations to Team GB on some great performances and an unexpectedly large medal haul. The host nation surpassed expectations.

Before the games there were two ‘scientific’ evaluations of Team GB’s medal hopes, in one, based on GDP and population per head the forecast was 32 medals and 8th place. The other, undertaken at Colorado College, suggested a medal haul of 45 and a fifth place in the table; adding past record and home-nation advantage into the mix. The eventual tally was 65 medals (29 of which were gold) and a stunning third place overall (perhaps a further (bronze) medal should be awarded for that achievement).
There have been many truly inspiring performances; not all have led to medals; that's part of what sport is all about. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, said that the important thing in life is not the victory but the contest; the essential thing is not to have won but to have fought well.

The truly inspirational Oscar Pistorius exemplifies de Coubertin’s philosophy. Pistorius had to battle for years just to be allowed to compete; no medals but what an inspiration.

The hundreds of thousands of people who cheered competitors are also being lauded throughout the world. Although it is only to be expected that the loudest cheers of encouragement were (mainly) reserved for GB competitors, everyone got a warm welcome… or nearly everyone. It seems that football matches were very much the exception with plenty of derision and booing of non-GB players (especially Luis Suarez), and even of Craig Bellamy. What did Craig Bellamy do to cause offence? He was a Liverpool player, representing team GB but had the misfortune to be playing at Manchester United’s ground; absolutely pathetic. In fairness, he was applauded when he was substituted.

There has frequently been talk of whether or not football should be an Olympic sport. This is very much a ‘GB’ issue. The problem is that there is no football 'Team GB' as the home nations are individual members of FIFA. Football has been a featured sport at every summer Olympics bar 2 (1896 and 1932); it very much has a place in the competition. Perhaps it’s just football ‘supporters’ who should be banned.

So what about the legacy?

Obviously the infrastructure that was built at a huge cost must be put to best use; that’s almost the easy bit.

Politicians are now far too keen on making sport much more important in school curriculae; the usual knee jerk reaction which will, no doubt, be reversed as soon as something else comes along.

It wasn't long ago that politicians wanted to do away with grading for schoolchildren, so that nobody was seen to 'fail'. In itself, this is a fairly weak concept. Getting an 'A' grade does not preclude anyone else having a similar mark; anyone can aspire to a 'first' place. In a race, there is one winner and the 'grade' is secondary.

These youngsters will need training. Perhaps the ranks of the unemployed contain vast numbers of capable, if not qualified, sports teachers. If not, maybe it has been forgotten that SUWT (Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) is currently staging a work-to-rule, which includes members not attending activities outside normal school hours. So unless sport replaces classroom subjects, there will be no training, and if it does not then, the foundations will be laid for too few doctors, scientists…

Presumably, there will also need to be a sudden influx of ‘elves’ to rewrite the health and safety manuals (couldn’t have anyone attempting to catch the javelin, or head but the shot, could we), or better still, take the opportunity for a massive bonfire and get rid of them (the health and safety manuals, that is).

If the purpose is to be even more successful at the next Olympics; it’s too late. If the intention is to look at more success further down the line, I would suggest that (without ‘home advantage again), Team GB has done brilliantly well but, it will not be repeated in four or eight years’ time. Pierre de Coubertin also said “success comprises in itself the seeds of its own decline and sport is not spared by this law”; you have been warned.

Just imagine sports coaches (especially male ones) putting on their St Trinian’s outfits and shouting: “come along now children, all on the bandwagon”.

But, in a constantly changing world, where men crying are pictured on the front page of newspapers and are lauded for their achievements, a (in my humble opinion) huge gaffe has been committed. The closing ceremony (very much a tribute to Britain’s past… Churchill, Beatles…) should be held after the Paralympics have taken place. In an inclusive society, this is truly unacceptable.

The catchphrase for the event has been "inspire a generation"; great idea ... but which one?

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