|Citius, Altius, Fortius|
Four years ago when a London bus drove around the Beijing Arena, the precursor to the 2012 London Olympics, many hearts sank at the contrast witnessed. How could we possibly compete with the magnificent spectacle provided at enormous cost by the Chinese people, a nation of 1.3 billion? But compete we did, on a tight budget, in our typically qwerky, British way. A triumph of ingenuity and organisation, the London Olympics were set in spectacular venues blotted only by that hideous metal construction, the Orbit Tower, the only sore thumb spoiling a landscape superbly enhanced by magnificent floral displays.
At the closing ceremony the most sustained applause was for the 70,000 helpers who freely gave of their time for the benefit of others. There had been glory in abundance, amazing performances accompanied by tears of joy mingled with tears of sadness. The physical became infused with the spiritual as many competitors crossed themselves bearing witness to their faith. In a memorable moment one competitor could be seen whispering "I love you Mum" as she looked up to heaven in gratitude for her mother's contribution to her success, the success which follows years of sacrifice not only by competitors but by their families as they help to facilitate rigorous training regimes day in day out, year in year out.
There is no Victor Ludorum. It would be invidious to try to pick out an overall winner from so many outstanding performances. Much better to see it, as De Coubertin quoted in 1908, as "The most important thing is not to win but to take part", a lesson for those commentators who implied that to achieve a Silver or a Bronze medal was a failure when in reality, simply to be an Olympian is an achievement. The best in competition and sportsmanship was amply demonstrated by the many post-competition embraces, none more so than by the 'King of Hugs', Sir Steve Redgrave shown above hugging Sir Chris Hoy, after he passed Sir Steve's own illustrious Gold Medal record.
One reviewer wanted to award BBC commentator Clare Balding a Gold Medal for her infectious informed enthusiasm but that honour had already been awarded in the Briton household to Garry Herbert for his early contribution to the 'feel good' factor as he encouraged rowers and spectators alike. Behind the commentators, all credit too to the planners, organisers, producers, camera crews, the list is endless, and to the spectators who turned out in droves to provide encouragement and show their gratitude for the supreme effort that made for a truly memorable spectacle of courage and endurance.
As the Olympic 'legacy' is discussed and politicians bask in the reflected glory, I hope they will also reflect on the fact that their policy of selling-off school playing fields and curtailing physical activities in state schools has been as short-sighted as it is foolish, endangering the health and well-being of future generations for short term political advantage with the result that sporting activities have to be fitted in at weekends - killing off many a church choir in the process! The athletes, organisers, helpers and spectators of the 2012 Olympics have reminded us of higher ideals. Thank you!