Saturday, 18 August 2012

Inspiration for a generation

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t looking forward to the Olympic Games. Sport isn’t something I’m a huge fan of, and the talk of how over-budget they were going coupled with how much money huge sponsors were making, was making me pretty resentful of the whole affair.

However, all my doubts had melted away by the time I had finished watching the opening ceremony. If only Paul McCartney’s rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ could be wiped from my memory, I would say the night was a perfect representation for Britain. It put paid to the naysayers and was the start of what has been a riveting couple of weeks of FANTASTIC sport!

It’s had plenty of highs, some lows, lots of nail-biting-edge-of-your-seat moments, and, most importantly of all, I think it has achieved the goal it set out to in it’s tag-line- it has ‘inspired a generation.’

I’ve seen kids around my home town taking part in some of the fantastic Council run play schemes over the holidays, enjoying racing, hurdling, throwing bean bags (well, I wouldn’t arm a 6 year old with a javelin- would you?) and generally just enjoying being active. I have heard all sorts of stories from friends whose children have been moving furniture to ‘swim’ across the living room carpet or see how high or how far they can jump. My own children have been watching the games in absolute awe of the athletes taking part. My daughter told me excitedly that one day she wants to win a medal at ‘running and jumping over a stick’, in response to watching Jessica Ennis take part in the Heptathlon High Jump.

A few people I know were lucky enough to see the games in person, and though I’m sure it’s nowhere near as exciting, the TV coverage has been brilliant- my TV has threatened to go into standby on more than one occasion due to the back-to-back Olympic programming.

Awesome athletes like Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Greg Rutherford, Tom Daley, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, and David Rudisha, to name just a few, have succeeded in raising the profile of their events considerably whilst realising their own personal goals- a fantastic achievement.

The most important message our children can take from these games though, is that winning is great, but even taking part is a massive achievement. All athletes, from Team GB and other nations, have shown amazing sportsmanship sometimes under extreme pressure or after massive disappointment, and always under the glare of the media. One athlete who summed it up perfectly was the swimmer Liam Tancock, who, after missing out on a medal in his event, the 100m backstroke, came out with a massive grin on his face and enthusiastically promoted his sport, saying:

” I love what I do – swimming is a great sport, it gives you so many friends and keeps you fit. [. . .] I was walking through the call room and it said ‘inspire a generation’. I hope that’s what Team GB are doing and I hope we inspire a future generation of swimmers and Olympians.”

Job done, Team GB. Job done.

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