Wow what a summer it has been for sport. It started with Team Sky’s dominance in the Tour de France with not only the first ever British winner but a British top two. Dave Brailsford has done wonders for British cycling in the modern era both on the track and latterly the road. Surely a knighthood must be on its way?
This success rolled quickly on into the Olympics with Team GB having the most successful ever medal haul and coming third in the medal table. So in some events there was some underperformance by British athletes but it was the sports that don’t normally get the limelight that to me were the best. GBs dominance in the dressage – I grew up with horses and have followed equestrian events for years – this is the first time (in my memory anyway) that GB have ever come close to winning anything in dressage let alone 2 gold medals!
However it wasn’t just the GBs success that made this special. This was the first ever Olympics gender equal games in that all countries had entered women athletes – still not quite 50:50 ratio but it’s moving in the right direction. The Olympics should be all about equality and not about politics and it was good to see athletes from countries which are in turmoil at the moment casting aside their problems and being proud to represent their nation (although I did hear of one or two trying to claim asylum status while they were over here!).
All the athletes in all the sports have dedicated their lives to training towards being the best they can be to compete at the games but we also saw examples of some going so far it bordered on madness! I think the award for this should go to Kate Walsh the GB women’s hockey captain. In one of the early games she got hit in the face by a Japanese stick, this broke her jaw. For most of us this would have been enough to stop us playing, but not Kate – she was back playing a just few games later when she had recovered from the surgery. Still going just as hard into the tackles and putting herself at risk. That takes some guts, determination and I think touch of madness to do. I was glad she was rewarded with a bronze medal in the end.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend a number of the events myself and the atmosphere in all venues was amazing. Not just for the British athletes but also for the underdogs. In the men’s 1500m swimming heats there was an Indian swimmer who was almost 100m (2 lengths) behind the leaders by the end, his last length when he was the only one still swimming received one of the largest cheers of the day – it was deafening. Beach volleyball was a revelation – it wasn’t about the sport but all about the crowd participation – such a good way to spend a Friday evening. The location in horse guards parade turned out to be a stunning backdrop, as did the Greenwich venue – where I watched the modern pentathlon. Another award for guts had to go to the Korean athlete who clearly didn’t bond with his horse in the 20mins warm up as when the bell rang the horse reared up and fell over backwards on top of him. To his credit not only did he get back on the horse to complete the round he also did the run/shoot where he was obviously in a lot of pain and significantly last.
Despite all the problems with security in the run up to the games I was very impressed at how efficient the security was at the entry to the venues – Heathrow could learn a lot from the games! But it was the volunteers who added the icing on the cake. All giving up their time to experience the games – many of whom didn’t get anywhere near the venues themselves. While there were a few jobsworths in general all were so happy and helpful.
I think London deserves to be proud this summer – the games have been a great showcase for London and its people. Just wish it had been easier to get tickets!!!!!