MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Now let's keep the Olympic spirit alive
10:00am Tuesday 14th August 2012 in Sport
FEELING a little blue? Can’t quite shake the urge to flick through 30 Olym-pic HD channels even though you know the Games have finished? I feel your pain.
For two weeks we, as a collective – Welsh, English, Scottish, Northern Irish, everyone has been enthralled and engaged in the very greatest of sporting spectacles.
Ok, so the Welsh maybe celebrate their own triumphs longer and louder than the others (congratulations on a record medal haul, by the way). And the people of Yorkshire seem to have decided they are now an independent nation (whose president is Geoffrey Boycott, presumably) but, generally, it’s been one big celebration without the usual British cynicism.
We’ve shed tears as lifetime dreams have come true (who didn’t cry for Kath Grainger or Gemma Gibbons?) and been equally full of emotion when things haven’t worked out so well for the likes of Victoria Pendleton and our own Fred Evans, denied glorious golds at the climax of their Olympic experience.
It’s been a watershed moment for British sport and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games may very well be that it was the first truly equal Games in terms of the female of the species being given equal billing, even competing in the boxing.
The fact this Olympics was a triumph at all was no easy feat to achieve. Funding an Olympics in adversity, winning hearts and minds at a time of global economic crisis is a cause for huge celebration.
The more cynical of us could be forgiven for expecting an epic failure, especially considering we started out with the security guard gaffe, the Korean flag gaffe and were criticised by a man running to be President of the United States. Would Britain truly embrace an event that cost £9 billion? You bet they would.
Many of us, most of us in fact, will never again experience an Olympics at home.
But the memories will last a lifetime, the golden Saturday that saw Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah claim gold arguably the pinnacle of a non-stop thrill ride.
Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Farah again provided moments that eclipsed nearly every Olympics past and each section of the UK had their own heroes.
Evans was so brave in boxing five times and contending for a gold medal, and teen Jade Jones also produced a sublime effort for Wales.
All the talk has been of legacy and it’s to that end that arguably the hard work really starts.
Legacy isn’t just about a big pot of funding for a few special athletes to make us all smile again in 2016.
The best part of the Olympics has been the friendly nature of competition, the roaring atmosphere that had not even an edge of nastiness.
This week the football season begins in earnest and maybe on the terraces lessons can be learned from the Olympic party?
It drove me crazy hearing constant comparisons to football during the Games, references to footballers and athletes and how much football could/should learn from what was going on.
You know, because all footballers are overpaid scumbags, apparently. They deserve vile abuse from the terraces. They are fair game.
It’s a chicken and an egg situation. Would footballers be so alienated from the public if they earned less? Possibly. Would they be less alienated if they didn’t receive such horrendous abuse and were shown the same respect the likes of Hoy and Wiggins receive? Undoubtedly.
Be inspired by the Olympics by all means, I know I was. From Usain Bolt to the BMX bikers. But don’t let the legacy simply be funding and desire to do even better in Rio in 2016.
The best part of the Olympics, the best part of Team GB, were the volunteers, the fans in attendance and the millions watching at home, all being as one.
As a society, for two weeks things were better.
Chatter on the tube! Strangers talking about Mo Farah and communities coming together to celebrate their own. We, the most cynical of nations, became optimistic and positive, patriotic even.
And the end of the Olympics is no reason for any of that to change.
The economic situation may not have changed but the mood in Great Britain is very different to a year ago when disenfranchised youths were rioting and looting across the country.
The Olympics has given us all a fillip and the best legacy of all would be to keep that level of positivity.
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