THE OLYMPIC Games have finally arrived and Wales has shown London the way forward.
Never have so many people been gripped by a women’s football match as they were on Wednesday afternoon when Team GB beat New Zealand 1-0 at Cardiff’s fabulous Millennium Stadium.
And it wasn’t just inside the national arena where Wales set the bar high for London to follow, but outside in the streets too.
Initiatives to encourage people of all ages to take up sport, from inflatable hockey pitches to football goals, lined the capital city, and every last piece of litter was collected.
There were thousands inside the stadium, while the ripple effect of just being part of something as extraordinary as the Olympics went beyond the boundaries of Cardiff to all corners of Wales.
It will be phenomenal to reach the heart of the Games in London and, as is my privilege, I will be there today.
But the Olympic ‘experience’ might not be as wonderful as fans lucky enough to have tickets are expecting.
In the Olympic Park they will be put through airport-style security checks to ensure they are not carrying weapons, be shuffled in and, after paying through the nose for food and water on a hot day, be shuffled back out again.
They are expected to ‘enjoy’ the experience, however, my media colleagues from a national sports journalism body have already told of one free water fountain in the Olympic Park where fans queued for ages before watching the opening ceremony dress rehearsal. They could have bought a 100ml bottle of water outside the complex for 50p and brought it in but, if not, they were £2 a go inside.
Yes, the fun and games have arrived, unless you are a member of the North Korean women’s football team. The gaff of putting the team pictures alongside the flag of South Korea caused a right row.
But, as with everything new, there are always teething problems, and the Greatest Show on Earth gets on the road tomorrow with the first medals decided in swimming, archery, fencing, cycling, judo and shooting.
Gwent competitors get their chance next week and I will keep you up to date on them and all else going on at London 2012.
- Newport-born Gary Baker has been a sports journalist for 25 years and currently owns and runs Wales and West Media, a public relations and jounalism company based in Cardiff Bay.
Gary, who worked on the South Wales Argus sportsdesk for two years in the early part of the Noughties, can be contacted on 07803 974491 or find out more about Wales and West Media on www.walesandwestmedia.co.uk