WOW !!

olympic flagMy life has been full of memorable sporting occasions that I will never forget. Two which immediately spring to mind are the 1966 World Cup victory for England and the 2003 Rugby World Cup victory again for England which is strange being a Welshman. There have been many more, of course, such as the Ryder Cup victory at the Celtic Manor in Wales in 2010 and a host of individual sporting performances over the years which are forever engraved on my memory. Each of them were remarkable lifting the spirits and some of them ( 50 years ago) even made me feel inspired to emulate them. I never did but at least I tried.
However, nothing will ever eclipse the memory of what I believe was the finest moment in our our sporting history and one the of the finest moments in the long history of our country. It started on July 25th the first day of London 2012 and finished yesterday with the closing ceremony of the Paralympics. In between were extraordinary feats of human endeavour, tears of joy and of disappointment but throughout a spirit which permeated, not just the venues themselves, but almost every part of the world. Every competitor can wear the badge of an Olympian or Paralympian safe in the knowledge that they are part of a truly elite group whose countries and communities are rightly proud. The organisers will rightly bask in the glory of an extraordinary event for the rest of their lives. They silenced the doom mongers who prophesied failure almost from the day the bid was won but are noticeable by their absence today. I like to think that they too, fully accept that this was one public expenditure that did live up to and exceed, its delivery expectations. ,
The Games had a truly unifying effect on the country with the competitors feeling that they were part of Team GB and many said so. The political implications of that will not be lost on David Cameron or Alex Salmond. Seb Coe, who has now reached the heights of respect and popularity that no politician will ever reach finished his closing speech with the words " London 2012 Made in Britain". He chose his words carefully and well.

We all have our favourite moments often in those sports which we are most familiar. For me, Mo Farah's double was truly exciting. For the first time we had a distance athlete that showed no fear and despite the balking he received kept a cool head and ran the most superb tactical races finished off with devastating speed. Katherine Grainger who showed us all that the path to success often requires the kind of persistence and determination that would defeat most people. Usain bolt is the best example of a freak of nature who's physical attributes could never be developed through coaching, giving us an athlete who is awe inspiring to watch.
I can recall one of the Paralympians saying how the Games were giving them all a chance to demonstrate what they can do rather than what they can't. To be honest I have never shown much interest in the Parlympics but this time I got hauled in like the majority of people in this country following the Olympics. The Paralympic Games were equally enthralling and David Weir's 4th Gold on the final day rounded off a wonderful 10 days. I have now got a much better understanding of human potential which can reside in the most unexpected of places.
There are a number of questions which now remain following the Games completion. The after-glow fades with every day and we will all get over the sense of loss that we are feeling today. In its place must come a more integrated and better funded infrastructure for sport. We have achieved great things as a sporting nation but we will not continue to occupy such an exalted position in world sport unless we develop. Olympic coaches have dedicated themselves to excellence at the micro level which has produced results. Sports managers and administrators the length and breadth of our country now have to have to mange at the macro level to ensure the infrastructure is inclusive and sound enough to support the full range of participation. This inevitably means greater investment. Investment in leaders and coaches, in facilities, in local authorities whose budgets for leisure and culture have been decimated in recent years. We must protect school playing fields and invest in physical education in our schools. The legacy is our next big fight and is one we should be determined to win if we are to do justice to the fantastic achievements of the last month. Unlike some I do not believe that the legacy has been secured it should not be taken for granted.  If you have any ideas about "what next ?"  then why not write in. 

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