So the Olympics are over. What an incredible spectacle of excellence, achievement and success. The most obvious examples are the medal winning athletes who have been rewarded for their many years of relentless hard work and sacrifice. Standing alongside them are their families, coaches and team-mates. The medals are their success as well.
Perhaps less obvious but just as impressive is the spectacular feat of organisation these Olympics have been. In a city that is full to bursting at the best of times, it’s incredible that people got where they needed to go when they needed to get there. I’ve never seen volunteering look so cool and the ceremonies were breathtaking. It’s been a particular pleasure to watch amazing sportswomen emphatically show that women’s sport is every bit as exciting and watchable as anything men can do. They are wonderful role models for our daughters.
And for a few days, the British media almost gave up reporting bad news!
For every success, there are those who have been disappointed, inconvenienced or not selected – those who did the work and made the sacrifices but did not get what they wanted. Does this make them failures and rejects or was luck just not on their side this time? As they pick themselves up, move on and keep trying, is that also not success? Success often has a trail of disappointment and failure on the way. It is rarely instantaneous or automatic, a journey more than an event. Even Usain Bolt has to learn, train and keep developing if he is to continue beating the competition
Time will tell on the legacy of these Games. There are many faces to this too. In the excitement of Team GB success, the talk is of more opportunities for young people to try sports, for talent to be identified and nurtured, to have more experience of competitive sport, for better sports facilities. How wonderful if we could keep winning medals like we have in these Games.
I hope this isn’t the only measure of legacy though. This isn’t a time to go back to the days where PE teachers only learn the names of the kids who were good at sport. Let’s not leave behind those young people who experience sport as a form of torture and humiliation. They might not be potential champions but we can provide opportunities to challenge their thinking about sport, to develop a different relationship with it, to find it enjoyable, to find something they can do, to find different ways of connecting with others through sport. They can then take that learning into other areas of their lives.
Success and legacy in this way are more difficult, do not involve shiny medals and probably won’t make it onto Twitter but are just as valuable.
Roll on Rio!!