As they say, it is all over bar the shouting – the Rio Olympics that is. All that is left to happen is the closing ceremony, which I have no doubt will be a fitting culmination to what is widely regarded as a successful games. While there has been, as there always is, things off the field of competition that are of interest, e.g. the way poverty in Brazil was hidden from media scrutiny, it is happenings on the field that have been the focus of most of our attention, and these have enthralled many, including yours truly. I’m using this third posting to tie up loose ends although conscious in two weeks time we will see the start of the Paralympics, which given what I saw in 2012 I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful spectacle to behold.
When I last posted on the subject, we were approaching the half way point of the games and there already was a lot of blog worthy note (some of which I wrote about – see here). The media pre-occupation with GB medal success has continued and most of us have been taken in, probably because of the feel good factor this brings, but no doubt similar sentiments can be echoed by countries other than GB, all except USA have done less well than GB. Britain’s total medal haul (67) is its best ever and beats its previous best (65), achieved at the 2012 London Olympics. While overtaking the USA in terms of medal haul was too much to expect, GB surprised most by coming second, beating the mighty China.
The challenge as a blogger is knowing where to begin, for there have been many fantastic performances and fascinating stories that are worth discussing, but as always there is a need to be selective, recognizing one tends to bring to the fore things one is particularly interested in. Perhaps my highlight, and there have been many to choose from, is the GB women’s hockey team winning a gold medal. As an ex-hockey player myself, I can only be awestruck by the total team performance and level of skill and dedication that was on show, and while their final opponent (Holland) was arguably better, they still won, and deservedly so.
What more can I say about performances? I suppose I have watched with pleasure, via BBC Internet, almost every GB medal winning action, live or recorded, and many have struck me, starting with Justin Rose in the golf, Nick Skelton (at the ripe age of 58) in the Show Jumping and Mo Farah in the 5000 and 1000m running, plus the dominance of the GB cyclists over rivals. There have been disappointments too: such as Tom Daley blowing it in the diving, Jack Burnell cruelly missing out in the marathon swimming, Lutalo Muhammed just one second away from winning a taekwondo gold medal and the marginal disqualification of the 4×400 men’s relay team. Then there have been pleasant surprises: GB gymnastic success (men and women), medals in the women’s 100 and 400m relays, yet again we see repeat winners (showing what true champions are made off): e.g. Jade Jones, Nicola Adams, Heather Mills, Saskia Clark, Liam Heath and the Brownlee brothers, and emerging stars like Bryony Page, Sophie Hitchon and Joe Clarke. There have been many fantastic stories, as Usain Bolt getting his third set of three gold medals, great sportsmanship, as Nikki Hamblin’s sporting exploits in the women’s 5000m (see picture). There have been unsavoury incidents, like the booing of the French pole vaulter, but mercifully not too many. It is great the games continued to demonstrate unity in diversity, with people from every background, nation, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability (more of which is to come) competing on an equal footing at their peak and, in the main, in the right spirit. To the organizers credit, it was good that the Refugee team was able to participate, thus demonstrating the inclusive spirit of the Games. Finally, mention should be made of all those operating behind the scenes, starting with trainers and support personnel, whose contribution was monumental.
While as a sports fan and a true patriot, I see immense value in the games, along with what it seeks to do in bringing together divided nations in a spirit of friendship, I also have my qualms. When the world looked in consternation at GB cycling success, comparing their more modest performances in recent international events, I was less surprised. There is no doubt as with most successful teams, it all came down to thorough preparation, attention to detail, leaving no stone unturned, and peaking at the right time. But just as relevant is the money that has poured into this sport and other sports where there was a likelihood of medal success, much of which has come from the National Lottery, and this partly as a reaction to twenty years ago when GB achieved one gold medal compared with 27 this time. Besides my ethical qualms on the lottery, there are concerns as giving such priority to elite sports persons. It is ironic that GB is now doing what the likes of the Soviet Union and East Germany were doing some thirty years ago. I also wonder if we are going away from the amateur aspirations of the Olympic movement and, while unintentional, we are creating an unlevel playing field and excluding poorer nations. I am also uncomfortable when we put people on pedestals merely because they are talented rather than for services rendered, evidenced by what seems these days automatic knighthoods when reaching a certain medal quota.
Having got that of my chest, I conclude that it has been a wonderful Olympic games, and a great advert for what is best in sport. Many have enjoyed what they have seen and derived respite and hope in these troubled times. I also would conclude proverbially speaking, we can all be Olympic champions, given the words of St. Paul: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” 1Corinthians 9:24-27.