So, that’s the Olympics over. We’ll set aside the cost, talk of legacy and all that guff. I’ll even set aside the amazing results achieved by ‘Team GB’ for a moment.
What I want to concentrate on is the manner in which the athletes deported themselves, both victors and losers. I don’t know what the stats are exactly, but the athletes numbered in the ooooh, lots. Beyond one Spanish basketball player and one Algerian runner I’m struggling to come up with an example of behaviour that would have caused a competitor from the 1908 games to proclaim ‘poor show’ in a reserved and understated fashion.
I’ve been shamelessly glued to the footage of the Olympics for the last fortnight and have been struck by these sportsmen and women who are the equal of their footballing counterparts in skill and determination if not in income and exposure. For many of the competitors, and these are serious competitors, the number of spectators and the vocal support they offered up were a completely new experience for them. The image of Britain’s young heptathlete, Katarina Johnson-Thompson covering her mouth and laughing in wide eyed amazement as she was introduced to the crowd in the first morning in the stadium will stay with me for a long time.
Gemma Gibbons, the young judo ‘player’ as they insist on calling them, could not have had encountered anything like the environment she entered into at the Games when she went through the national trials system to get selected for the team. In the main these are people who perform in front of the proverbial one man and his dog on a daily basis. This was a big deal for them.
And yet, despite the heightened expectations, pressure, stimulus and the knowledge that for most of them this is as big as it will ever get, we saw competitors performing and behaving in a manner that was respectful of their opponents, officials and sport.
As everyone was getting ready for the closing ceremony yesterday Chelsea took on Manchester City in the Community (Charity, in old money) Shield.
I am a self-confessed football nut. But, and this is a big but, the fact that this game was on had passed me by. It was only by having the radio on in the car today that I learned England play Italy in a friendly on Wednesday. I did not see the Charity Shield, I did not see the highlights. I have only scan read a report of the match, eight bookings and a sending off, I don’t know if the ref was fussy, I don’t know if the match was a little feisty, I don’t know if an injustice was done anywhere down the line. I do know that some Chelsea supporting acquaintances of mine swear that the ref was bent, blind, biased or lacking competence. But they lost.
But hang on, did the runners-up in the team dressage accuse our valiant chevaliers of dishonourable behaviour? Did the losers of the handball final scream in the face of the ref and challenge his competence? Or did they accept, that on this biggest day, with the eyes of thousands of spectators, and for the only time in a four year period, those of the world’s media upon them, that they had been defeated and that life is such? The latter, of course.
At first I felt a little guilty, watching these other sports on TV, getting a thrill from the unfamiliarity, like flirting with a pretty girl when the wife is looking in the other direction. Naughty, but nice.
Well today I’ve looked at my wife, football. What do I see? A slovenly, high maintenance, demanding woman. She is growing corpulent, the make up is not concealing the imperfections any more, she stamps her feet and makes a scene, she is embarrassing to be seen with in public.
Maybe I’ve had my head turned by the pretty young thing that has been the centre of attention, and my infatuation will subside. Maybe I need a break from the missus to re-evaluate the relationship and to see if that time apart in the cold light of day makes me miss her. Maybe I need to pack my bags and head out for good.
I don’t know.
What I do know is this, the football season proper starts on Saturday, and I really couldn’t care less. That, for me, is an amazing statement to make.