Thoughts on the Olympics II: Legacy and Grassroots

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Another popular comment on the London Olympics is the idea that we should host them every year! That would certainly give a boost to team GB athletes but I am not sure other countries would agree!

this sentiment actually misses the point. The Olympics are about internationalism. Part of the reason London 2012 has been so delightful is because the event is part of a larger narrative: We are sandwiched between the might of Beijing and the sexiness of Rio.

We do host major international sporting events every year, for example, the Premier League or the London Marathon. These contests are televised globally and draw an audience, but the particular atmosphere generated by the Olympics is founded on the fact they are a one off.

However, I think there is a lesson to be drawn from the tropes of Children’s Literature (a theme Danny Boyle used in his Opening Ceremony). This is the idea that the magic exists within us. You’ve always had the power within you, just click your heels three times (Yes yes, L. Frank Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American children’s story, but the point remains).

Translated to the Olympics, I would remind everyone that the festival spirit has been created by people as much as the rules of the sporting contest. Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps played their part, but much of the fun has been created by people who will still be living in Britain long after the flame has been extinguished and the tourists go home.

It is actually not that difficult to generate the atmosphere required whenever we want. I remember playing and watching some electric games of boys football as a child. The crowds were a lot smaller of course, but that sense of losing oneself in the action, and being overcome with the excitement of the contest, was very much present. We can create an Olympics on every playing field in the country, every weekend, if we wish it!

Let us hope that more people realise this, having watched two solid weeks of televised top-flight sport. Government can help by funding grassroots sport, but it cannot generate excitement and sense of occasion for every sporting contest in the country, amateur and professional. That
must come from the spectators: school mates, teachers, parents.

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