Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Thoughts on The Olympics

I'm not the sporty type. I will watch motorbike racing/football/the Tour de France when Boyfriend does but it's rare that I'd choose to watch non-horsey sports on TV.

So I wasn't over the moon about the Olympics coming to London. I complained about the cost and how our cash-strapped economy couldn't afford it and ought to prioritise. I worried about the threat of terrorism and the risk we were taking by making our little nation centre stage for a worldwide event. And I anticipated a massive faux-pas of some kind because, let's face it, there's always a politician, bank or company with a multi million pound turnover making some kind of gaffe on behalf of our little islands these days.

But I watched the opening ceremony because Boyfriend made me and it took me by surprise a bit. Yes it went on and on in a relentless fashion and there were some decidedly weird bits but for the most part, it made me feel quite patriotic. And as the Games began I got caught up in the excitement of it all - these people had trained all their lives for this moment, every waking hour was geared towards a win for their country and you could see it in their faces, it genuinely meant the world to them. I found myself gripped, watching as much as possible and even discovering some new sports I'd never heard of and didn't understand.

I was surprised to see that in many cases the women's sports drew as much coverage and excitement as the men's. Almost. I mean, if a bloke had scored against Brazil I'm pretty sure we'd have heard more about it than we did when Steph Houghton scored the goal that helped Team GB beat the Brazilians. But what the coverage of the Games is doing for women's sports and the young entry is, no doubt, encouraging.

That's not to say there haven't been any gaffes. There have and they have been pretty spectacular in some cases. The G4S balls up for a start. I mean, how hard is it to estimate the number of security staff required for such an event? Basically the absolute maximum number possible, right? Plus at least 10%? The wrong flag being shown at one of the first women's football matches (South Korea in a North Korea game) And then today, at least two national newspapers running pictures of the Dutch dressage team and their BRONZE medals with the story of Team GB's gold.

This is hugely disappointing. The Equestrian teams (and individuals) have had a great Games this year. The dressage win in particular was astounding because Team GB have never won an Olympic medal. Never. Breaking the German's decades-long medal domination and even breaking the Olympic record dressage score twice during the competition are achievements we should be extremely proud of. But the wrong people are all over the papers. I know dressage riders aren't exactly familiar faces to most of us but surely the colours of the medals around their necks should have given it away??

One more thing. It really upsets me to see competitors apologising for getting a silver or bronze medal. Crying in some cases. And saying they've let people down. They haven't! If they gave it everything they've got, what more can we ask for? There's only one gold and everyone wants it. I know they've worked incredibly hard for their competition, made personal sacrifices and changed their lives to accommodate a punishing training schedule. I know it means the world to them.

That's why it's so disappointing when we, as a country, don't show them the respect they deserve for doing so. My thoughts are with the dressage team today, whose sport was ridiculed as pointless until they took the gold, at which point our press failed them at the moment of their greatest achievement. I hope they are still too high on the buzz of their win to be brought down by such a ridiculous oversight.

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