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Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 2: The Olympics

July 8, 2012

I am excited about the Olympics.

There, I’ve said it.

The British 4 x 200m team at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships in Rome

And I refuse to be dragged under by the wave of cynicism that inevitably accompanies an event that has been almost, but not quite, entirely subsumed by money, particularly the mind-boggling sums paid by the Games’ Official “Partners” (when did “sponsor” become a dirty word?).

I’m not going to rant about the sheer obscenity of such wholesale, wilful desecration of The Olympic Ideal by multinational behemoths out to sell you their latest unnecessary tat by associating with their “product” with it.

And not a word about the lunacy that has seen local businesses, keen to enter into the spirit of the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through their town, being threatened with legal action by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games for using copyright-protected words like “olympic” and images such as the five rings.

Having said that, my legal team have advised me to proceed with caution.  Hence:

Not the Olympic rings London 2012

The present economic climate being what it is some media commentators have chosen to draw parallels between the 2012 Games and the so-called Austerity Games held in London in 1948.

1948 London Olympics poster. The so-called Austerity Games

The comparison is comically absurd.  In 1948, just three years after the end of World War 2, rationing was still in place and athletes were asked to bring their own food while female competitors had to make their own uniforms.  I love this photograph of the lighting of the Olympic Flame in Wembley Stadium.  You can see the scaffolding supporting the ramp carrying the runner up to the Flame and, presumably to save money, the builders only finished the half of the base that would be seen by spectators so the gas pipe and regulator are clearly visible in this picture taken from the rear.

The Olympic Flame in 1948 London

I watched the Olympic Torch Relay pass through my home city of Lichfield last week.  I stood with my wife and baby daughter and saw 14-year-old Molly-Rose Jackson carry the flame, lit from the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, past Lichfield Cathedral and I don’t mind telling you it brought a tear to my eyes.

The Olympic torch passes through Lichfield, Staffordshire

Like the majority of those bearing Olympic torches around Britain (ignore Will-i-am, Sir Cliff and all the other “celebrity” bearers) Molly-Rose was chosen to carry the torch because she gives up her time to do amazing things for her community and beyond.

It’s clear that The Olympic Games in the 21st Century wears a coat soiled with the grime of commercialism, but underneath, I believe, its true spirit lives on and that is the thing that excites and moves me.

Strip the cash away from the Olympics and at its heart you’ll find a celebration of humanity – ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  You’ll find people who you probably wouldn’t give a second glance to if you passed them on the street who have sacrificed years of their lives training at ungodly hours in all weathers, not for money, but simply to be the best in the world.

That there are still people willing to do that makes The Olympics a Reason to Be Cheerful.

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