Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Measure of Excellence

Watching the Olympics has been an experience, I think that's a bit of an understatement. Before the games, opening ceremony and the incredible medal rush I was certainly best described as sceptical. Coming from the area the Olympic park is situated in I found myself convinced that this would be a washout of epic proportions. I was wrong.

Normally I get interested , watch the events that are televised but I don't really look forward to the Olympics. It's a sporting event and that's cool but we see only the minority of events and the focus seems to be on the 'premier events' like the men's 100 meters, the heavy weight boxing, the 10,000 meters, the women's gymnastics. With the 2012 Olympics the BBC have televised ever single event and so I have had the pleasure of flicking from what I would normally watch to sports I haven't ever had much interest in.

Its been great, but I'm not telling you about the weightlifting and how we worked out how many of the kids the guys were lifting in each hand or how my interest in Basketball has been awakened by watching not just the Americans but by other teams and their sweet moves. Nope. I think I'm here to celebrate all the sports men and women who make any event exciting.

Consider the events and who are the ones that are remembered? The medallists right? Yes, that's true, but without a special group of people to compete against these people would just be 'fast runners' or 'great swimmers', it has to be the quality of the opposition that makes an Olympic champion truly special. A true star. 

Take the best people in their fields and put them against each other; the heats become battles of will and skill, determination and talent. When you have the ten finalists then you know they are the ten people performing at their very best and almost certainly they are some of the very best in the world. Its awesome, but there is an attitude that has crept in to the reporting. One that is annoying. The idea that a strong competitor can have their medal snatched from them pisses me off. Its the entitlement placed upon an athlete by the press. Their slice of destiny gifted to them by a dickhead with a pen.

The fact is this; you gather the best in the world, they compete, maybe they get it right and they win. Its taken them years of preparation to get to that point and they are surrounded by athletes who have done the same hours in the gym and on the track, have eaten exactly right, have fought against real life distractions and have come to win too. Coming tenth in the final of the 100 meters tells you something; it tells you that you are the tenth fastest person on the planet. That's amazing.

To win a medal is truly astounding. If we watch someone do just that then we have seen something special. A moment in time that will never be repeated. Not exactly. There will be other races, probably faster runners in the future, but it wont be like when you felt the emotion of seeing someone fight to realise a dream...and actually win.

Winning Gold is amazing, winning Silver is amazing, Bronze? Amazing! Taking part and being next to those legend makers and record breakers? Amazing.

Lets not be silly. Its easy to look at the footballers and say they have it so much better. They have more money, that's true, but that's because they are professional sportsmen, like the Basketball players from America that have a billion dollar team. The Lottery has made a massive difference to the lives and training of many athletes. We can see this in the performances we have been blessed with by exceptional men and women but we can't compare them with someone from another discipline and say they are 'so much better'. 

To take an example I give you Frank Lampard. Now he's a footballer (booooo) and he's incredibly rich (hisssss) and he holds the record or the most consecutive games played in the premiership, 164 consecutive appearances. That shows his consistency, his work ethic, his attention to fitness and his ability to play through the pain barrier. An exceptional player.More athletic than Jess Ennis? No. 

This is one example but all sports have incredible, exceptional players and competitors. The team is not always going to win but the fact is you cant compare Jess Ennis to David Beckham, Ussain Bolt to Ali, Kelly Holmes to Steve Redgrave, the disciplines are different, the amount of money in the sports are different and the frequency of performances they have to make is different.

Today I'm celebrating those exceptional people that have what it takes to excel at a sport to the point where they find themselves competing at the very top flight. I also celebrate those that surround the very best, that fight their hardest and lose and cry and feel failure. In my eyes you haven't failed. You got to the dance. Your a winner.

This one goes out to the winners who don't win. The ones that see years of effort distilled into a circle of metal and the ones that will chase that dream when the camera's have long gone, the lights have faded and they find they are the last person in the gym, the last runner around the training track, the person that lives their dream.

You inspire us all.

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