As the Olympics enter day seven, it is a case of so far, so good on all counts.
With blanket media coverage and large crowds thronging to the venues (except, of course to those where the so-called Olympic family has selfishly demanded loads of tickets and then not shown up to watch) it is fair to say that the British public has embraced the spirit of the Games.
Nowhere was this more evident than during the cycling time trial where massive crowds lined the route throughout leafy, suburban south-west London, cheering Bradley Wiggins to Gold. It was truly a sight (and sound) to behold.
Team GB has had a disappointingly slow start on the medals table, but that all seems to be picking up nicely now, throwing up a good mixture of household names and unsung heroes for the home crowd to cheer.
But beyond the performances, I have, by and large been very impressed with the way in which the British athletes have carried themselves under the most powerful of spotlights.
Sure they haven’t all been perfect – Mark Cavendish’s somewhat ungracious acceptance of his cycling defeat in a race where he was red hot favourite on day one was a grating example. There may have been others.
However, most of them seem to have embraced Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s wish that “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part” – an honourable sporting ideal that sadly can seem a bit quaint and old fashioned at a time of rampant commercialism, when footballers are demanding massive pay cheques and whining when they don’t get them.
I might be a bit biased here (in fact, I am sure I am), but when I see Asian badminton players being disqualified for deliberately trying to lose to give themselves an easier next round game (forget the fact that a crowd has paid big bucks to watch them) or hear about ‘unbeatable’ Aussie swimmers being crucified by the media and Twitterati for only getting a silver medal, then I am glad to be following Team GB.
Consider the following examples:
How about the GB men’s gymnastics team, winning GB’s first medal in 100 years (silver), only to have it reduced to a bronze following a complaint from the Japanese, but taking it all in their stride and warmly congratulating their opponents. As team captain Louis Smith said “Silver? Bronze? It doesn’t matter, we enjoyed it; it was fantastic.”
Or Cycling’s golden girl, Victoria Pendleton setting a world record in her first ride, but then being disqualified on a technicality in the next round and being dumped from the very competition the partisan crowd had come to see her win. “It’s one of those things…”, was her remarkably sanguine response in an interview afterwards.
Or Tom Daley, GB’s golden boy of diving, who sadly lost his father to cancer last year and had dedicated his quest for a medal to his memory, only managed 4th place in the synchronised pair diving. However, Daley did not blame his partner whose mistake cost them a medal. “At the end of the day, we’re a team. We win together and we lose together”, he said afterwards, again rising above the crushing disappointment.
And beyond the near misses, there are also the heart warming and authentic stories of GB’s winners – Gold medal winning Pairs rower Heather Stanning talking about rejoining her army regiment and doing a tour of duty after the Games, Shooting Gold Medallist Peter Wilson working in a pub to help fund his dream and of course the man-of-the-people Bradley Wiggins keeping his feet firmly on the ground as he deals with calls for him to be knighted.
Whilst I am proud and delighted to see Team GB continue to climb the medal table, I am just as proud to see the quality of the people who are representing our nation on the world stage.