I Need To Detox…
I need to detox. I need weaning. I need something – a placebo, a substitute, a whatever – which will prevent me from going cold turkey.
Why? Because I’ve gorged myself. For two weeks I’ve been ingesting sport to the point of overdose. And not just any sport. This is unadulterated, uncut, 100% pure sport.
I love sport. I love football, rugby, motorsport. I love sport week in, week out. But once every four years something happens to me.
Once every four years the Olympics comes along and reminds me I only *think* I love sport, and that actually I’ve been just skimming the surface, absorbing the easily absorbed. Because every four years, for a couple of weeks, the narrow spectrum of my sporting enjoyment is suddenly widened into a vast kaleidoscope, embracing the incredibly engrossing but often criminally underexposed feats of, quite simply, heroes.
For these are Olympians, athletes at the top of their game, whose raison d’être culminates in this summit of like-minded, like-bodied and like-willed individuals, representing not their club, nor their sponsor, but their country, and whose experience of sport in its most crystalline form only serves to embolden their desire. They tread a mercurial line between triumph and despair and I’ve felt the knottiest of knots in my chest and the lumpiest of lumps in my throat for those whose efforts have fallen on either side of that line.
If these men and women fail to inspire a generation, I think to myself, we need a new generation.
But that is not all. My condition has been worsened by me mixing my highs. If I wasn’t intoxicated enough by the drama of those striving to go faster, higher, stronger, I’ve been experiencing the extra, ecstatic buzz of national pride.
I’ve been hooked on the stories of British endeavour: Super Saturday when the British medal count rose at an exponential rate; the exquisite surprise at discovering how good we are at sports I never knew about; and the genuine realisation of a decades old dream that our country can be a player in the global arena.
And of course, the fact that this year, the arena has been built here.
For seven years our nation has been party to a long and arduous gestation; the rows over money and sponsorship and facilities and transport and ticket sales and the lasting legacy – in fact, everything in the “How to stage an Olympiad” handbook – and the nervous apprehension that the appetite for it may not extend outside the capital.
But bugger me if we didn’t pull it off. We did it. We built it and they came. It was the best Olympics ever, both by our country’s performance and in general, and that makes me immensely proud.
So what now? There are the London Paralympic Games beginning on August 29th, where even more aspirations will turn into achievements regardless of the challenges. And finally, when the very last shiny medals have been bestowed, the very last triumphant tears have flowed and the very last anthems have been heartily bellowed, the Olympic flame will die until it is lit anew in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
I only hope the dreams and inspiration don’t die with it. Sportsmen and women are not born, they are made, and making them takes time and facilities and money, but more importantly it takes a national will and a national commitment to succeed. In short, while we have all basked in the brilliant light of the Olympic comet we now need to make the most of the long tail in its wake.
But let that start tomorrow. For today, let us thank London 2012. The athletes, the coaches, the organisers, the volunteers, the supporters, the broadcasters and everyone responsible for creating the most incredible, enjoyable, unbeatable 16 days.
Yes, I need to detox. Yes, I need weaning. But maybe not just yet…