Sunday, 12th of August saw the close of the London 2012 Olympics. While there will certainly be some sighs of relief, at least some of the over one billion viewers will be left pondering the legacy of these games. Having keenly followed the Olympics this year, Wonkie proposes that the more relevant question about legacy is a far more personal one than the one that is openly discussed.
The more interesting legacy debate is not about whether London infrastructure will benefit from the games in the long term, or whether the new BBC digital platform was worth the investment, or the value of the boost in national pride. Those are political and economic arguments probably best left to politicians and economists. Besides, the investment is now a sunk cost, so what would be the point of that debate except to make a funny face and say I told you so.
The real legacy – the one that matters, depends on how you use what you observed in the games. Certainly the Olympics will have inspired youth to take up new sports and communities to organise themselves better – particularly in the UK and in Rio where the Olympics will next be held in 2016. If you are an aspiring youth athelete, or school coach etc then that’s great, and the games have left their mark. But what about the rest of the viewers – those who are older, or those that know they have no hope of biting Gold unless it comes in the form of sprinklings on an Olympic-sized doughnut?
The answer lies in one word: greatness. Looking at the Olympics with only the medal-count in mind is rather wasteful and myopic. What Wonkie observed was over 10,000 athletes attempting to achieve some goal that they had set for themselves. Whether this was achieving a personal best, a target rank or a medal is completely irrelevant. They had the clear opportunity to achieve some form of greatness on an elaborate global stage.
The reason the Olympics are so enjoyable and addictive, is that at some level we identify with what each athlete or team is trying to do: to be the best that they can be. Listening to some of the trials and tribulations that some of the athletes overcame to compete added to the appreciation of both the events and the athletes: hip and heart operations; recovering from broken necks, legs and gunshots; the psychological challenges of always almost winning or being written-off as a has-been. It is all evidence that a certain greatness is inherent, and though you may lose your path at times or be overwhelmed with your current lot, it can still be achieved. There lies hope in the thought that success is possible, regardless of the dire circumstances you may be faced with.
Whether it’s rooting for a struggling underdog in a weightlifting contest or celebrating the amazing world record-breaking run by Jamaica in the men’s 4x100m, for a moment we can be in touch with that part of ourselves that believes in our own greatness. The real 2012 Olympics legacy lies in your ability to capture that moment of self-belief and to take concrete action to build on it. Fortunately for most of us, we can take consolation that our greatness is unlikely to arrive by beating Usain Bolt at the 100m!
For Wonkie, even if a handful of the billions of viewers can be inspired enough by the participating athletes to set themselves on the path to achieve their own greatness, then the games have left a mark worth leaving.
Finally, Wonkie would like to congratulate all those who took part in the London 2012 Olympics, God for not letting it rain too much, and especially those that achieved their personal bests during the tournament (including those of you who broke your personal best records for watching non-stop TV in a 17 day period)… well done!
A special congratulations goes out to South African medalists Cameron van der Burgh (Gold, men’s 100m breaststroke), Chad le Clos (Gold, men’s 200m butterfly; Silver, men’s 100m butterfly), Bridgitte Hartley (Bronze, women’s 500m Kayak Single sprint), Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith, James Thompson and Matthew Brittain (Gold, men’s lightweight 4 Rowing), and last but not least, Caster Semenya (Silver, women’s 800m). Wonkie hopes you will use your powers for good to inspire a generation of young South African atheletes.
Kudos also go to the creators of the initially indeterminate London 2012 Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville – they have since grown to be quite endearing which is a big change from much of the world’s initial impressions of them!
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