Something strange is happening in the world of sport. The all consuming monoculture of football appears to be losing it tyranical hold over the backpages. When Mexico triumphed over Brazil in the final of the Olympic football, the Brazilian media turned. They became the latest nation to question the moral fortitude of their footballers. In fact if you wanted to see football played with passion and honesty, if you have grown tired of the constant diving and attempts to con the referee, then it's the women's competition which truly shone.
This falling out of love with football happened even before the Olympics in the most unlikeliest of locations, Italy. The latest match-fixing scandal there appeared to be one too many for the Italians. Many there are expressing the view that alternative entertainment must be sought until football gets it's house in order. The British held firm. Even the continuing exploits of Terry and his ilk failed to detract. The self-proclaimed beautiful game, played by spoiled multi-millionaires, is the fix nobody can quite give-up.
Then came the Olympics, and things seemed to change. We started to see sporting stars who were humbled by their success. These were people who fitted the hero mould. They performed under pressure, when it mattered, and they delivered. Even people who are not normally interested in sport found themselves consumed with the hopes of a nation. This was a reality show where the contestants had talent, yet their success was not born over night. For them there was no Simon Cowell waiving his chequebook and willing to throw his vast PR machinery behind them. There had only been years of toil. Days of relentless grind, boring meals, nights in, and friendships lost because they dreamed of one day. When that day arrived the whole nation suddenly knew their names, and if they were lucky some journalist had taken the time to take down their backstory and tell it.
The backstories of the Olympians are far more compelling and uplifting than the usual stuff which fills the papers. Here their is no talk of million dollar salaries, obscene displays of wealth and of childish tantrums. Here were people who'd pushed their bodies to the limit, often beyond the limit. Broken men and women who'd had to rebuild. Athletes like Italy's Marzia Caravelli who at the age of 29 had made her first Olympics despite being an amateur. She receiving no backing from her Federation who had always told her she wasn't good enough. She qualified for the semi-final of the 100m Hurdles. Each Athlete brought with them their own story. Marathon runner Jessica Augusto of Portugal who kissed the tattoed name of her late father on her arm when she crossed the line and looked to the heavens. "Look Dad, this is for you."
Heptathlon took centre stage like never before. Jessica Ennis brought tears and gold on that magical Saturday night, and young Katarina Johnson-Thompson made her debut at 19 and showed us a glimpse that Britain's future may be as golden as it's present. Also competing was the Olympic Champion of Beijing, Natalia Dobrynska. She had lost her husband and coach Dmitry Polyakov just months earlier. Polyakov had been battling cancer for two years, and Dobrynska had kept it a secret. "He was a strong man and didn't want to be an object of anyone's pity," she revealed. Perhaps proving true that old saying that behind every strong man there is a stronger women.
If London was to have a legacy it would be shaped by the women of the world. This was the first Olympics where every event had a female counterpart. It was the games were nations sent women athletes where none had gone before. Even the best presenting at the Olympics came from Women. Claire Balding was a revelation in the swimming and seriously is there a better sports anchor in the country than Gabby Logan. However much the BBC try to justify Gary Lineker's obscene salary, most people would agree there should be less Gary and more Gabby.
Sportswomen have always struggled for recognition in the media. The daily papers have their arteries clogged up by the saturated fat of Premiership Football. The one hope they have is in women's magazines where previously athletes had only ever featured in a "Look doesn't she look nice in a frock" type article. The real grit and grime of being a female athlete seems largely ignored. In the run up to the games I wasted many fruitless calls, followed by emails trying and failing to convince a features editor to ditch the reality star for a more worthwhile piece on a hopeful Olympian.
Women are integral to sport. They make fine sportspeople, often having to deal with issues men need not bother themselves with. Menstrual cycles, the ticking clock of fertility, and yes even 'Does my bum look big in this.' They all play their part in women's sport and shape the characters it contains.
Soon the memories of London will have melted away, swept aside by a relentless tide of the mindless exploits of people far less worthy of our attention. Our Olympians without the PR pushers who grease the wheels of press will disappear for another four years. Replaced by reality TV stars and overpaid footballers. It doesn't have to be this way. The media must lead the change. The editors must decide if the legacy will hold. If we are to celebrate our female Olympians for more than just a few weeks in the summer every four year. Right now I am hopeful they will, but ask me again come October.
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