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Reasons to Be Cheerful: One, Two and Three

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So that was it... 2013, gone and here we are moving swiftly into 2014 - nearly mid-Jan. Now looking up from the Chrismas/New Year holiday, I can see a dazzling year of sport ahead. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, the World Cup in Rio and the Commonwealth Games in the summer...

What a year ahead.

Sochi

I love watching the Winter Olympics (although I've never been proficient enough at skiing or skating, watching is all I can manage). The Olympics in Sochi will be fantastic to watch although not without controversy, given the protests about gay rights and threat of terrorist attacks heightens the tension and one can only wonder how the Russian authorities will respond. I know there has been a lot of talk of boycotting and everyone will have an opinion about that. For me, as I have already said on this blog, I look back to the Black Panther demonstrations in Mexico in 1968, an iconic moment in the civil rights movement AND sporting history and see how significant and dignified that protest was.

So any would be protesters should perhaps take note.

And of course there is also the growing threat of a terrorist attack. Looking back, you only have to remember Munich in 1972 to see how such world media events are targeted and with the eyes of the world watching, it will attract a lot of attention even though some of it might be unwelcome. Whatever happens in Sochi next month one can only hope that any protests are peaceful and no-one gets hurt.

But back to the sport - apart from the media circus that will surround the event, I hope the central focus will be on the Games and events themselves. Traditionally we don't do great on the ski slopes at the Winter Olympics but for some reason we have done extraordinarily well in skating in the past: Robin Cousins, Torvill and Dean and of course the lovely Amy Williams winning gold in the women's skeleton in 2010. Who saw that coming?!

So I am just waiting to be inspired and I know there will be something to get me excited and I'm sure everyone will find something to enjoy.

World Cup in Brazil

And then, of course, we have the World Cup in Rio... and it's already started.

I just love all the media pundits and armchair experts (me included!) discussing England's chances. Already we have the "how far will we go", "will we be knocked out in the group stage", "the climate will play a part" and on and on. It comes up on every sports programme and every chat show where sport is mentioned and of course in every pub and bar over a few beers. I just love it!

As a massive football fan who loves watching great football all year round, this is going to be a great summer. For me, I think with all those world class teams that will be there, unexpected things can happen as it often does in knockout competitions. Think of the FA Cup and all the upsets that can produce. So let's just sit back, enjoy the spectacle and get ready to jump up out of our chairs when England play well and keep an open mind about the team's chances, they may yet produce surprises.

The Commonwealth Games

And, of course, there are the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Commonwealths have a special place in my heart as it was the arena that gave me my first international competition experience, in 1986 in Edinburgh. I know, I don't look that old...

Hosting big events on home soil is always exciting for home competitors (Yes, I class Scotland as home soil, so sue me!) as it means that there is more chance to have family and friends come and watch. Plus, you always know that Team GB will get a great shout from the home crowd and that spurs you on to do your best. Also it gives more places and opportunities for athletes from Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, a chance to compete at international level, that the Worlds and Olympics don't.

It's too bad for us that Jess Ennis-Hill won't be competing (although exciting news for her!) and there are question marks over Mo Farah and Usain Bolt's attendance. But even so, there will be new names emerging and brilliant performances will still be produced.

For me, I will be back on the sofa with my old mucker, the wonderful Clare Balding, so it's going to be a great event for me on lots of levels. I can still remember attending my first Commonwealth Games and it gives me a huge buzz knowing that in Glasgow there will be some young athlete starting out on their career, attending international competition for the first time and getting excited and overwhelmed by being in the same space as their sporting heroes... Kust like I was.

So, if you are that young athlete, whatever your sport, train hard, prepare well and I wish you good luck. But, most of all enjoy every single minute; it's pure gold just to be there.

Around the Web

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