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Time for Rio to Create Sporting Memories - The Real Legacy of London

01/08/2016 12:52

Is it just me, or have the Olympics really rather snuck up on us?

Maybe it's because it seemed like there was so much sport between us and it over the past year - world cups in rugby union and Twenty20, the Euros, Wimbledon - but the Rio Games seemed in a permanent state of far-away-ness, but now the opening ceremony is this week.

Perhaps it's also because nobody has really talked about the sport in the build up. I am younger and have therefore experienced fewer sporting events than many who will read this, but I have never seen one shrouded in so much extra-curricular controversy as this.

Disease, drug cheating, half of the largest nation's team being banned, the unsightly mess of golf's best players having less than zero inclination to play. It has not felt like a festival of sport.

When we finally get going, I hope the sport will finally take over. There is so much potential for great tales of Olympic lore - the team of refugees, what if one wins a medal? Can Usain Bolt overcome injury and strike again, or has his storm cloud pass? Can Jess Ennis-Hill, in her final games before becoming a full-time mum - as is widely believed, although a future comeback is almost certain - win gold?

It is stories like these which have been the true legacy of games gone by. People have moaned about what the London 2012 games have left behind, other than a six-month spurt in participation then apathy, a taxpayer funded home for West Ham, and that orbit monstrosity?

But this misses the point. People have asked whether London should have hosted the games four years ago. I would say it is the best decision my country made in my lifetime.

The idea that the games are supposed to change a country forever is nothing but marketing bullshit and media hysteria. They are games, they are fun, and boy were the games fun - from the madness of the opening ceremony, the first gold won by Bradley Wiggins, to the three golds in 35 minutes on Saturday in the athletics, right up to the final medal, won by Samantha Murray, a silver in the modern pentathlon. As long as we don't talk about the closing ceremony, we will be fine.

So multitudinous were the memories, so many of them have slipped us by. Who remembers Gemma Gibbons? Jade Jones? Peter Wilson? How good were the men's gymnastics team? In any other Olympics these could have been up there with the headlines, but they are mere footnotes, that is how good the Olympics were.

But most of all, there was the feel-good factor. There was the joy of sitting on the sofa for eight hours watching weightlifting and fencing. There was the fact people enjoyed themselves, the unequivocal view that something excellent had actually happened in the real world.

We really need the Olympics in this country this summer, but we will have to do with watching them in Rio. Hopefully we will only be watching, and talking about, the sport.

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