The summer of 2012 has been one of the most enthralling, emotional and pride-inducing seasons for British sport. Whilst the weather may not have been as sparkling as we might have hoped, the performances of our track and field heroes did everything they could to provoke the holiday spirit. However as the dark nights return and athletes retire to their winter training routines the nation’s staple sport, football, is able to poke its head out from beneath the shadow of the five symbolic rings.
United as one, Britain painted an inspired figure as the embers of the Olympic flame slowly dimmed in time to the moving speech of Lord Sebastian Coe. However, before the final celebrations had even ended the stadium bidding war began as football club’s fought to decide who could come in and make the home of national sporting glory their own.
The football season started in the hope that the example of the Olympic and Paralympic Games would be embraced by our ball-kicking associates and a new dawn of the modern game would emerge. All of the boxes were checked in the pre-season managerial war-cry, but like a teenager promising to keep their room tidy, their ephemeral covenant lasted for roughly all of a week. The truth of the matter is, whilst a new era of football was widely anticipated, the early months would suggest a concerning decline in sporting civilisation. Athletes pulling on their national shirt this year have often brought a tear to the eye, yet unfortunately in the footballing world they have done so for all the wrong reasons. Pride has been replaced with shame and embarrassment, as our country’s captain was forced to retire from duty after finding himself at the eye of a race row storm, whilst his team mate publically made a scything attack towards his sporting government body. The players are not the only guilty party, as motivational cheers amongst the terraces have been replaced with hatred and savage chanting. They say a week is a long time in football, and it certainly didn’t take long to bury the Olympic role model under the carpet.
Thankfully, it’s not too long until the Sports Personality of the Year awards role around once more, whereby our own personal selection headache can serve as a reminder of just how spectacular the year of 2012 has been for British sport. We can relive the awe-inspiring moments of ‘Super Saturday’ and rekindle our love for ‘Thriller Thursday’. The power of the Olympic spirit has been more forceful than any of us could have ever imagined, and the awards will serve as a timely source of warmth as the winter months begin to settle in.
We should take pride, as track and field athletes, in choosing to participate in a sport that looks past the materialistic benefits and can bring an entire country to a halt, light a flame within the next generation and, the most simple of all, bring a smile to those watching. The next time football supporters descend upon a match bating for blood, they could perhaps take a moment to think of the likes of Robbie Grabarz and Greg Rutherford, who demonstrate nothing but admiration for their fellow competitor. Watching an athlete show grace in defeat, and also victory, and share a joke and a handshake with their opponent is far more satisfying than witnessing some of the cowardly amateur dramatics that take place on the pitch.
Athletics follows the mantra of ‘work hard and play true’ and is a true reminder that amidst all of the politics and outside distractions, the only thing that matters is the sport. We run for love not money, throw for pride not privilege, and we should all be thankful for that - Long live athletics as one of the finest role models in sport.