Olympic Legacy Lessons

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Steve at Olympic Park 4

We learned an awful lot in the last seventeen days. 

We learned that Britain could party with the best of them. We learned that Britain can compete with the best of them and we learned what it takes to be a British sporting champion. 

In the age of instant celebrity, nothing in sport is achieved without unbelievable hardwork and dedication. Hopefully a new generation will be inspired to achieve something and not to just be ‘someone’. It's why we love and respect all who compete and why those who succeed become instant heroes and heroines. 

Britain’s finest, or Team GB as they are more commonly known, have sparked an almighty debate in political circles over what funding should be allocated to what sports over the course of the next decade. The very idea that we are having such a debate, backed up by the mood of the nation grateful that we delivered, is testimony to the achievements of our athletes. 

A few weeks ago, David Cameron was expected to announce plans to abolish the department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. Why would we need it? The Games won’t happen again in our lifetime? He would be a brave man to take sport’s place at the Cabinet table away after these Olympic Games. 

Very few Government departments are praised for delivery. They are more often than not ridiculed for failure. Yet the DCMS, under the stewardship of the likes of Dame Tessa Jowell, Andy Burnham and Ben Bradshaw, laid the foundations for one of Britain’s greatest fortnights in living memory. 

If the success of the last fortnight is to be repeated in Rio, then the DCMS will have to stay. But that is the political argument. For now, let us bask in the glory of our sporting success. 

Seb Coe was right when he said, “There is a truth to sport. A purity, a drama, an intensity. A spirit that makes it irresistible to take part in and irresistible to watch.”   

For those of us who watched from the sidelines and have never had the chance to call ourselves an Olympian, the Games were filled with envy and regret. It could have been me, us or you. Why did we never carry on playing? We were filled with humility and nervousness. The best man, woman or team won. But only just. Above all, we were filled with pride. From the remote slums of India to the horn of Africa.  From the Australian Gold Coast to the rocky Mountains of Colorado. From the rainforest of Brazil to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, athletes lived their dreams, fulfilled their dreams and together they made history in our back yard. 

The memories of the last fortnight will stay with us forever.  Where were you when Steve Cram called home the most dramatic 100 metre final in history? The chances are we will never forget the now infamous commentary that described the inimitable Usain Bolt as he crossed the line to the acclaim, “The Champion becomes a legend!” 

Where were you when Britain’s trio of athletes rocked the East End of London one Saturday night with three gold medals in 47 minutes? Ennis, Rutherford and Farah began the Games with the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders. They ended them immortals. 

Where were you when Hoy took Gold for the sixth time, when Grainger buried her demons in the rowing or when Taewkendo suddenly became the nation’s favourite sport, just for one night! 

This is the unique power of sport. It has the power to transform lives, to tackle crime and poor educational attainment and as it has proven, it has the power to unite a nation. 

The Games of the 30th Olympiad were special. Not because of the stadia like Beijing, but because of the British people that filled those venues. I said before the Games that the effect it will have on each of us, is yet unknown. If initial indications are to be believed, then there are already certainties. When it came to living up to our promise, Britain delivered. When it came to beating the best, our Athletes delivered. And when it came to delivering our legacy, Britain undoubtedly, inspired a generation. 

When the sober eye of history looks back on London 2012, those of us that are still around to recall it will only ever have to ask one question; could Britain have asked for any more?

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