Concerns about unethical sponsor behaviour
and London congestion aside, the Olympic Games this summer has been an utter triumph. We have witnessed almost superhuman feats in just about every event and a plethora of new world records and personal bests. Television schedules have been dominated by coverage of those sportsmen and sportswomen, who have sacrificed so much to achieve one thing – to try and become Olympic champion.
What is refreshing - beyond primetime TV being dominated by the usual poisonous reality/celebrity shows and footballers cheating, play-acting and preening – is the absence of monetary gain that normally drives our 'sporting heroes'. Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis and a small minority aside – very few of the Olympians will go on to become wealthy individuals. The majority will go back to rather normal lives and, if they are lucky, four more years of hard training and competitions before another shot at a medal.
What a contrast with some of the pampered Premiership footballers here in the United Kingdom, who if they get lucky in a match or manage to deceive the referee during 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon feel they have justified their £200,000 pay that week. Even the most ardent football fans are growing tired of the petulance and prima donna behaviour. Watching professional tennis too can be frustrating because of the ludicrous and unnecessary tics exhibited by the top players. Do they really need to bounce the ball 20 times before serving? Does the trainer really need to come on at even the slightest hint of injury? Are the high-decibel grunts and moans with every shot really acceptable in a sporting arena? Do they really need a towel to wipe their faces after every point? When did neurosis become part of the tennis player's toolkit? Note to the grand slam winners and the aspiring players - you are competing in a sport; you will sweat so deal with it.
And the contagious effect on our children has been palpable. Fair play and hard-slog endeavour had become alien concepts in our celebrity-obsessed, get-rich-quick society - until London 2012 that is. The cult of celebrity is still present with the likes of Bolt and Ennis, but they are true talents that have earned their celebrity. They did not go on a reality show, appear half naked in a trash magazine or tell-all in a tabloid newspaper 'exclusive' to win a place in the hearts of their nations.
With this in mind, we hope that all sporting bodies and the television schedulers - who decide which events should be primetime – will recalibrate their ethos to a more Olympian mindset. Why not put more of the big athletics meets live on television in the evening, like in the glory years of the 1980s – to inspire our young people? It has to be a healthier diet for the youth than Big Brother
, I'm a celebrity, get me out of here
. On certain shows, the prerequisites for success and obtaining material wealth are nothing more than a willingness to ridicule yourself before the nation or an acceptance that TV executives should be allowed to manipulate those taking part.
Our society can do better than that, the Olympics has proved it. Nations have come together; young people have seen that the pursuit of excellence through hard work earns you real respect and plaudits. Most of all, we have witnessed transcendental sporting moments driven not by money, but by the pure will to be better. We must now hope that London 2012 can be a springboard. We must hope that despite the bleak economic picture facing us all – Britain, Europe and the world can learn the lessons of what has been a phenomenal Games. The flame cannot be allowed to go out now.