Over these last couple of weeks few things have done so much to lift my spirits as these current Olympic Games. Never mind the green pool, the half-empty venues and the criminal fringes, it’s been another vintage year for Team Great Britain. In these post-Brexit doldrums we could all do with a pick-me-up, and our athletes have delivered in spades. We’re currently second in the Medal Table, nicely sandwiched between the United States and China. I’m not saying we will necessarily hold onto this incredible position, but regardless of what comes next, we’ve achieved the impossible again.
Great Britain has so far achieved Golds in Athletics, Canoeing, Cycling, Diving, Equestrian, Golf, Gymnastics, Rowing, Swimming and Tennis. Once more underlining our great heritage in sport, and allowing us to punch way above our weight. We’ve come on in leaps and bound since our single Gold medal (Rowing) at the 1996 Atlanta Games and 15 medals in total (only 36th on that leaderboard). With 41 medals already for 2016, including 16 Golds, it looks like we’re well on the way to achieving the 49 target set by the British Olympic Committee.
If people were wondering where the London 2012 Olympic legacy was at, this is it! We’re unlikely to achieve our record 65 medals of 4 years ago (29 Golds), as we have no home advantage here. Yet consider that Home Nation Brazil has only 9 medals to its name so far, with 2 Golds. I witnessed another great underdog story last night / very early this morning when Thiago Braz da Silva hit a personal high of 6.03m to pip runaway favourite, World Champion, World Record holder etc. Renaud Lavillenie into the top slot of the Pole Vault. Brazil finally have a proper hero to stamp their mark on these Olympics. One thing that must improve though is the ugly scenes of Brazilian supporters booing other nationalities - as was the case in this final, and as has been witnessed in the Swimming Arena and Volleyball Arena - this is the total opposite of the Olympic Spirit, and one of the many things that we Brits did better in 2012 - one must be gallant at all times, including in defeat.
The best thing about the Olympics is witnessing these athletes reaching out way beyond their perceived limits, finding an extra inch or yard, and an extra micro-joule of energy when it seemed they were already overextended and way overexerted, spent even. This to me is the essence of the Olympics - finding those additional reserves and capabilities that nobody even knew existed, to break world-records some of which have stood for decades, and to achieve these naturally, through solid application and years of hard dedicated training, and wholly without artificial stimulants.
It’s strange to see some athletes competing after they have been twice banned for illegal use of drugs. I was also surprised to see that there was no second chances for false-starters. For something which comes around only every 4 years, the stakes are incredibly high, and for most, the rewards are relatively meagre. Some will make careers out of this, some may even amass fortunes, for many though these will be more personal tribulations and fond memories of competing with and beating the best the world had to offer - before returning back to more mundane lives.
Regardless of the sketchy build-up, these Rio Games have turned out to be another vintage year. Thanks to our Athletes, we Brits can walk around once more with our heads held high ...