Truly global athletics events are a rare thing; world championships happen every two years and you have to wait 4 years for the Olympics. Having one of these meetings on your “doorstep” can be a once in a lifetime event so in Great Britain we are very fortunate to have had the Olympics and then, 5 years later, the World Championships both in London.
I have a confession to make: I never applied for Olympic tickets because I assumed that the London transport system and all the rest of the city-wide infrastructure would simply collapse under the pressure, it never even occurred to me that the planning and organisation would be utterly brilliant. The announcement that London would host the Worlds, made back in 2011, seemed to be a bit lost in the excitement of London 2012 so when, as a UKA member, I received an invitation to get an early opportunity to buy tickets to London 2017, I jumped at the chance.
This is how we found ourselves in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening. This was the largest athletics event I had ever been to and it was something I had been looking forward to for over a year.
We already knew that if you wanted the best view of the action, your best bet was to stay at home and watch the telly. This way you don’t miss a thing and everything that is going on gets explained to you as it happens. The reason you go to the big events is to immerse yourself in the atmosphere and take in the sense of occasion, to be there as history is made.
Of course history is one thing but expecting things to play out to a script is completely another. The expected gold to be won by Mo Farrah wasn’t, Usain Bolt’s final appearance as part of the Jamaican 4x100M team didn’t go to plan and Katrina Johnson Thompson didn’t ease herself into the high-jump medals.
Instead a different and unexpected story unfolded as the British women won a silver medal in the 4x100M and the men’s team ran spectacularly to gold. With Mo’s silver medal, this made gold and two silvers in one night – quite something.
I can’t describe what it was like to be there so I shan’t try. What I can say is that it was an unforgettable experience and the sense of being part of history was fulfilled.
A little while ago, we were playing snakes and ladders with our 5 year-old grandson. When he wasn’t on the winning team his little lip quivered and he tearfully said: “but I wanted to WIN!”. The want to win is part of all of us and is especially strong in elite athletes (that’s what makes them successful). That is why it must be especially hard for the competitors who didn’t achieve what they wanted. The situation for them however is no different to that of my grandson because, in sport, you can’t write the script. I know that Usain Bolt and Mo Farrah had bitterly disappointing evenings but let’s look at perspective. Both have dominated their respective disciplines completely for many years. They will go down in history among the greatest athletes ever to have existed. This is an achievement which is very very rare even among gold medal winning and world record holding athletes. Dominance like that can’t last forever and no-one can be the fastest at anything for ever. Undying admiration for both of them, yes. Sympathy? I don’t think they need it.
As for our young athletes, the up-and-coming who are the future, some of whom won medals, some of which nearly won medals. They are all brilliant and have given me a night to remember, a memory which will live with me all of my years.
What do you know about tomorrow? How can you be so sure about your life? It is nothing more than mist that appears for only a little while before it disappears. James 4:14 CEV