The Olympic legacy is in our hands… now let's not waste it
22:16 GMT, 10 August 2012
It will soon be over. The music will stop, the flags will be packed away and as we stand there wondering where the time went someone will flick the lights out and the greatest party we have ever known will be over. Our world will return to normal.
Anyone touched by the Olympics will bid the Games farewell with a heavy heart. You will know them. They will be acting as if they are at a family gathering, clasping hands, slapping one another on the back and making promises not to leave it quite so long next time.
But we always do. Real life crowds in. The magical moments slip through our fingers and the extraordinary becomes the everyday once more.
Happy and glorious: Crowds in the
Olympic Park lap up the action
More from Des Kelly…
Des Kelly: Oh dear, plastic isn't fantastic for Ukrainian wrestler competing for Team GB
Des Kelly's Olympic daily: There's a real fizz in this fab fortnight
Des Kelly: Welcome to ladies of Cirque de l'Eau… but why do they do it
Des Kelly: Let's not forget to celebrate spirit of a Sundial Sprinter
Des Kelly's Olympic Diary: Say it loud and clear, we're on crest of a wave
Des Kelly: Cheating It's all foreign to us
Des Kelly's Olympic Diary: Saudi girl's courage is pure gold
Des Kelly: Welcome to the people's sport (As long as the people are millionaires)
VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
Within 48 hours, the news will no longer be led by great feats of human achievement, but by tales of war, bogus celebrities and economic gloom.
A double dip will not be a gymnastic marvel, but a miserable reminder of national debt. David Cameron and Ed Miliband will still try to score meaningless points from the despatch box, everyone will ignore Nick Clegg, and the people elected to represent the country will bray from the House of Commons benches with all the decorum of bankers on a stag weekend.
There is even a football match on Sunday featuring two of the biggest clubs in the Premier League. At some point over the course of the season the collision of Manchester City and Chelsea will have sporting significance, but before the end of the Olympics it feels distinctly inappropriate, like a drunken heckle at a memorial service.
/08/10/article-2186708-1462F530000005DC-221_634x477.jpg” width=”634″ height=”477″ alt=”Mo-ment of glory: Farah and Bolt (below) have produced some of the most exciting spectacles” class=”blkBorder” />
Mo-ment of glory: Farah and Bolt (below) have produced some of the most exciting spectacles
Jamaican sprinters told the world they loved Birmingham. Female footballers marvelled at the passion of Manchester and Cardiff. People spoke to one another on the London Underground. Shop staff genuinely wanted to help. Folk offered one another assistance with luggage or simple directions.
Volunteers at the park were simply happy. London bustled as a metropolis should, but it wasn’t cold or in far too much of a hurry to care. People actually smiled and said ‘hello’.
We all loved the sport, of course, but we loved the spirit too.
We loved the sense of community, the celebration of how wonderful and diverse human beings are. We loved the coming together of people, the understanding that despite colour, creed or politics, we’re all essentially the same. Fundamental bonds were shared across borders, continents, classes and ages.
Brazil have already scored a horrible own goal with their 2016 Olympic plans after announcing the main athletics arena will be called the Havelange Stadium ‘in honour’ of an ex-FIFA president who took kickbacks from World Cup television deals in the 1990s.
What are they going to call the 2016 cycling arena The Ronnie Biggs Velodrome
Winning a race on a track isn’t finding a cure for cancer or splitting the atom, but when a man runs as spectacularly as David Rudisha in setting that new 800m world record, the entire planet can collectively marvel at what humans are capable of.
Here was a Kenyan Masai tribesman, coached by an Irish priest, living in Germany and managed by an Australian being embraced by the rest of the planet.
There were other incredible stories. The American, Manteo Mitchell, broke his leg during the 4×400 metres relay. He even heard his shinbone snap at the 200m mark. But somehow he kept on running because his team-mates needed him.
We saw Oscar Pistorius, a man who had both his legs amputated below the knee as a child, run at the Olympics. I’ll say that again; a man missing two legs ran at the Olympics – the very highest echelon of world sport.
If that astonishing achievement doesn’t inspire someone to try and go one step further than they ever thought possible, nothing will. We saw Wojdan Shahrkhani nervously step on to the judo mat at the ExCeL Centre to become Saudi Arabia's first female Olympian.
Back in her homeland, the cheers were stifled. Saudi newspapers ignored her story in fear of religious hardliners outraged by the presence of a woman at the Games. Shahrkhani was abused, warned Saudi society would shun her family and told she had 'thrown away her place in the afterlife', yet the trembling girl stepped on to the mat anyway.
Shahrkhani looked a far cry from being an athlete, never mind a hero, but when the Mecca-born teenager said: 'Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era', we could only applaud.
Humble crowd: The spectator have even brought humour to the fine art of standing and waiting in line
One day history may regard her as the Emmeline Pankhurst of the Middle East and place the brief moment of defiant emancipation alongside the Black Power salutes of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico 1968.
Of course, there was the towering speed and exuberance of Usain Bolt to cherish. But there were also the also-rans, the runners who trailed in last but were acclaimed like champions.
When the leaders crossed the line at the end of the 5,000m qualifier this week, it took another minute and a quarter for 33-year-old Filipino backmarker, Rene Herrera, to make it to the finish.
It is an eternity at this level, but he was urged on as if he were about to break a world’s best. When he slumped to the track, Mo Farah was the first to cross the track and place a congratulatory hand on his shoulder.
That is what will define these Games. It was generous. The crowds were patriotic, enthusiastic, but never blindly jingoistic. When the Team GB hockey team was being annihilated by Holland, there were no boos from the crowd. The audience recognised Dutch brilliance.
Enter card details
The travel website Expedia has signed a deal to sponsor Premier League referees and officials.
I assume this means players can now be booked online.
And how’s this for a statistic: 80,203 watched the women’s football final at Wembley between the USA and Japan. There is the proof of Britain’s Olympic passion right there.
The only person I can recall being jeered with any genuine gusto throughout the Games is Sepp Blatter when his name was announced at Wembley. I can think of few recipients more worthy.
Which brings us on to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. He was apparently at the Olympic archery last week. It is something of a shame the British team didn’t pull him out of the stands at Lord’s and pin him to a target with arrows through his earlobes.
Gove decided in October 2010 to axe the 162m school sports partnership funds that linked a network of local schools and PE teachers. When he was smacked about the court of public opinion, a partial backtrack followed and 65m was restored, but the money is no longer ring-fenced for sport after 2013.
We hear that since the Coalition came to power, 21 school playing fields have also been sold and the Government have announced they will no longer order state schools to provide at least two hours of physical exercise every week.
Remember all this when you see politicians glad-handing medal winners and making vague promises to ‘build on Olympic success’. They are more likely to build on the penalty area.
Back to business: The Community shield takes place on Sunday – between Manchester City and Chelsea
The pre-Games slogan said ‘Inspire a Generation’ and the signs are it has succeeded. People have witnessed the galvanising effect sport can have at close hand. It might not be on the grand scale of the Olympics, but those smaller, personal triumphs can feel just as important.
If people tell you money isn’t the answer, point at the cycling team and their expensive technical perfection; point at the rowing team and ask how many of them benefited from the facilities private education offers.
This isn't about Government 'handouts', either. Giving people, and children in particular, the best opportunity to play sport at local facilities, or just in an open space somewhere, should be integral to our education system and a compliment to the National Health Service. It’s a central part of what life is about, not some postscript.
For a time London and Britain was beautiful; it was the best it could be — and all because of sport. ‘I’ve got a permanent smile on and my jaw is aching,’ said Jessica Ennis. She’s not the only one. Let’s try and keep it that way.