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Posted on: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
I found myself in an unusual position over the weekend. I have never been a particularly avid spectator of any sport, race or athletic event. Despite this predilection, I could not drag myself away from the trials for the World Athletics Championships, which were broadcasted this past weekend on the BBC. Despite my prior cynicism, the more I dwelt on these, and the upcoming Olympics, the more possible benefits I could forsee.
As ambitious as my following statement is about to sound, seeing as the Olympic games themselves are monumentally ambitious events, perhaps this is fitting. After all, what other organised international event encourages athletes to push themselves beyond what seems physically possible. (A particularly memorable Olympic event being for many when Usain Bolt broke Olympic and world records in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in both the 100m race and the 200m). So here is my suggestion: I believe that the 2012 London Olympics truly has the potential to make a real difference to both the mental and physical health of the British public.
The most obvious benefit of having intense national focus on and scrutiny of athletes is that they will set a good example to a country currently undergoing various health crises. Looking at people who have made a clear dedication to be the fittest and the healthiest they can be can only be a good influence. Now that we live in a culture of convenience and culture, it is all too easy to forget that the primal, necessary function of our bodies was to move and to be active. Olympians bring this to mind in such an obvious, visually arresting way, that it is impossible not to be impressed. Hopefully taking this kind of attitude, or even understanding it, will forge a different understanding in our society of what it is to take care of your body.
But however important the body is, it is also important to nurture the soul and mind. In this way, I think the sense of community and shared experience that the British will experience in the run up to, and for the duration of the Olympic games, will prove nothing short of inspirational. Additionally, many of the athletes have had to undergo personal adversity in order to get where they are, such as British gymnast Jessica Hogg, who overcame the death of her mother to represent Britain in her first senior event in Australia earlier this year, or Christine Ohuruogu, who despite countless injuries, is Britain’s only reigning Olympic athletics champion, who is determined to make Team GB again in 2012. Stories such as Hogg’s and Ohuruogu’s will provide an important inspiration to the countless unfit, unhealthy members of the public who believe that they are beyond help, by proving that with a bit of determination, anything is possible.
It’s possible that my optimistic opinion may strike you as cheesy and clichéd, and will no doubt lead some sceptics to wonder whether or not I’m being paid by the Olympic Games Committee as some sort of covert spokesperson (I seriously hope not- what a tragic insight into the pessimistic British psyche if that is the case). Despite this, I am willing to risk ridicule and say: despite the obvious irritating aspects of the upcoming Olympic games- the money, the logo, the mascots (does ANYBODY understand what they’re meant to be?)- it might be time to put aside typical British cynicism and embrace the games for what they might do for our country- not in terms of international fame and fortune, but in terms of the health of its citizens. It might once and for all, show us what it is to be truly healthy, and through this, truly alive.