Today I 'touched' the London 2012 Olympic Games when the torch relay came through the New Forest and there was a handover at Brockenhurst College, which is where I work. It is amazing to think that I have got that close to the Olympics. My aunt attended some events the last time the Olympics was held in the UK in 1948, and though I may not get to see an event live (though the sailing events are based in Weymouth just down the coast) I have become a tiny part of the 2012 Olympics.
This is a photo of the Olympic Torch 'kiss' as the flame is passed from one to another, in this case Steve Baker and Ben Pugh. Unfortunately all the professional photographers are allowed to have the prime view and I had to hold the camera up to get a pick so the kiss is slightly off centre, but I got it! The sun came out just at this moment, but we had drizzle, rain and grey cloud as well as the sunshine, but the sun came at just the right moment.
The incoming torch bearer was greeted by a Samba Band made up of local school children and college students and staff, and some of the Dance Students did a piece that they had choreographed themselves. On the playing fields behind the college they had a mini Olympics going on with archery, tennis, table tennis, paralympics etc for people to try.
The most disappointing part was the all pervasive presence of the sponsors, and of Coca Cola in particular. As the London Olympics in particular are supposed to be Inspiring a Generation to take part on sport and a healthier lifestyle it is sad that two of the main sponsors are Coca Cola and McDonalds which are most certainly not about a healthy life style. In fact someone suggested that maybe the Olympic competitors should be made to train on the products of these Official Sponsors. What kind of a healthy message are the Olympic authorities actually sending? How on earth did such food corporations get to have a free rein with creating and marketing food with the sole purpose of making more and more profit and without a care in the world for the health of those who consume their products. They are even allowed to advertise these products as being healthy - ish. In some ways these companies are right that it is the responsibility of parents to make sure that their children have a healthy diet, but there is not a level playing field when they are allowed to direct their advertising at children, and fill their products with ingredients which are proven to have such a negative effect on health.
Although it is a thrill to be about to come so close to the Olympics, I can't help but feel that somewhere it has lost sight of its core ethos. Higher, faster, further and the ideal that it is not the winning but the taking part that is the important thing. Some of the most memorable and moving memories of the Olympics have not been about the winners, but those who never stood a chance of winning, but who had the thrill of representing their country in their event. How many others remember the marathon runners who used to come in ages after the winner and only just made it to the finishing line. Somehow they represented the world far more than the elite winners. They could have been use struggling determinedly to finish the challenge that they had set themselves, and get to represent their country into the bargain. I seem to remember a 400m (or 800 / 1500m) runner from a small country who was disqualified because he was in the outside lane and didn't understand the rules of running on a track; so when the gun went off he took the shortest route which just happened to cut across the other competitors to the inside of the track. Other competitors who had to borrow running shoes or other equipment because they didn't have any. It actually may have been these competitors who produced the best performances by breaking their personal best, or national records by a big margin, when the ultimate winner may not have even run their best time that season. Remember - it is the taking part and not the winning which really matters.