Ashling O'Connor: At the World Cup, Winter Olympics and Wimbledon we can all make 2014 a more enjoyable sporting year

Can we get through an entire tournament without mentioning 1966?

As we prepare to ring in 2014, we can take a moment to savour the next 12 months of sport which will include a World Cup and a Winter Olympics as well as the annual fare. On paper, it looks better than 2013 but let’s not take anything for granted. So here are some New Year resolutions for sport that might help:

Get behind the England team without prejudice or pressure

It’s World Cup year again but let’s not do what we always do, which is raise the team up to unrealistic standards and aspirations above our population grade and then tear them down when they inevitably fall short. Let’s not write them off before the tournament has even started either.

A steady build-up without hyperbole or snide remarks would be most welcome. Not referencing Group D with fatality would be even better. Watching at home, as most fans will be, given the cost and logistical challenges of Brazil, can we resolve just to enjoy it or is that too much to ask? And can we get through the entire tournament without mentioning 1966?

Appreciate our Winter Olympians

We are not a naturally snow-bound nation but, still, we have sent a team to every Winter Games since the inaugural event in Chamonix in 1924. The only other countries to have done so are France and Switzerland (note they have the Alps and the Pyrenees). About 50 athletes will travel to Sochi in February on the back of a £13.7m public investment in Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, which is probably less than the Russian organisers will spend on snow to add the necessary finishing touch to their $51bn (£31bn) extravaganza.

Despite the local difficulties, Great Britain could go one better than their best performance in 1924, when the team won four medals. We have some genuine hopes, including James Woods, who this year became Britain’s first freestyle skiing medallist for 20 years and won the World Cup slopestyle title. Other contenders are Elise Christie, the 1000m and 1500m European champion and the first British woman to win a World Championship short-track medal, and Shelley Rudman, the world champion skeleton rider. Eddie the Eagle is a distant memory.

Let Andy Murray enjoy Wimbledon

The only British man to win the singles championship at the All England Club since Fred Perry 77 years previously has more than done his bit to restore national pride. By breaking one of the longest hexes in British sport, the pressure should be off him in 2014 so he can enjoy the world’s most famous tennis tournament and take in the memories.

He doesn’t need the media and public piling on the angst at every dropped service game or missed passing shot. Shouts of “C’mon, Andy!” should be replaced with “Whatever, Andy!” as he attempts to become the first British man since Perry in 1936 to defend his Wimbledon title successfully (see how easy it is to get all down on him about it?) It would be nice in the winner’s interview in 2014 to hear him say “I loved it out there” rather than “I was panicking and unbelievably nervous”. We could all do without the stress, frankly.

Get girls more active (a more serious one to end on)

Finally we have the role models setting an example of how to play sport to the highest level, enjoy it while winning, as well as maintaining a strong sense of femininity. Too many girls in the past were put off sport by female athletes with rippling muscles and androgynous features.

Jessica Ennis-Hill does have a six-pack most of us could never attain but she also looks normal (all right, amazing) in a cocktail dress and appears to have a social life, including the fairy-tale wedding this year to her childhood sweetheart. These are the things that most little girls dream of, not chucking a javelin and doing the long jump. We have to make them understand that they can have both by making sport less intimidating and, most importantly, more accessible and flexible. It is not either/or. Either you are popular and pretty or you are sporty and the boys don’t fancy you. Not many boys would say no to Victoria Pendleton or Becky James. Despite all the advances made in women’s sport in the past year (see last week’s column), the statistics still show that twice as many girls as boys play no sport at all at school. Only 12 per cent of 14-year-old girls are as physically active as they should be. This must change.

There are many more I could flag up but stick to these and I predict a happier and healthier sporting year ahead.

THINK YOU KNOW THE SPORTING YEAR? TAKE OUR QUIZ OF 2013 TO PROVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee