James Lawton: Seb Coe, thanks for a great Olympic Games. Now fight for its legacy

No one is better equipped to fight for the legacy these Games deserve

It's not the hardest word and maybe it is time for some of us to say it to Lord Sebastian Coe. Thanks, Seb. There, it is done, unequivocally, and before we step out of the glorious time-warp of London 2012.

But then, let's be honest, there were times when the word was liable to stick in the throat like a fish-bone, and they were not too few to mention.

The list compiled here was headed by the suspicion that the great Olympian had finished running into the arms of the corporate suits and the politicos hell-bent on dragging out every little bit of kudos which might accompany the great staging.

There was the not inconsiderable charge that he had used his great prestige within the International Olympic Committee to deliver a bid victory that at its heart had the shameless claim that London's was a triumph for the youth of Britain and the world. It came, after all, at a time when the government of Tony Blair was thigh-deep in the scandal of continuing the Tory policy of flogging off school fields almost to the last blade of grass.

Certainly there was no leap of celebration here when he announced that the organising committee were working hard on "scoping" a high-profile role for David Beckham in the wake of his failure to win some risible selection for the Great Britain football team.

Nor could there be much admiration for his reaction to the one major problem of the early going. The huge dichotomy between the public passion displayed for the Olympics at events like the cycle road races and the gaping holes in the attendance at so many of the venues.

Coe asserted that they were filled "to the gunwales". It was a disconnection that, quite wrongly, implied impending disaster.

The opposite has been true. The London Olympics have been a triumph for the spirit of a nation which some feared had become terminally jaded. It has not just been about gold, silver and bronze. Above everything, there has been the sense of that exhilaration which comes when a risky adventure has been pulled off with resolute calm and the understanding that the outcome would be something the nation would have to live with for years.

There will be no hardship living with the memories of London 2012. They are the kind which can warm a whole generation.

So yes, indeed, thanks, Seb. Thanks for seeing a triumph in the face of doubt. Thanks for understanding, from the glory and the entrails of your own life, the unremitting power of sport to move people sometimes to the very core of their being.

Thanks for bringing us Usain Bolt in the very prime of his extraordinary existence. Thanks for enabling the rush of evidence that, given a chance, British sportsmen and women can compete superbly at the highest level.

Thanks for providing the stage for Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford to shape the most thrilling night in the history of Britain's Olympic experience.

But then if there is one catch in all of this gratitude it is that some of it has to be provisional.

It has to be dependent on the rigour of your fight for the brilliant possibilities spawned by these last two weeks and which you anticipated when you declared in the moments of the bid's triumph in Singapore: "This is a fantastic opportunity for British sport."

This has proved true enough in the cascade of medals but the underpinning of everything that has happened has been the claims for legacy, for a belief that the ordinary kids of this country will at last be given some parity not only with those of places like France and Italy and Germany but also with those who attend state schools here.

Eleven British medals have come from the elite, private sports hothouse of Millfield school. It is a statistic that highlights once again the supreme effort of women like Jessica Ennis and Rebecca Adlington who have made their own opportunities.

Coe spoke with great insight and force yesterday on behalf of a new sports culture, and this was especially so in the light of Prime Minister David Cameron's feeble defence of his decision to cut back PE time in state schools.

It was, he said, because of too much of it being devoted to things like "Indian dancing". It would have been better, surely, to have upped the time in the face of grim evidence of declining fitness among school-children and with some attempts to enforce an improvement.

Coe declared: "It is very, very important that we do everything we can to maintain high quality physical education in schools, and in primary schools it is particularly important because it is my instinct that if you haven't got that pattern and love of sport by year 10 or 11 it is going to be quite hard to introduce that to 14-15 year-olds with the cluttered landscape you are then competing against.

"We have to recognise that we are probably going to be the first generation fitter than our kids coming through."

This is from the creator of London 2012, the man who, as an administrator, has achieved the same kind of Olympic alchemy he brought to the running track in Moscow and Los Angeles.

It's possible he may be inclined to rest on the grandeur of what might become his last great feat in sport, which would be a grave pity in that another challenge has chosen him rather than the other way around.

No one, he must know, is better equipped to fight for the legacy these Games have come to deserve. The politicians were willing enough to pour in the money when they seemed almost to tremble at the prospect of so much reflected glory.

Now they have to do it for the good of the youth of this country. It is an imperative with which they simply have to be lashed, and who better to wield the whip than Lord Sebastian Coe?

Usain should know why the drug issue won't disappear

First it was Bradley Wiggins, now it is Usain Bolt, excoriating anyone raising the spectre of performance enhancing drugs.

Bolt had the specific target of the great Olympian Carl Lewis for his suggestion that the all-conquering Jamaican programme does not operate the most stringent of testing.

Both Bolt and Wiggins should recognise that it is not necessarily either envy or malice provoking such question marks against supreme achievement.

It is the conditioning of the years – and in some cases the days when you remember that the bronze medallist behind Bolt and Yohan Blake last Sunday, Justin Gatlin, served four years' suspension for doping offences.

Neither Bolt nor Wiggins have had such little recognition that they need to be quite so defensive. Their superb achievements have brought much rejoicing. Implicit trust that athletics and cycling have become totally pure may take a little longer.

Memory of Rudisha will run... and run

When we come to recall the days of London 2012 the competing images will march at battalion strength.

Most conspicuous, no doubt, will be the one of Usain Bolt defying old beliefs on the limitations of the human body.

But can we really say that anything was more beautiful or uplifting than the sight of the Masai David Rudisha breaking his own 800m world record in that expectant time before Bolt came out to produce still another routine miracle?

Rudisha did not provide too much drama, and didn't make a single joke, as he led from start to finish, but every long and perfect stride was compelling. The Masai, they say can run for ever. At the Olympic Stadium you could only wish it was true.

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?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea