Roger Black: Inspire a generation? Mission accomplished
There is so much to celebrate from London 2012's unparalleled success
Sunday 09 September 2012
Usually when you reflect on an Olympic Games you have lots of big international moments but just a few key moments from a British perspective. This time it's different. There have been so many big British moments it's difficult to pick them all out. It's the same with the Paralympics.
The memories of both Games are not just of what has happened on the tracks and in the pool. They are of what has been created by the spectators, the volunteers and us as a nation. And those are big memories.
I think we will look back on the 2012 Games as something that the country will be proud of for many years to come. That's the true legacy of the Paralympic Games and the Olympic Games. The aim was to inspire a generation and both have done that – and then some.
Sometimes at the Olympics all people see is who comes first, and the actual performances get lumped together. But there are some pure athletic performances that stand ahead of others, and I think to run under 1min 41sec for the 800 metres was the single most impressive performance of the Games.
Mo's 5,000m and 10,000m double has to be the British performance of the Olympic Games. Apart from anything else, his wife was pregnant with twins. I've had a wife expecting twins, and leading up to the birth it's pretty consuming. This guy managed to win two Olympic gold medals and now he's got twin girls. He's not going to have a year like this again.
When we look back on 2012 two special things will go down in Olympic history. One is Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian. The other is Usain Bolt doing what no one else has done before: successfully defending the 100 and 200m titles. The fact that he did it off the back of an earlier defeat has cemented his place as the greatest track-and-field athlete.
I was so happy that Tom walked away with a bronze medal in the diving. That was a big highlight of the summer for me – not just as a sporting achievement but because of what he's had to deal with over the past year or so. He's an 18-year-old boy who has lost his father, and who has had so much media attention and expectation… and yet he still was able to deliver at the Olympic Games.
What's great about sport is that sometimes opportunities are presented to athletes at certain points in their career that they either take or they don't. Except for those of us involved in the sport, nobody was talking about Greg Rutherford before Super Saturday but, while everybody was talking about Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, he quietly seized his opportunity.
My overriding memory of the Paralympics will be the impact they have made. I think sport has an ability to create social change on a scale that nothing else can and I think the legacy of the Paralympic Games will be the fact that a whole generation will now view disability in a very different way. I know that as a parent of two young boys who have been watching the Paralympics.
With her four gold medals here, Sarah Storey became the most decorated Paralympian. I think the most impressive thing about Sarah is how close she came to making the Olympic team. But she has made history at these Paralympic Games – in the same way that Sir Chris Hoy became the most decorated British Olympian and Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time.
I will never forget walking out of the Olympic Park at 9.30am last Monday after doing some media work. At the same time over 80,000 people were walking in to watch the Paralympics. That was extraordinary. I just stopped for a moment and looked at the Park, with all these people with flags all over them coming to watch and enjoy Paralympic sport.
We had Super Saturday at the Olympics then we had Thrilling Thursday at the Paralympics, when David Weir won his third gold, Hannah Cockroft won her second and Jonnie Peacock won the 100m with the whole crowd in the Olympic Stadium chanting his name. I don't think anyone who was there will ever forget it.
Great British coverage
There are some countries in the world that aren't even showing the Paralympics on television and America, for instance, is only showing highlights. So the Paralympians aren't taking the level of attention they have had in the UK for granted. They recognise they may never get the same level of media coverage and the same amount of spectators again. I am so proud that in this country they have had the coverage and respect they deserve.
Roger Black is an ambassador for Scottish Widows, the official pensions and investments provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games
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