Were you jumping up and down on your sofa, bellowing at the television when, at some indiscernible spot halfway up the Pyrenees, Bradley Wiggins edged just far enough ahead of his team mate to mean, barring disaster, he would become the first British winner in the 99-year history of a race that for 98 years most of us barely knew was happening? If you were, then Vote Wiggo, but know that, should he win, with it will come the implication that the Great British public think the Tour de France is a bigger and better deal than an Olympic Games in their own backyard.
If you don’t think that, then you have to Vote Mo. This is not to do down Wiggo’s incredible achievement. Winning the Tour de France is phenomenal, and the manner in which he and his team mates did it was as close to sporting perfection as anyone ever gets. Yes, Wiggo won Olympic gold too, as did 42 other Great British athletes, but if he wins tonight it will be, unquestionably, the tour wot won it.
Seeking to quantify whose achievement is the more impressive, among the embarrassment of riches to choose from, is a bogus game. Andy Murray has won a Grand Slam at a time when it surely has never been harder to do so. Jessica Ennis was immaculate, under the most intense pressure in the most unpredictable of events. Mo Farah became Britain’s first ever distance medallist, an event traditionally dominated by East Africans who work in teams. All train far beyond the point which most of us would consider possible.
But in this year of years, it will be a tremendous pity if in this vote, we don’t acknowledge that the London Olympics were the biggest and best sporting spectacle we have ever seen, and that the man who stole its heart, and ours, was that diminutive little Londoner, with his burst of pace, his much copied celebration, and his acknowledgement that “If it wasn't for the crowd, I don’t think I’d have crossed the line first.”
For the armchair observer at least, sport is not all about mounting seemingly insurmountable obstacles, about being the best. It is about drama, of the sort that ties your stomach in knots, and sets your heart banging against your rib cage, before it either bursts or breaks. And no one, probably, has ever done it to us all, quite like Mo did, twice, on two famous nights under those triangular floodlights in a once half forgotten corner of the East End. It might only be another six months or so before Bradley is back bicycling down the Champs Elysees in his yellow jersey. But as for Mo, you won’t see anything like it ever again. So do something a little bit incredible yourself, and make sure he wins.
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- East Africa
- Tour De France