this is our time; one day we will tell our children and grandchildren that when our time came, we did it right
I thought I was proud to be British when I watched the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. But that was nothing to how I feel now, watching the Team GB and Paralympics GB victory parade.
I’ve not blogged about the Paralympics so far, partly through being busy and partly through wondering what on earth a middle-class, middle-aged, able-bodied, unfit journalist could really write that isn’t trite or patronising.
Talk about facing your demons and dealing with the obstacles that you meet along the way. It’s incredible what so many people have achieved when life has thrown them a curve-ball – whether it be through illness, birth, accident or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There’s no way I can list all the moments that will stay with me since the start of the Olympics, but surely one of the images of the last few days that will stay with most of us forever is that of Oscar Pistorius, the Bladerunner himself, powering across the line, arms outstretched, to the thunderous applause of the crowd.
A crowd that a few days earlier had been silenced by 19year-old Jonnie Peacock putting his finger to his lips so that the 100m runners could concentrate on their start. And an 80,000 strong crowd that, earlier still, had reserved its biggest cheers and standing ovations for Djibouti’s only Paralympian, the one-armed Houssein Omar Hassan who hobbled on to finish the 1500m in record-slow time due to injury.
When the British really make our minds up to do something, we do it right. One of my favourite statistics about the Paralympics is this: Athens pre-sold 1,000 tickets for their games in 2004, Beijing pre-sold 5,000. London pre-sold 2.3million.
I think that’s because we really “get” the idea of the Paralympics in this country – after all we invented them (with the help of Sir Ludwig Guttman) in Stoke Mandeville – but also because there had been so much positive chat about the Olympic Park and the stadium itself and people really wanted to see it for themselves. I did and let me tell you, the whole place is amazing. I know there is a huge chunk of the construction industry that is, rightly, feeling proud of itself for playing its part.
I blogged sometime ago that what the country needed was to win a shedload of medals at the Olympics to start everyone feeling a bit better, a bit more confident about the future. With 185 medals between the two teams, that’s one hell of a shed.
Lord Coe said he wanted to inspire a generation with these Games. Well, I found my five-year-olds racing over improvised hurdles in the garden and using a bamboo cane as a javelin: “playing Jessica Ennis, Mummy” . And yesterday, I found them trying to get dressed with their hands tucked into their armpits because they wanted to see “how the paralympics people could do it”. I’d say he succeeded.
So, to finish, I think it’s back to Lord Coe, whose incredibly moving speech at the Paralympics closing ceremony last night said it all: “In this country, we will never think of sport the same way, and we will never think of disability the same way”.
We did it right, Seb. We did it right.