Sunday, 6 April 2008

Dame Kelly and The Torch

I watched the coverage of the Olympic Torch passing through London on the BBC tonight and part of me was delighted about the pro-Tibetan protestors. Good on them.

I was also delighted to see Dame Kelly Holmes carrying the Torch on its last leg and she held it higher and straighter than anyone else, pride in every movement.

Kelly placed a statement on her site about the Torch:


When the Olympic torch is handed to me, I will be gushing with pride knowing I am on the final leg of its journey across London.

But do I have any qualms about being part of this celebration? None at all. I would not want to be anywhere else.

Sport and politics do not mix, but there is a place for both of them and I will understand if peaceful protests do take place in the capital because of the unrest in Tibet so close to the Olympic Games in Beijing.

But we must understand that if the human rights issues in China are something that the politicians have been unable to sort out, why should it fall on the responsibility of athletes who have trained their whole lives to run, jump, swim, cycle or just be part of the unique experience which the Olympics brings?

In the end, the only losers when the Games are boycotted are those people who have spent years dedicating themselves to be there.

The origins of the torch take us back to the ancient Olympics in 776 BC, when messengers were sent out from Olympia to the neighbouring Greek cities to announce the Games were about to start. It signalled a halt to military conflict – a truce while the Games took place. The modern torch relay has become a symbol of that truce, and it is why Sunday should be a day that is embraced.

London will be at the centre of the sporting world and for those youngsters out there watching the relay, how many will become inspired to turn off their video games and take part in sport?

While all the attention is on the Torch relay, this week I am running my fourth ’0n Camp with Kelly’ education camp for athletics hopefuls who have London 2012 as their focus, so I know first-hand how the Olympics is in the heart of the young. But for others, the relay could be their inspiration, and starting point, to launch a career in sport.

This time the torch is making only a brief visit. But in a little over four years, London will be its final destination when the Games arrive in our capital.

Sunday will be a magical day, just like the Olympics are a magical occasion and I should know as well as anyone. I spent the whole of my athletics career striving towards achieving the ultimate success, winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Never did I expect to leave Athens with two golds, but that is what the Olympics can do.

All those days of training in the rain; all those occasions of dealing with injury. In the space of a few minutes, the Olympics provided me with tears for all the right reasons.

The Olympics can make dreams happen. It is why the relay here is so important and why we hope that any protests that might take place this week, and on future parts of the torch relay, do not disrupt the essence of the Olympics.

The Olympics is not going to go away. That was proved in 1980 and 1984. Both of those Games had countries boycotting them but now, nearly three decades later, when we think back, we remember the brilliance of Sebastian Coe winning the 1500m in Moscow, Daley Thompson celebrating decathlon glory in Los Angeles as he retained his title in style and the brilliance of a young Carl Lewis sprinting his way into history with four gold medals. We do not even think of the nations that were not there.

Sport triumphed. I am sure it will again. We all want the world to be a safer place, with everyone equal, but disrupting the special occasion of the Olympic torch arriving in London would achieve nothing.


No comments: