It has been just over a week since the completion of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Much of Great Britain is still basking in enough national pride to light the fireworks at the upcoming Paralympic Games starting next week. Now that a new generation has experienced such patriotism it is they who are vowing to keep the spirit alive.
The London 2012 Games are being remembered as extraordinary. I would have to agree.
Other than the oddly narcissistic opening and closing ceremonies, the Games were anything but typical. The record breaking events were more electrifying than usual, the judging and referee controversies a little stranger than ever, and incidents of reprehensible team ethics unusually apparent. Nonetheless, like Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Games, the home team showed up in a big way and silenced the naysayers with medals galore. It was heartening to witness how the Canadians and British who share a self deprecating sense of self come full circle and actually believe in themselves once again.
Most memorable yet, these Games were so much more than amazing sporting feats, they were quite literally, game changing. As reported on CTV, these were the first Olympics in which all countries sent teams of both genders. In fact, for the first time the US, Russia and China sent more women than men to the Summer Games.
Then there was the first Paralympian athlete, Oscar Pistorius, running alongside fully able bodied 400m runners. He epitomized tenacity, hope and gratitude. He and all the female athletes who have diligently plotted their course took their place where they always knew they belonged — next to their contemporaries on the track, on the field and in the ring. It was truly inspiring.
It is said that change is instant while transition takes time. It is this undeniable progress that will move slower than desired however, as new solutions give rise to new challenges. If it is equality and inclusivity that is the goal then education and decisions are necessary. The ethics and science of prosthetic use, the politicizing and sexualization of women’s sport apparel (too much — head scarves, or too little — volleyball bikinis) and the media coverage and/or integration of the Paralympics and regular Olympics must be the next hurdles to jump. Including the Special Olympics could offer the world stage some much needed compassion as well. Yes, each of them huge issues to tackle but very much worth the trouble.
I look forward to seeing what changes will take place in Russia in 2014 and Brazil in 2016. Undoubtedly the global stage is a great place to launch new attitudes, but the changes that impact us at a local level must come from our own grassroots community sport. It is there, after all, that elite athletes and Olympic legacies are born.