By Sam Saunders
Following on from the success of both the Olympics and Paralympics at the London 2012 games, there were high expectations set for both sets of British athletes in Rio De Janeiro. With the British Olympians recording their most successful overseas Olympics in history and beating China in the medal table, we can say that they well and truly delivered. With the Paralympic athletes enjoying a similar level of success so far (five gold medals on the first day) this has already been a summer of sporting prowess for the United Kingdom (as long as we only mention Wales and Northern Ireland at Euro 2016). The Olympics in London showed that the British public are only too willing to embrace a national sporting event and it was amazing to witness the support that followed for the Paralympics later in the summer. We saw the emergence of an Olympic feel-good factor in London, particularly since Team GB performed so well, coming third in the medals table. Something similar has happened in Rio, as Team GB has both replicated their success from London 2012, as well as gaining medals in sports such as gymnastics, trampolining and swimming in which Britain has not traditionally had a lot of success at the Olympics. Whilst this Olympics was threatened to be overshadowed by the doping scandal that embroiled many athletes, but most prominently the Russian team and led to a large scale athlete banning campaign from the IOC, these games felt no less special than those of four years ago, despite taking place more than 5000 miles away from the previous Olympic Park. If anything, the doping scandals served to highlight the success of British Olympians even more than at London, particularly as all of their fantastic achievements were achieved with little expectation, as the World Championships had not gone very well, especially in the cycling. I think the feel-good factor rises from a sense of achievement after the failures of the past, such as at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, when GB won one gold medal, as well as a large sense of disbelief at the prowess of British athletes on an international stage. In any case, this feeling was incredibly welcome over the summer, as the country struggled to repair itself after the damaging Brexit vote in June.
However, as the Olympics was drawing to a close, rumours of a funding crisis with the Paralympics were rife, as due to economic problems in Brazil, the raiding of Paralympic funds to supplement the Olympic budget and poor ticket sales at both events. Whilst most of these issues were eventually resolved, funding cuts mean that some teams from poorer nations will struggle to get to Rio and some of the venues have had to be closed ahead of schedule, leading to a feeling of an incomplete Paralympics. Nevertheless, the Games have started strongly for Britain and China, and with news breaking that nearly two million tickets have now been sold for the Paralympics, organisers are hoping that the Paralympics will still be considered a success and that there will not be a repeat of some of the empty venues from the Olympics last month. I sincerely hope that the Games are a success, as they highlight the determination and resilience of disabled athletes that compete at the highest level and show that no matter who you are, achievement at the highest level is within your grasp. Perhaps that’s what the Paralympic and Olympic feel-good factor truly has been for Britain, a feeling of inspiration and that anything is possible.