by Sophie Adams
As the days get shorter and the nights drawn in, Cardiff has a decidedly Autumnal feel. It’s only the middle of October, and yet the breezy summer days when the nation was gripped by the Rio Olympics and Paralympics seem very far away. Many people assumed that the London 2012 Games would forever be the apex of British sport. Could Team GB ever again live up to the triumphs of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, and Greg Rutherford? Would our athletes ever reach the same dizzying heights of ‘Super Saturday’? London 2012 put a huge amount of pressure on Team GB to deliver the goods, could they deliver? The build up to Rio 2016, while exciting, was tinged with a hint of nostalgia; it felt as though nothing could surpass London 2012. How wrong all of the sceptics (myself included) were. The Rio Games were one of the most successful for the Olympic and Paralympic teams, both in terms of sport, and for boosting British morale, which had taken a beating over the tumultuous summer months.
It’s not only the sporting achievements of Team GB that matter; the Olympic and Paralympic games have another important role. The successes of Team GB left us all with an incredible feeling of pride; our sportsmen and women were heroes; our country was living up to its name- we certainly were Great Britain. The unifying power of sport was something that the organisers of London 2012 harped on about in the weeks, months, and years running up to the games, and it’s safe to say that Rio 2016 had the same effect. After the divisional EU Referendum in June, Britain definitely needed some of London’s magic; Rio provided us with a sense of self-belief, something many people had lost hope in after June. The impact that the Olympic and Paralympics had on our sense of pride was tremendous. And the celebrations hardly ended when the Paralympic flame was extinguished a month ago. Britain is still riding high.
Early on in Team GB’s outstanding performance over the summer months back in Britain people were calling for a public show of our pride; their achievements were heroic- and we wanted to celebrate that. A two day jamboree was planned- with two events held in Manchester and London. Many people questioned the idea of Manchester hosting an Olympic parade, but with the number of world class athletes spilling out of the city, how fitting that Manchester was selected for such a gleeful occasion. Both Jason Kenny and Laura Trott live in Manchester, as well as the Sarah Storey- the most decorated British female paralympian. The decision to host a parade in Manchester was completely the right decision; the talent from the city should be celebrated.
Many of us believed that Team GB would never again be able to match their performance in London. Rio proved otherwise. Britain has cemented itself as a great sporting country- I can only see this improving- and rightly so. Sport deserves celebrating- with all the bad news in the world, isn’t it right that we marvel at and celebrate our successes?