Firstly, well done London 2012, it’s never easy for a city to host the Olympics, and your citizens should be rightly proud of their contribution (both financially and emotionally) in bring it about. But as I look at these games (and not being a “sporty” type) I was struck by something that I’d like to share…we may have a new style of “celebrity”.
During the last season of “Britain’s Got Talent” there was a young man from Northern Ireland called Ashley Elliot who played a xylophone. Ashley was sixteen years of age, and was clearly a person who had put in years of practice, hours each week of dedicated time devoted to learning, improving and mastering his chosen instrument. But, in this age of “celebrity”, that sort of dedication doesn’t count for much. “Will it sell?” said Simon Cowell…and that is all he cares about. I like that art sells, I think it’s fantastic that artists get paid for what they produce, but art, sports, music and even business, is not JUST about the money. The young girl who trained the dog who eventually won deserves a huge amount of credit for her dedication to training that dog, and in the end they were worthy winners, but young Ashley’s efforts were deemed far less worthy than a man with a saucepan on his head repeating the word “exterminate!” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about – don’t waste a moment of your life looking for it on You Tube – you will beg God for those moments back on your death bed). Being stupid (I don’t mean “funny” – I mean “stupid”) is talented, being dedicated is not.
And so we come to these past few days. Of course, as an Irishman, I want to see Team Ireland doing well, but I think the Olympics goes beyond that. I was delighted to see Andy Murray win gold, to see Bolt do what Bolt does, to see a Belarus gymnast on a pummel horse with the strength of a weightlifter, the gracefulness of a ballet dancer and the mental agility of a chess grand master. But I’m also in awe of those who have very little chance of standing on the winners platform, who have reached a level in their chosen sport that the vast majority can only dream of. When they do not win – they are not losers – they are competitors. They inspire the young to try, and fill those of us who are older with regrets that we didn’t take opportunities when we were younger. For some countries they reward their medal winners financially, but I love the fact that TeamGB is rewarding them with a stamp in their honour! To see John Joe Nevin on the front of todays newspapers here and not Big Brother’s “Tony” (or whoever) and his affair with a “hostess” is refreshing. Let’s hope Annalise Murphy and Jessica Ennis, Katie Taylor and Mo Farah are inspiring not only future athletes, but future generations who will take up the xylophone rather than place a saucepan on their head.