Tag Archives: Olympics

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Be Part of Something Bigger

This is the text from a Christmas message I wrote which is going out in a local newsletter this week:

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Be part of something bigger.

sdc10654I think it’s fair to say that the summer of 2012 was a quite extraordinary one for Britain. We celebrated once-in-a-lifetime events when the eyes of the world were on us. The Olympics saw the world come to us. I was fortunate enough to visit three Olympic venues and the atmosphere at each and at the Olympic Park was amazing. Beforehand there were some doubts about whether we could put on such an event, but with hindsight I’m sure we can agree that the Olympic Committee did brilliantly.

Did you notice also that for the two weeks of competition, the whole country seemed to have a lift? The pre-Olympic English reserve and cynicism over whether we could pull it off was transformed into more a positive and optimistic outlook as the well-run games and British sporting success made us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our ordinary lives were invaded by the Olympic spirit. The Olympics came to us and we were, albeit briefly, changed.

Christmas often carries the same type of cynicism, at least for adults, as was present before the Olympics. We feel obligated to spend time with family and to spend money on often under-appreciated gifts. Thoughts of God are often distant and we may feel that God himself is distant.

But the heart of the Christmas message is exactly the opposite. Although he never forces himself on anyone, God is not distant. He has come to us in the birth of Jesus. The angels referred to Jesus as ‘Immanuel’ which means “God with us”. The God of the universe appeared in the earthy ordinariness of everyday life and many ordinary, non-religious people had their perspectives and situations transformed as they encountered him. The good news is that this Godly encounter and transformation is still possible today. He enables us to become the people he made us to be and to be a part of something bigger and longer lasting than any Olympic legacy.

May you know the peace of God’s presence as you celebrate Christmas this year!

How have the Olympics inspired you?

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who suffered from the post-Olympics blues last week. Those two weeks were full of optimism, excitement and joy. There was a sense that we really did like each other and our country, and that we, as a nation, have pulled off such a great sporting event. Not to mention the 29 fabulous gold medal performances by TeamGB and all the others from medalists and non-medalists.

The Olympic Flame

Highlights: The highlight for me was getting to experience it all by going to some events. But my sporting highlights come from outside of these. Mo Farah winning first the 10000m and then the 5000m in some style. Andy Murray finally succeeding in an important final. The Brownlee brothers in the triathlon. Jessica Ennis finishing off the 800m to win the heptathlon gold. She didn’t have to cross the line first as she already had the gold in the bag, but she was busting her gut to do it in front of her home crowd. Sally Pearson narrowly won the women’s 100m hurdle, but when she crossed the line she didn’t realise she’d won. There is a delay as she stands watching the video screen and when her name comes up first she just loses it. Wonderful reaction.

But my absolute favourite bit was watching Galen Rupp. He is the American athlete who is Mo Farah’s training partner, and they seemed to run the race tactically together. Whilst Mo was running away dictating the last lap, Galen was moving through the field to take the silver medal. But the look on his face when he crosses the line – he seems more happy for Mo, that his friend has won the gold, than he is of his own wonderful achievement. He runs straight over to his friend to congratulate him and is genuinely overjoyed. Fantastic moment (poor quality video coming up):

Inspire a Generation: Hearing the stories of the athletes involved, and the hard work they have put in was inspirational. This piece on Mo Farah mentions just a tiny bit of the training he does – years of preparation and practice which come together in this great moment. It inspired me to run some more. I’ve thought about finding a volleyball club (as I used to play in school) or playing more badminton (ditto). And that is part of what the government wanted the Olympics to do – inspire us, and in particularly children, to get involved in more sport. But there was more to it than that. They also wanted to inspire us with the notion that if we set a goal and work towards it, it can be possible. The inspiration for high achievement.

It got me thinking that often we drift through life. What would it be like if we really set goals to work towards, and prioritize those by cutting out things that don’t help us towards those. I doubt that many of us grow up dreaming “I really want to own a Volvo / Audi /BMW” when I grow up, but in the absence of any great goal these materialistic impulses take over in our adulthood. What would it be like to have personal individual goals, work goals, and even family goals to work towards? We have discussed this a little as a family and wondered what would be possible. We even thought about saving to go to Rio 2016 (but might leave it until the one after that!).  Otherwise we talking about giving more, committing to support and visit our missionary siblings more (as a visit does wonders for missionaries), and  having purposeful family time more. All things to work towards, plan, save and set priorities towards.

How have the Olympics inspired you?

Our olympic experience (posted a bit late)

We were lucky enough to be allocated some tickets from the first round of ticket applications back in March 2011. Of the four sessions we went for, we were give tickets to one session of Basketball in the preliminary stage. Two games: Argentina against Tunisia and Brazil vs. Russia. So we organised a day trip to the Olympic park. Quite a wonderful experience. The volunteers were happy and helpful, the security was no bother to go through thanks to the Army. And the crowds and atmosphere in the Olympic park was fantastic. It was such an atmosphere of excitement, anticipation, and enjoyment.

I was really impressed with the venues as well. The organiser had done a good job making each venue feel like an Olympic venue with clear branding and colours (we felt the same about the venues outside the Olympic park too). The Basketball arena is a temporary structure built for the Olympics. Apparently they are going to take it down and ship it to Brazil for the next Olympics. But it was very well designed and had the feel of a great established sporting venue.

Tunisia vs Argentina

The first game (Arg vs. Tun) was quite one-sided. Argentina always had the upper hand and Tunisia always had the majority of the support of the mostly british crowd. We love an underdog. Brazil vs. Russia was much closer, with each team leading for parts of the game. The crowd was unapologetically behind Brazil. With six seconds left Brazil were up by two points while Russia had possession. A well used time-out saw them make a plan. It only took two of the six seconds for Russia to score a three pointer from the right edge of the D. In the final four seconds Brazil couldn’t strike again. What a close game!

Jessica Ennis (lane 8) breaking the British 100m hurdles record.

The night before our trip Sarah was give a ticket for the first morning session of the Athletics, by the friend we were visiting with. This was the first stage of heats and first two events of the heptathlon. Sarah was lucky enough to see Jessica Ennis break the british record in the 100m hurdles.

China vs Brazil women’s volleyball at Earls Court

I, unfortunately, didn’t find a ticket for that but did manage to get a seat at the women’s volleyball session at Earls Court the same morning. First game – Brazil vs. China. It was very close and went to the fifth set. Brazil won, and went on to win gold. The second game was more one-sided – Japan vs. Russia. Russia looked the better team, but they had to come back from one set down as Japan contained them in the first. Again, Earls Court had a great atmosphere, despite there being seats to spare.

Some excited Canadians who just won the bronze medal

A few days later we attended the Women’s football Bronze medal match at Coventry – France vs. Canada. I was impressed how they had transformed the City of Coventry Stadium (usually known as the Ricoh Arena and now home to  League One football) into something that definitely felt like an Olympic venue. We were supporting Canada, Sarah’s birthplace, as were most of the crowd. The game itself wasn’t the best, but had an exciting end. France had the most of the game, and in the second half hit the post and the bar. Canada always seemed like they took two too many touches before getting the ball into a dangerous area. The French goalkeeper didn’t really have a shot to save. But in the last five minutes the Canadians came alive and forced some chances. Extra time beckoned, but in injury time, after Canada once again looked like they had overplayed the ball, a shot deflected into the path of the Canadian striker who deftly dispatched it to send the Canadian girls, and the crowd, into delirium. They were over the moon with their bronze medals and we thoroughly enjoyed our three Olympic experience.

Can we host it every year?

The Olympic Flame

Interesting contrast on the pressures of success.

Today Victoria Pendleton, the British Olympic gold medal winner from Beijing 2008 was interviewed by the BBC about the pressures of being the favourite in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics. In it, she says that the gold medal winning day was the saddest of her career as it was also the day she came clean about her relationship with a ember of her coaching team, Scott Gardner. this led to Scot leaving the team so that they could be together.

Everyone was so angry with us, that Scott and I had fallen in love, because it was so unprofessional and we were a disgrace and had betrayed everybody…. Scott having to leave the team and everything he’s worked for with us was a really huge deal, I think I will be forever in his debt. He has given up everything to be with me. That means a lot. That’s why I need to do him proud at the London Olympics as well and prove it wasn’t in vain or for no reason, just that it was all worth it.

She feels like she has to win in order to fulfil a debt to her partner (although I’m sure he doesn’t see it like that). What a lot of pressure.

Contrast that with another cyclist Bradley Wiggins, who is aiming to be the first Brit to win the Tour de France, which he currently leads after 16 stages:

“You can’t get so drawn into [the constant scrutiny and associated pressure] that you end up thinking it’s a life-or-death situation. It used to be like that on the track a few years ago, when I was in the Olympic finals, [thinking] what’s going to happen to me, [if I lose] they’re going to send me to the gallows. As you get older, your kids get older and they’re not bothered about those things and it’s that which helps you handle these situations better.

Wiggins has a perspective in life which enables him to put winning and losing in it’s proper place.