By Shane Thomas
It's so easy to forget these days, but when the concept of organised sport was incepted, it was done so for the sheer thrill of competition. An elemental concept, tapping into the human desire to see how much we can achieve. It's this phenomenon that elucidates just why the Olympic Games continue to hold such relevance.Faster, Higher, Stronger. A mantra that echoes for as long as competitive sport abides. There's something epistemological about the constant drive for success and physical progression. Would our species have progressed from cavemen and cavewomen without it?
Now, it'd be blinkered to ignore how the Olympics has changed from the Ancient Games in Greece to the media-frenzied extravaganza that we know today. Excess commerce and advertising, the incongruous sponsorship from companies like McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Cadbury's, the venal avarice with which Olympics trademarks are 'protected', the perma-presence of security, and the ever-present threat of performance enhancing drugs despoiling the events.
That's not to mention the litany of nay-sayers, bemoaning the amount of money spent, the disruption to traffic & public transport, and the wall-to-wall coverage that will sweep across the media over the next few months.
However, it matters little if you don't like sport. The reach of the Olympics goes further than the alcove of sports fans. It's not just a sporting event. It's an event. Many recent Games have come laced with an undercurrent of pessimism in the build-up - something we seem to excel at in Britain - but with the possible exception of Atlanta Games in 1996, every Olympiad has been a relative success. To be clear, I'm talking about the event itself. There are a myriad of awkward questions that London will have to face after the Games, and events in Greece this year have shown that chickens can come home to roost if you don't have a strong plan of what to do post-Olympics.
But for a few weeks, we will be transfixed by the festival of sport. Many of the world's finest athletes will be in the city I live in, all looking to produce the best of themselves. Memories will be forged, not only for the competitors, but the fans who will be in attendance. These Olympics will produce unforgettable sport and multitudinous anecdotes. So many "Remember when..." stories will be attached to the feast of athleticism set to take place in Britain. And that's not because Britain is particularly special, but because that's what happens at the Olympics. The setting demands nothing less.
The eyes of the world will be on London. For the only occasion in many of our lifetimes, England's capital city will be the backdrop to human beings at their physical apotheosis. The slow burn of fervour, as the Games draw closer, and the torch edges towards the Olympic Stadium is because like Christmas, the Olympics come loaded with positivity. They appeal to the very best in our nature, and while that remains the case, they will always be the grandest sporting event on the planet. To misquote an Olympic themed advert currently doing the rounds, "London...take the stage!"
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