|The Summer of Celebration|
Thu 13th Sep 2012 12:19 by Paul Mortimer
It’s been pretty quiet on the PPS front since the Watford match, so a reflection on the sporting sights and sounds of a memorable summer of achievement in British sport is appropriate.
This week’s tremendous public Olympic post-Games parade in London put the celebratory seal on a glorious sporting summertime in England, after the Paralympics then kept football in the shade over the last fortnight.
It was a different kind of summer this year. There was no Glastonbury because as the sprawling music and cultural Wiltshire festival was held over due to the Royal Jubilee and it was the Olympics which came to dominate the 2012 summer calendar.
Many other music and community festivals suffered through wet weather, ticket sales were significantly depressed and some were cancelled or washed out altogether.
The hugely successful Olympic effort brought sunshine into our lives regardless of the weather.
For jaundiced Derby fans like me, fed on tepid promises of future success and having to accept apparent sporting progress by degrees every few years from a club anchored in caution and under-achievement, the explosion of excitement and success from our athletes at London’s 2012 Olympics and Paralympics surpassed my expectations.
As autumn advances and the nights begin to darken earlier, the final hurrahs of Britain’s splendid Olympic summer still resound in a satisfyingly vivid set of enthralling memories. We gained many new heroes and household names.
Early on, summer 2012 didn’t seem like summer at all, until the Olympics unfolded in all their persistent and lavish glory; it wasn’t hot, the national football team had flunked out of the Euros predictably enough on penalties and we didn’t really expect the level of success that our athletes went on to deliver.
London 2012 delivered far more than medals and a high placing on the final international table of achievement - they brought so much inspiration, motivation and pride. There were spectacular performances and sell-out attendances in the greatest sporting festivals that the country has ever staged.
Athletes from the grass roots of all strands of Britain’s pluralistic cultural make-up came to the fore, becoming iconic and inspirational figures. Many have attained the kind of humble celebrity to make them worthy role models for generations to come, behaving in the kind of manner that put some of our superstar footballers firmly in the shade.
Minority sports impacted onto audiences like never before; cyclists, swimmers, boxers, heptathletes - and even our Cinderella status at major tennis finals was vanquished. Heavens - Andy Murray has even gone on to be the first Brit to win a Grand Slam title for over 70 years!
The down-to-earth, accessible demeanour of our Olympic athletes was refreshing, and audiences revelled in the enjoyment and a new appreciation of many of the Olympic sports themselves.
The Paralympics altered the perception of disabled people and their capabilities, showing such incredible tenacity and determination to displace their disabilities and bring glory to the national team.
Such emphatic athletic success provoked a huge response at schools, sports clubs and youth organisations across the nation; the legacy in human terms can reach far beyond the physical regeneration and redevelopment of down-at-heel areas of Greater London.
Politicians, economists and civic leaders all over the nation now have to balance their ‘austerity-led’ fiscal policies with sufficient resource to capitalise on the enthusiasm, interest and optimism that the Games have generated, to reap the harvest of sustained sporting success and the associated benefits to society.
The focus will now turn back to football - if the September World Cup qualifiers haven’t already achieved that reversion.
The Three Lions got their qualifying campaign off to a roaring start last Friday, hitting Moldova for five - but were tamed by a resolute Ukrainian side at Wembley on Wednesday and were grateful of the 1-1 draw earned from Frank Lampard’s late penalty.
Over in Burton-Upon-Trent, the National Football Centre at St George’s Park is in full swing, now operating as the base for the full England team prior to their Wembley international matches.
The project has many positive objectives, including the overhaul of the entire coaching and development structure of the English game to produce Three Lions sides that will compete successfully at every level. Is Rio 2014 too soon to expect much of an improvement?
Just up the A38 at the proper end of the A52 Brian Clough Way, even Derbyshire Cricket Club have had a cracking season. They are set for a top-three finish - or even promotion as Champions - after team rebuilding under Karl Krikken in cricket’s second-tier in recent years. DCC’s Racecourse Cricket Ground is little more than a stone’s throw from Pride Park and Rams fans will hope that patrons of both stadia can celebrate promotion in the near future.
We’re still assessing how competitive the Rams will be this season as they resume Championship action on Saturday. Supporters gained some optimism after the thrashing of Watford. Fans have yet to see if their club will take on any spare Premier League players or other resource to bolster the squad, or if surplus Rams players may vanish on loan.
Though Mr Clough still operates on a shoestring compared to some of the main contenders but his new recruits have largely acquitted themselves well in the first month of the season.
The players should go to promoted Huddersfield will confidence and the benefit of a refreshing overseas training trip during the international break. Go and tame those Terriers, Derby!
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