You Can’t Help but get Excited by an Olympic Games
Despite the build-up muddied by doping scandals and infrastructure concerns, our action man still sees the ultimate sporting spectacular. Which champions will stand tall in 2016 in the cauldron of Olympic competition..?
Column by Ollie Phillips
Sport is often about the build-up; it’s about the mind games that are played and the years of dedication and preparation that have gone into making you that tiny bit better than the person you’re standing beside.
I’ve felt it. Before every game I’ve ever played and before the marathon I ran. But I have never experienced what it’s like to prepare for the world’s greatest festival of sport – the Olympic Games.
Had I still been playing rugby 7s however, this year I might have been in with a chance to compete. Rio 2016 marks the debut of rugby 7s, the faster, shorter and therefore viewer-friendly version of the traditional 15s game.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for English and British rugby at the moment. England are now ranked second best in the world after our whitewash of the Australians in their back garden. The irony of course is that our coach at the moment is actually an Australian..!
Rugby 7s will have its moment this month in Rio, with both men and women’s teams representing Great Britain. But it isn’t GB, but Fiji who are the favourites to win, Fiji, who have never won an Olympic medal in any games ever. And, patriot though I am, in the Olympics, the world’s audience and I love a romantic ending and I’d happily see an underdog scoop the win.
Sadly, despite the excitement, the question on everyone’s lips this year is will Brazil deliver? There are so many dark clouds overshadowing this year’s games: the threat of the Zika virus, the doping allegations and subsequent action against the Russian team and the rumours that the buildings themselves won’t be ready on time. And then of course there’s the pressure of having to live up to what London gave us.
It’s the doping allegations that are creating the greatest stir globally as each country prepares its athletes for competition. Many of the Russian squad have not been allowed to compete, while the rest who do end up competing, will have to prove their legitimacy. Any Russian that ends up on a podium, regardless of whether they took drugs or not, will be labelled as a drugs cheat. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
What is exciting for British sport is that we can celebrate the achievements of those who have been cloaked in rumours for the last few months or even few years. Athletes such as Chris Froome, who recently became the only Britain in the history of the race to win the Tour de France three times. Britain now has had four Tour de France winners in the last five years with Bradley Wiggins preceding Froome. Maybe, finally, cycling is coming out of the doldrums and moving away from the Armstrong-era of the assumption of drug usage.
Sporting bodies like FIFA and the IOC are in tatters and as such are desperate for some sort of celebration. For me the greatest excitement is in seeing who the stars are going to be. Will it be an old hero like Jessica Ennis-Hill or Mo Farah? Or will the young pretenders storm up through the ranks to be crowned champion? The reality is that anyone can do it on the day.
Everyone wants to be the best. But those on the periphery want to be associated with the best. But only ever the best, the person standing at number one. Number two means you’re pretty good, but you’re just not quite the best.
Usain Bolt will be up against Justin Gatlin this year, a sprinter who has just finished serving a two-year ban for doping himself. Bolt, as a legend of the sport, did something last time round that no man has ever done and that was to win double gold in London having already done the same in Beijing. If he makes Rio his third double scoop, which he very well could considering he is still the fastest man in the world, he will become even more of a hero to those who watch these games and dream of one day standing where the athletes stand.
The Olympics is the ultimate sporting spectacle and on the day, some athletes rise to the challenge while others crumble. That’s why it’s so intriguing. Every athlete will come into the games completely and utterly prepared, with their focus on nothing besides competing. This level of pressure is ultimately the reason why you can either perform to your maximum capability or why you can end up under achieving.
It’s all on the horizon for this year’s Olympic hopefuls. All this bad publicity has left people thinking will the games be good? Or will it be an anti-climax? The answer to all that is, of course it’s the Olympics: it will amaze and astound. Everyone’s buzzing off it. There’s no greater sporting legacy to be a part of.
Rio is an amazing city. It’s raw and dangerous but beautiful and exciting. It’s disappointing that people have cheated and the Zika virus is a very real threat. But sport makes everyone at least just in that moment forget all the bad things that are happening around it.
The Olympics provides the backdrop for one of the greatest soap operas around, the drama and intrigue that surround the countries, their athletes, their heroes and their underdogs. Everyone can be a part of an individual’s glory and splendour, whoever they are and wherever they’ve come from.
So dig out your old flag and find yourself a champion. Get excited about the world’s most incredible example of sporting prowess. And most importantly, let it for a moment, one blissful moment, be all you think about.