We’ve just finished the first week of London 2012 and what a week it’s been.
Usain Bolt’s Olympic record smashing time of 9.63 seconds in the 100 metre dash, Bradley Wiggins’ tremendous achievement so soon after his victory in the Tour de France and Andy Murray’s much deserved medal have made this a truly memorable games.
No doubt more records will be broken in days to come.
But it has also been momentous for other reasons. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge’s speech at the opening ceremony revealed that this is the very first time that all participating nations are fielding female athletes. A great step forward for gender equality and female empowerment.
Indeed, our female athletes have done us proud. Victoria Pendleton, Christine Ohuruogu, Rebecca Adlington and others have all performed well. The most emotional gold however must have been Jessica Ennis’ last Saturday. After all the media hype and the burden of being the face of the 2012 games, it was with elation and, I suspect, no small relief when she crossed the 800 metre line, well ahead of the others, winning the event.
These women have earned our respect and are fitting role models for us all and we hope that they will transform attitudes to women globally through their dedication and commitment. Many commentators, including Prince William, have applauded their efforts and achievements. These extraordinary athletes have an opportunity to make a major impact on our society for the better, provided they receive appropriate support.
The current shift towards preventive medicine on the NHS and the focus on public health means there is now real impetus to encourage our children to lead healthy lifestyles, including engaging in physical activity and eating healthily. These Olympic Games have provided the inspiration and we must somehow find ways to ensure that the benefits continue.
In the wake of all the euphoria about Team GB’s success, there has been some criticism levelled over sports provision in our schools. Lord Moynihan’s remarks, that independent schools dominate our sports – 50% of the gold medals winners in the Beijing games were privately educated – point to the need for widening participation.
And yesterday, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed that sports provision in schools is ‘patchy’ and funding should start in primary schools. Further investment is needed not just in state schools but also in our local communities. This should be the legacy of the Olympic Games in the UK.
I read an interesting statistic this morning, that if Yorkshire was an Olympic country, they would be 11th in the medal tally. Maybe there are lessons to be learnt here.
Here’s another suggestion. I gather Jessica Ennis has been twice runner-up of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Maybe it’ll be third time lucky for her…
Click here to view the IOC Factsheet (June 2012) ‘Women in the Olympic Movement’.
The exhibition ‘Experiencing pregnancy, 1908, 1948 and 2012’ is now on in the RCOG library. For more information, click here.
The BBC have produced the fascinating short feature ‘Women and the Olympics: From croquet to boxing’. To view this clip, click here.