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  • The Games of the XXX Olympiad are currently on in London. My son and I went to Wimbledon last Sunday and watched Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova play for their respective countries. I watch the competitors on TV – articulate, gracious, clearly hard working, role models to a man and woman – wreathed in smiles and cannot but shed tears at the goodness of it all.

    So, I think back to the many Games that I have watched. Maybe some will chime with you as well.

    1980, Moscow, the first boycott games. Duncan Goodhew in the swimming pool smiling away under that bald pate, Alan Wells bursting through in the 100m but tainted by the non-present Americans. Above all, though, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett in the 800m and 1500m. Silky smooth and the commentary still sticks as Ovett ghosts up on the shoulder of Coe, ‘those blue eyes like chips of ice.’

    1984, Los Angeles, the second boycott games. The opening ceremony with the jet man. Daley Thompson and his somersault, Tessa Sanderson, Mary Decker and Zola Budd, Ed Moses seemingly almost asleep before his race, Coe again and the heartbreak of Ovett. And, then, Carl Lewis, tall, imperious, difficult to like but easy to admire.

    1988, Seoul and the loss of innocence. The greatest 100m race in history followed by recriminations and outing of Ben Johnson. Flo Jo flowed though, Greg Louganis bumped his head and Steffi Graf had the year of her life with the Golden Slam.

    Then comes adulthood, work, life, less time in front of the television and the memories become fewer.

    1992, Barcelona, the cauldron lit by the flaming arrow, Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson. 1996, Atlanta, Muhammad Ali with the flame and Michael Johnson with his golden shoes. 2000, Sydney and Cathy Freeman.

    2004, Athens and no memories while in the midst of redundancy and moving countries.

    2008, Beijing and who else but Usain Bolt. Watched on a tiny TV while holidaying on the Ile de Re, France with our then two and a half year old.

    In the grand scheme of things, yes, while people die, starve, are ground down by poverty and suffer many lesser humiliations and disaster every day, sport is gloriously immaterial. It is entirely ephemeral except for the competitors.

    But the great people who entertain us show us, overwhelmingly, the best of humanity – the endeavour, the desire and the talent. The best of us will be inspired to do better in our daily lives no matter what role we play, the rest of us will simply watch in admiration and be awed but I hope all us will be uplifted in some way.
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