Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Will Olympic dreams be sold short?

Unbridled joy: Alan Campbell celebrates his bronze with wife Jules

I have been spellbound by the Olympics for the past two weeks, right from the first moment of that gloriously over-Boyled opening ceremony.

I've cheered on Hoy, bellowed for Bolt, shared existential dread with Bradley Wiggins and sobbed relentlessly alongside Coleraine rower Alan Campbell, whose let-it-all-hang-out convulsions after winning bronze provided one of my favourite memories of the entire event.

So yes, I feel the feelgood. But lately a few doubts have been nagging my brain, threatening to spoil the party the rest of me is still enjoying.

I've lost patience with the rows of royals and celebrity VIPs sitting in the best seats at all the gold star events (and the dressage).

I can't help thinking of the people who have been left outside, gazing through the holy gates, their starry eyes straining to catch a glimpse of the utopia yonder. Coaches all over the country who show up day after day in the pre-dawn gloom to encourage young kids with a passion for sport. Mums and dads who have spent their last penny and every minute of their free time driving their promising offspring to training sessions and competitions. Chris Hoy's little sister.

I'm also worried that David Cameron's dizzy, glory-seeking glee at every new gold medal reflects an attitude which explains his party's dismal record regarding sport-funding at state schools.

How depressing if the Olympic "legacy" was about further funding the sports elite at the expense of the far less privileged multitudes who have been inspired to dream bigger in the last fortnight.

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