Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Olympic memories will live forever

Right to the very last day, the London 2012 Olympics continued to provide drama, passion, strong competition and the sporting excellence which have characterised one of the best - if not the best - Games for many decades.

The opening ceremony over two weeks ago set the tone with its brilliant creativity which led us all to hope that these would be particularly memorable Games, and so they have proved to be.

The sporting achievements have been outstanding, with world records beaten, and no quarter asked or given in a wide range of hard-fought but scrupulously fair contests.

There have been numerous unexpected triumphs, as well as stories of great personal disappointment and heartbreak. Iconic athletic figures such as Usain Bolt have once again demonstrated to a worldwide audience their unique and remarkable talents, while new champions such as Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and others have now claimed their deserved place in sporting history.

Some nations were particularly successful, including Team GB with arguably its best performance, while Team Ireland is coming home with its greatest haul of medals since 1956.

However, the essence of the Olympic spirit should not be measured only in medals won or lost, but also by the honour of participating. Everyone who competed in the London Games has been an Olympian, and those who did manage to win medals as well can look back for a lifetime on their memorable individual achievements.

Despite the intense competition, it was heart-warming to witness the graciousness of the winners and losers, and also the deep emotions that drove everyone to give of their uttermost. The Olympians have much to teach other sports, and not least the cynical, greedy and egotistical world of professional football, which still has a great deal to learn about true sporting values.

The Olympic spirit was also embraced by the many others who helped to make the Games such a success. These included the organisers, the ever- cheerful volunteers, the servicemen and women who were drafted in at the last minute to help with security, and most importantly the huge audiences who demonstrated such enthusiasm and support.

It is also important to underline that the competitors from both parts of this island brought great honour to themselves.

The Northern Ireland contingent on Team GB and Team Ireland acquitted themselves well, and they deserve praise. A collective haul of five Olympic medals from five Northern Ireland individuals is no mean feat.

Nothing could be more fitting, therefore, than a joint parade through Belfast for all our Olympians, and there is no doubt that people from all backgrounds would turn out to support them in the true Olympic spirit of admiration for their personal and collective achievements. London 2012 has gone, but the memories will long live on.

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