Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sport Matters

I'm attempting to plan Thursday afternoon, so I can attend the Olympic Torch event at lunchtime at the Ursuline College, where it stops briefly and then make a dash for Birmingham to arrive before 5:30pm.

The wonders of Olympic airspace transit planning and approval in addition to a temporary route closure between me and the aircraft is making it a bit of a challenge. Last week I could climb into the cockpit, start the engine and leave at anytime I wanted but for the next month, Olympic 'security' wants my blood-type, inside leg measurement and the minute by minute details of my track entering and leaving the restricted zone. As my route to Woverhampton, takes me within a whisker of Stratford and the Olympic village, I will be able to watch the surface to air missiles, conveniently mounted on nearby tower blocks, following me past the stadium.

On a personal note, I'm finding it hard to get excited by the Games. Perhaps its my age or more simply, a tired cynicism over the blatant commercial exploitation of the event, which is, I believe, far too large and inclusive; distant from the principles that gave birth to it.

Arguably, what I am today, is a product of the Olympics and namely the Munich Games of 1972 which inspired me as an athlete and developed my own character. Steve Ovett, Steve Green and even David Bedford, were among the names, familiar to my generation, great athletes I was lucky enough to meet and even train with at the Crystal Palace track and I would come down all the way from Westgate to work-out with them. Inspired by the Russian Olympic Champion, Valeriy Borzov, as teenager here in Thanet, I desperately wanted to be a junior international sprinter in the 100 metres but was never fast enough to make the grade and strangely enough, over the years, finally drifted towards tennis, triathlons and longer and longer distance running events, like the Marathon Des Sables.

However, what's really important, is not what I think of this year's Games but what sport and athletics can do for young people like me, growing-up here in Thanet, in terms of developing a sense of personal achievement and aspiration. It was sport, that helped gain me a place at University in the United States and it was sport that almost had me expelled, because I was making so much money from tennis, that I wasn't turning-up for my studies; another story.

We see on the news today, that inactivity is a deadly as smoking to some 90,000 Britain's a year but I also see and understand why the virtual world of the Playstation and the X-Box is so attractive to today's teenage generation. I predict, that as the technology continues to improve, almost exponentially, it will become increasingly more difficult to wean young people away from the sofa on to the football field or running track. Once the wrap-around immersive spectacles or even contact lenses (now being tested by the US military) become cheaply available young people will increasingly compete in virtual words and physical participation in sport will increasingly become a minority interest.

On the other side of the coin, if you are middle-aged and don't have a PlayStation or an X-Box then I recommend you buy one? Why, because once you've mastered using the console, the mental agility required to play many of the games, can play a vital part in staving off the quietly insidious effects of ageing on the brain and with it, the potential for the onset of signs of dementia in some of us.

So on the one hand we need to see more young people leaving the X-Box aside for real physical activity and on the other side of the coin, older people, like me, can benefit dramatically from physical activity and the kind of mental agility required in the virtual worlds that can help keep us sharp.

Hope to see many of you in Westgate tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

Well, if it's true that inactivity is as bad as smoking, then that's me done for !

Anonymous said...

Hang on ! Didn't the bloke who started the jogging craze die of a heart attack while jogging ?! That's enough of a warning for me !