I’m aware that the Commonwealth Games is rarely the pinnacle of a particular sport, and that the exclusion of the majority of the planet’s nations means that many of the best athletes won’t be competing. And I’ve read and heard various disparaging comments similar to the alleged one attributed to Usain Bolt, and I do understand that there’s a hell of a lot of coverage on television which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Furthermore I know that ‘The Commonwealth’ is a bizarre and outdated collection of nations in today’s world – a seemingly arbitrary and meaningless grouping of countries to those without the historical context to hand.
Fortunately I turned on to the Games within its first couple of days, and got addicted pretty much immediately. I could easily have not given it a look-in. I’m a sports fan, but I don’t watch just anything. I love the Olympics – probably even more than I love the World Cup – but I wouldn’t watch a Grand Prix or a cricket test match that didn’t involve England.
The things that’ve hit me full in the face with these Games is the discipline of the athletes – athletes I don’t know – and the pride they’ve shown in competing for their nations, and that their nations have shown in them. Many of these athletes are not the best in the world. Of course they are gifted, but they don’t always shine on the very biggest of stages. And this is why, on this slightly smaller stage (albeit one with ample coverage), seeing athletes – athletes who have dedicated their lives to their chosen sport or discipline – getting their moment of glory, has been incredibly humbling.
I’ve been utterly shocked at myself for getting so emotional so often. And it’s not just watching English athletes do well – I’ve had a sharp and sudden welling of the eyes or a pang in the stomach seeing the look on the face of anyone who’s met or surpassed their own expectations. And most of these people I’d never heard of two weeks ago. There’s something bigger about pride at work here too, pride and the eventual reward that effort, focus and determination can bring. And it’s so apparent that these athletes, their families, their coaches and support staff, didn’t necessarily know these feelings – of triumph, of achievement, of self-satisfaction – were ever guaranteed to come at all.
I have found myself yearning for those feelings, the feelings associated with achieving something meaningful – through single-mindedness, avoidance of temptation, and sheer belief in oneself – feelings that perhaps the majority of us never experience. And the majority of that majority hopefully don’t crave them in the same way that I’ve been known to – it’d be an even more miserable planet if we were all plagued by the fear of not reaching our potentials.
Perhaps these sporting triumphs are the summit of these athletes’ careers, or at least the most glory they will ever experience in their sporting lives. For others, success at these Games might be a stepping stone – and a massive confidence builder – for greater things. Of course there’s been plenty of talk of Rio ’16, and rightly so.
But either way, these individual moments – whether surpassed in the future or not – are ones that many of these athletes will never forget. And that shouldn’t be knocked.