AS the Olympic Games in Beijing nears its climax no one should need reminding that it has been Great Britain’s finest overall competition.
Even the television coverage has been superb, save for the irritation, seemingly adopted by all involved, of describing a competitor as having “medalled” when they mean won a medal. Referring to “Team GB” we can just about live with.
The BBC may have lost ground to its rivals in the news coverage stakes, but the Beeb still knows how to put on a show when it comes to sport, or at least the biggest sporting event of all.
For the past three decades or so Britain’s gold medals have come in a variety of pursuits – but athletics has provided the bulk of them. The achievements of Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Daley Thompson, Tessa Sanderson, Allan Wells, Sally Gunnell, Kelly Holmes and others will always be remembered.
Enough jibes have been made about sitting down being the new way to Olympic success, and the days of excellence at running, jumping and throwing being on the wane.
The cash that has been poured into sailing, rowing and cycling is undisputed, nor is the fact they are money sports or that the competitors involved come mostly from middle class backgrounds. But that has not stopped people all across the country marvelling at what has been achieved over the past fortnight, whether at the rowing regatta, in the pool, or especially inside the cycling velodrome.
Chris Hoy from Edinburgh has been the undoubted star on two wheels, his hat trick of gold medals plus the one in Athens four years ago making him the most successful Scottish Olympian of all time in any sport. He may be 32 but such is his power and fitness don’t bet against him bettering that tally at London in 2012.
The British indoor cycling team was so strong that only one of the competitors, Tour de France four-stage winner Mark Cavendish, failed to win a medal, with Bradley Wiggins, Rebecca Romero and Victoria Pendleton also among those striking gold.
Predictably, the wheels of Hoy’s bike had barely stopped turning when First Minister Alex Salmond called for the British team to be dismantled, considering it more important for Scots to compete as a separate team than win under a Union banner.
Perhaps Salmond could have asked the proud Scots – apart from Hay there have been medal successes for cycling team mate Ross Edgar and kayaker David Florence – who were equally proud to be representing Great Britain, about their thoughts on abandoning their team mates. He wouldn’t of course, but if he had their reply would likely be the same as my own, which cannot be printed for obvious reasons.
Salmond is fast gaining a reputation for talking bilge, and a worrying trend has been the number of otherwise perfectly sensible people who appear willing to follow his example. Perhaps this latest risible comment may actually be a good thing, as it proves once and for all that buffoonery is his greatest characteristic.
THE SHETLAND senior football team goes head to head with Cove Rangers tomorrow in the second round of the Highland League Cup.
There is no doubt that a mammoth task lies in store for our players, Cove being the reigning Highland League champions and by all accounts a team with a core of experienced, skilful and powerful performers.
The highlight of 100 years of a representative Shetland side was winning the island games gold medal three years ago by defeating Guernsey. A win against Cove would arguably surpass even that.
Obviously the odds are stacked against Shetland progressing to the third round, but anything is possible. As full back Leighton Flaws says, “they’re made of the same stuff as us”, and as a former Cove player he should know what he is up against.
Football, as the great Jimmy Greaves used to say, is “a funny old game”. Let’s hope our boys come back celebrating a funny old result.
STAYING with football, Scotland’s home draw with Northern Ireland on Wednesday, considering the Irish missed a penalty and played part of the match with 10 men, does not bode well for the forthcoming World Cup campaign.
New manager George Burley’s third game in charge has still not yielded a victory, although it has to be said his first two matches were against quality sides in Croatia and the Czech Republic, who drew with England at Wembley in this week’s friendly.
There were some positives from Wednesday’s match, notably the performances of James McFadden and Scott Brown, who have already proved their quality, while youngsters such as Darren Barr and Kris Commons showed the may have what it takes.
Conversely, however, it is difficult to see the logic in bringing back Graham Alexander and David Weir, now 37 and 38 respectively, or Michael Stewart, who was tried out six years ago and rightly discarded.
For Burley and his squad the serious business now begins, with two crucial away qualifying matches against Macedonia and Iceland next month. At least four points is a must.
SOMEWHAT alarmingly it seems the winter sports season is almost upon us, as reports this week hint that people all around the isles are beginning to sharpen their darts and dust off their pool cues.
This summer has flown past with the weather, apart from a forgettable June, being kind to all types of outdoor pursuits. Footballers and hockey players have rarely had a match postponed, golfers and bowlers are praising the condition of their greens and regatta sailors have been grateful for enough but not too much wind.
To make all those activities run smoothly requires a tremendous amount of work by many people, a great number of them volunteers donating time and effort free of charge. Those who put back into sport some of what they gained from it are deserving of the utmost praise.