• At Our Best

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    19 August 2016

    The Stride family has been glued to the Olympic games in Rio. Our girls have some memories of attending a couple of events in London last time around when they were probably too young to fully grasp everything. This time we are all truly transfixed and watching with newfound gusto sports in which we have never previously shown any particular interest – like synchronised diving and weightlifting. Most exciting of all has been the continuation of the great performances by Team GB. We are steadily building on our great success at London 4 years ago when we gained 69 medals including 29 golds. At the time of writing we are 3rd in the medals table behind only the USA and China. The sight of Bradley Wiggins leading our boys to victory and a new world record in the cycling pursuit and Heather Stanning and Helen Glover winning gold in the women’s rowing pairs has been completely inspiring. Such successes do not occur by chance of course. Not only has Team GB trained hard but they have been supported with ruthlessly targeted funding. The government has channelled our investment in Olympic sport into those contests and athletes who show both the most promise but also deliver on the medal total that they pledge in return for the support. If a sport is given millions on a pledge of a certain medal haul and falls short it may receive very little the next time around – if it delivers then the coffers are opened wider. An approach that sees competition for the money as intrinsic to the competition for the glory is yielding startling results. 

    Along with our country’s approach to the Olympics, the games themselves have evolved too. They are now a far cry from the Greek originals held for over a thousand years between 800 BC and 400 AD. The first modern games were held in Athens in 1896 under the newly formed International Olympic Committee. These brought together just 14 nations and 241 athletes who competed in 43 events. In Rio there are no less than 11,000 competitors from 206 nations competing in 28 Olympic sports – there are 306 sets of medals available. Other branches of the Olympic franchise have appeared through time – the Winter Olympics (in 1924), the Paralympics (started by injured British servicemen in 1948) and the Youth Games which made their entrance more recently in 2010. Despite the on-going controversy around doping, boycotts and the occasional politicisation all have provided some of the finest examples of men, women and different nationalities competing in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This latter point matters and as I watch the remainder of the world’s latest offering I will be cheering on our men and women for sure and delighting in learning more about sports of which I previously knew precious little but, in this modern world of so much division and strife I will also be celebrating this extraordinary window into the lofty spirit of the Olympic ideal.