...it's the taking part.
As I sat down to watch the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games I felt a curiously famiiar combination of hopes and fears. It took me a moment to identify them, and then it came to me - School Sports Day. Parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles among you will know whereof I speak.
There are three major hopes that you cling to each time that peculiarly stressful event dawns:
1 That the weather will be good. Our own little sports day was cancelled this year due to torrential rain rendering the playing fields suitable only for planting rice. Last year people suffered sun burn. Mercifully for the Big Day in London, the skies cleared, and whoever is up there flicking switches on the rain machine sat on his or her hands until the last firework faded, and has shown admirable restraint ever since.
2. That no one will hurt themselves. This also applies to spectators. I was banned (by my children) from ever taking part in the mothers' race again after my bruising and humiliating performance two years ago. Frankly, I feel setting us an obstacle race constitutes cruel and unusual punishment of some sort.
3. That everyone will win a prize. I admire the pluck of the athletically-challenged (see above) as they stuggle over the line, but at least they always get a big cheer and lots of clapping and praise. It's the poor souls who come fourth I really feel for. So near and yet so far. Good effort, but not good enough. An also ran, who, but for a certain length of leg or dip of the head, could have been on that podium. Same effort, nearly the same skill, no medal. Couldn't we have something for fourth place? A modern runner-up to bronze - plastic, perhaps? Polystyrene? Wholemeal? Suggestions, please. But then, I'd feel bad for that runner puffing home, teeth gritted, in fifth...
So there it is: Olympic Games = School Sports Day, same thing, just a question of scale.