The greatest show on earth is nearly over. We await the Paralympics with unprecedented anticipation after an Olympics which surpassed everyone’s expectations. From Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, where HM The Queen was parachuted into the stadium, to the unashamed declaration of “girl power” by Spice Girls as the Olympics came to an end, this Olympics was absolutely characterised by “here come the girls”. Indeed, IOC President, Jacques Rogge, declared the London Olympics to be the games where women finally achieved gender equality with men.
This Olympics saw a number of firsts for women and for the British Team. The following list is illustrative only:
• The introduction of boxing for women
• Women entered for every event – most significantly Saudi Arabia entered female athletes for the first time
• The US Team comprised more women than men and they won more medals
• A British female cyclist won the first medal of the Games for Britain
• A British female rowing pair won Britain’s first gold medal for Britain
• British female rowers out medaled the men at Eton Dorney
• First British female gymnastics medal
• First British dressage gold medal
• First British taekwondo gold medallist
• First athletics gold medal on Super Saturday in the Olympic Stadium
I could go on. Team GB did us proud. The women won a third of all GB medals including 10 golds. They demonstrated what can be achieved against the best in the world through dedication, hard work and self belief. Certainly in the arena of sport the glass ceiling is being smashed to pieces. And the secret to their success? There was an abiding theme which cut across the response of our female Olympians to this question perhaps best summed up by Samantha Murray, the silver medallist in the pentathlon: “Honestly, if you have a goal – if there is anything you want to achieve in life – don’t let anyone get in your way. If I can do it, and I’m a normal girl, anyone can.”
As X Factor and the Kardashians re-emerge on our screens, as the lustre of the Olympics begins to dim, it is imperative that schools, community sports programmes and parents carry the torch of inspiration offered by the London games. We have a responsibility to build on the legacy of the magical two weeks which enchanted us all – to inspire a generation.
The Stephen Perse Foundation’s approach to sport is all embracing and students of all abilities are encouraged to participate, enjoy and compete in a variety of activities. Reaching the top at any sport requires dedication and hard graft but once a passion for the sport has been developed it becomes a labour of love rather than a chore. This is central to our philosophy for sports throughout our schools. Like Helen Glover, who started rowing only 4 years ago and rewarded the UK with its first gold of the Olympics, we believe that great sportswomen and sportsmen can emerge at any stage where enjoyment of sports is nurtured.