• Bunce on Olympics

The end - but only if we let it be

Steve Bunce August 13, 2012
The closing ceremony brought down the curtain on London's Olympics © Getty Images

There was a Python, a diva or two and more tears in the east end of London last night when the "legacy" Olympics finally ended.

On this occasion the statistics can tell the full story, but in London it was the relentless list of personal tales that dominated. It was tiny drama after tiny drama, as day after day medal-hugging blubbers praised their loved ones, their departed inspiration or talked of reconciliation.

It was also about pure excellence.

On the Olympic mats, track, lakes, courts, rings and myriad fields of play the athletes set records, broke legs and battled for gold. Sure, there were some stinkers, some drug cheats were evicted, nearly 150 touts were arrested, the British swimmers were bad and perhaps we praised the plucky no-hopers of handball too much. So what, we are the plucky loser gang.

Now, it gets serious because the men and women in charge of developing their sports need to start building for a future. However, there needs to be a bit of common sense mixed in with all the mad legacy dreaming. We don't, trust me, need a handball club or water polo league in every town or village; existing clubs need to benefit. The British handballers can play Tenerife or Malta or Canvey Island. By the way, I love handball but ten million quid of investment is not going to get GB near a medal in Istanbul (or Tokyo, or Madrid) in 2020, so forget Rio in four years.

Legacy should not become a bad word, a tidy slogan for politicians to hit each other with. It is not a new thing. The GB boxers at the Games - the team finished top of the boxing medal table - were all inspired by Audley Harrison in 2000 and Amir Khan in 2004. Also, their success led to increased funding and the rest is now Olympic history.

Legacy is not new. I'm looking forward to Rebecca Adlington's first medal winners in Rio: "I was just nine when I watched Becky win gold in Beijing. It inspired me." That's what I need to hear in Rio.

We also also all need to remember that winning a gold does not always translate into future dominance. In 1988 hockey was golden, then the sport fell into the wilderness - well Milton Keynes, to be precise -and is only now recovering. There needs to be some planning, some thinking.

So the message is simple, as abrupt as an Anthony Joshua right hand: use the venues and keep the funding high. Nobody in the world has laughed at us for the last two weeks and let's hope that we don't give them a chance now by slaughtering the funding and letting the venues go empty.

It's more to do with common sense than legacy.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.