Reflections of London 2017

London 2017 - London Stadium

Last month, I attended both the London 2017 IPC and IAAF World Athletics Championships. I’d been looking forward to this for some time because while I’ve been back to Queen Elizabeth Park since 2012, this would be my first time back inside the London Stadium since the Paralympic Opening Ceremony five years ago.

Alison and I took our niece and nephew on the first day of the IPC Championships. We arrived early and spent an enjoyable hour over dinner, spotting athletes from across the world in their colourful tracksuits. Then we made our way to the stadium alongside thousands of other supporters. As we approached, we could see the bright pink, purple and gold London 2017 livery everywhere and we could hear the loud cheers from inside.

London Stadium

On the way to the London Stadium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we took our seats, the size of the crowd was immediately evident. The UK public had once again done themselves proud! Happily, this trend would continue throughout the championships. There are always so many things going on at an athletics meeting; our niece and nephew were soon shouting and pointing excitedly at the various events taking place.

On that first evening, we witnessed some great action on the track including a gold medal and world record from Hannah Cockcroft in the T34 women’s 100m. However, the highlight for us was seeing my former teammate, Kylie Grimes in the F51 women’s Club Throw and then managing to meet her and her family after the event.

World records tumble at London 2017

Our first experience was so positive that after a weekend glued to the London 2017 TV coverage, we decided to return the following Wednesday. Our second visit saw us treated to yet more world records; this time from Australia’s Isis Holt in the T35 women’s 100m and Uzbekistan’s Aleks Svechnikov in the F13 men’s Javelin. We also saw an enthralling T47 men’s Long Jump, where Hao Wang’s brilliant victory celebration (His friends and family back in China would have heard him!) eclipsed even his mighty leap!

This wonderful moment was just a small example of the great atmosphere that permeated the entire championships. But it got me thinking… What or who was responsible for this?

The answer is simple – You!

I was too and so were Alison and the kids. In fact, anyone who went and supported, tuned in on TV, followed on social media or told their friends at work or in the pub helped. Any kind of interest on any level contributes because it creates a buzz….

This buzz is just energy. It starts small but slowly grows and becomes stronger. That energy turns into enthusiasm, then excitement and finally begins to inspire. Once inspiration reaches a certain level, there is a tipping point where potential energy turns into kinetic and you get ACTION.

Beyond the tipping point

To put it another way, when people start to become interested in something, they demand more access to it. This drives up the volume of information and the quality of coverage, which in turn inspires people to take the next step and physically turn up to share the experience.

My friend, Peter Genyn summed it up perfectly when I saw him on the way to the stadium. He said, “The crowds are unbelievable, they’re the best we’ve ever had at an athletics world championships. We should hold it in London every time.”

By the way, Peter went on to successfully defend his T51 100 and 200m titles for Belgium in front of those same crowds, later that week.

It’s no surprise to me that London 2017 has been hailed as another world-class event along with so many others in the UK since 2012. Commonwealth Games, Men’s Rugby League and Union World Cups, Women’s Cricket World Cup are just a few others. I’ve been privileged to have attended several of these events including the Rugby World Cup Final.

I was also back in the London Stadium for the opening night of the IAAF World Championships for Mo Farah’s run. To see and hear over 60,000 fans wildly cheering for the entire race was just unbelievable. The 25-lap crescendo ended with a deafening roar as Mo crossed the line to take the 10,000 metre gold. I found myself fighting back the tears as I took in the scene.

Mo Farah Gold at London 2017

Mo Farah wins 10,000m Gold at London 2017

Early adopters

I’m extremely proud to be from London and the UK. I believe we have some of the best, most knowledgeable sports fans in the world. We have a strong sense of fair play (Did somebody say Gatlin?). We cheer on everybody else as well as our own and we love an underdog.

That said, I’m under no illusions that this is just a London/UK thing. While the crowds and the atmosphere generated are undoubtedly special, we’re no different to anywhere else in the world. We’re just early adopters who have caught on to a good thing.

As an athlete who played a sport that wasn’t particularly well known, it was always fantastic to get to perform in front of a crowd. Especially a home crowd. Those feelings and memories will always live with me and be held dear.

If you take one thing from this it’s that, on any level, you can’t overstate that boost you feel when you support others or they support you. My advice to you is – Get out there and start sharing that buzz…. There’s more than enough to go around!

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