So, what now? After seven years of planning, billions of dollars in expenditures, unbearable anticipation and a glorious athletic consummation, what do we do now?
James O'Brien's Blog
After the Goldrush
Monday, August 13th
This morning - one coming way too early for the millions who stayed up late to watch the unforgettable Closing Ceremony - London is edging its way back to what passes for normal in so cacophonous a city. The despised Olympic lanes - intended to give priority to official Olympic vehicles and blamed for everything from the stumbling global market to the depleting ozone layer - are gone and weren’t nearly as bad as everybody imagined. The venues that, only yesterday, were bursting at the seams with eager enthusiasts are, today, more akin to ghost towns than Olympic cities. And the legions of personnel who were commissioned and schooled and motivated to give their time for so long a period are now drifting back to the lives they had before Lord Sebastian Coe brought his vision to the east London suburb of Stratford.
It happens at every Games. After such a climax, filled with sights, sounds and memories that will linger for a lifetime...what next? Yes, the Paralympic Games will spring to life in a couple of weeks in the same locale, a spectacle that is as thrilling as the Olympic Games themselves; but, it’s the Games proper that most captivates the global audience. Now completed, a sense of ill-defined unease settles over the English capital.
You might deem that strange given that there was plenty of local opposition to the Games being hosted in London at all. The disruption and the expense of any Olympics in the 21st century are such that cries of outrage are as understandable as are those of support. Never to be overlooked, though, is the degree to which sport is embedded in the British psyche, nurturing a passion that has to be seen to be believed. If you think that Super Bowl Sunday prompts an outpouring of sporting fervor, you should be in England on FA Cup Final day, or when the Grand National is being run, or the Oxford and Cambridge Boatrace, or when the Ashes are being played for (that’s cricket, for those who may not know), and on and on. Sport in Great Britain is like Queen and Country; even the people who don’t like it like it. Once the Games got going, therefore, even the cynics and skeptics and those adamant that they wouldn’t like it were quickly and perfunctorily swept along in the maelstrom.
It didn’t hurt that Britain enjoyed one of its most successful Games ever, garnering 29 gold medals and placing third in the medal table behind the USA and China. Britain has made a huge financial investment in sport over the last 10 years, much of it funded by receipts from the National Lottery. When the investment pays off so well, there is no way that the whole country won’t go into a spasm of ecstacy. Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Ben Ainslee, Chris Hoy, Tom Daley, Nicola Adams - people you’ve never heard of - are as big names in the UK right now as is Usain Bolt - and everybody knows Bolt. Even the mandarins in Parliament have caught the fever; the British government has committed to maintaining the current level of funding at least through the Rio Games in four years time.
You can understand, then, the sense of deflation. The greatest sporting party imaginable has come to an end in a sports crazed nation. Life goes back to normal - but, who the heck wants normal? Now that we’ve tasted the Cristal, no way are we going back to Watney’s bitter. But, in that discomfiture lies the solace. Of all the legacies of these Games, among the most purposeful will be the momentum that stimulates a recommitment to “amateur” sport and to the development of facilities for both children and adults. At the top end, that is an investment in greater glories in the Games down the road. At the more fundamental - mundane? - level, it is an investment in a population that will be healthier and happier. I have always been an advocate of sports for sports’ sake; but, where the Olympic Games are concerned, I could never deny the concomitant effects.
Great Britain has much to celebrate and much to look look back on with enormous satisfaction. So, too, does the New York Athletic Club. With 17 medals - 12 golds, five bronzes - this has been the Club’s most successful Games of modern times. In addition, a clutch of fourth place finishes gives indication of how much can turn on a quirk of fate, or the luck of the draw, or a momentary lapse in concentration. It also illustrates, if such were necessary, the NYAC’s stature as the world’s predominant Olympic sporting club.
As with the good people of London, though, so with the Club and its athletes: what next? The answer is the same. While reflecting on the glories of the London Games - which we certainly will in the coming months - the NYAC will be buoyed by the wonderful performances of our athletes - the Fabulous 55 - and rededicate itself to their support through the Games of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and beyond.
Those Games will be here before we know it and it’s sobering to realize that today, right now, somewhere in the City House or at Travers Island, an athlete or two or 10 is training, driven by the passion to do in Rio what he or she has just witnessed in London. Theirs is a monumental task, one that most of us can’t fathom; but, these are young men and women driven by the alchemy of their talent, passion and blind faith. They’re training now, hard, just as they will every day, for the next four years and, probably, beyond. That’s not an easy path to choose; but, it is eased enormously by the fact that these athletes know that they have the rock-solid support of the NYAC. With its unique infra-structure dedicated to enabling athletes of talent, these young men and women know that they can count on precisely the same support that has nurtured superior competitors for 144 years and which assisted 55 of them, those named here, to face their Olympic dreams in London.
The Fabulous 55
To all of the above, please accept our heartfelt congratulations. We thank you for representing your countries with such pride. And we commend you for being the inspiration for the NYAC’s Olympians of 2016 and beyond.