Want to bring back the euphoric feelings of the London, 2012 Olympics or is that a distant memory never to be repeated? I write this article with a heavy sports loving heart after seeing the empty seats at The Sainsbury’s British Championships in Birmingham. British athletics has a proud history when it comes to big sporting events but the journey of an athlete is a long and often painful one. With little and often no financial backing or sponsorship, the athletes we produce in Britain are some of the most inspirational people with heart, belief and no other option but to go it alone.
I have been to many track and field meetings, in between watching throws and the last bend to the finish my mind wanders off to a place where there is a full stadium of spectators, school children being given tickets for meetings instead of being packed into a busy London underground and a museum that may well be interesting but far less inspirational than seeing the dedication of their peers. I remember going on those school trips and without doubt the most memorable for me was a day at the Wimbledon Championships; tennis substituted for historical facts which I could learn in the class room.
Sports and academic studies, in my opinion, should be seen as equal. But in truth, large sections of society are incapable of seeing sports as a viable option for a profitable future. What they don’t realise is where many of these athletes came from. Budding footballers growing up in the slums without shoes to kick a ball, kids without cool attire being laughed at by those who think they have more, throwing anything that resembles a discus but they make do without complaining because their parents can barely put food on the table.
These are the athletes who go on to inspire generations of the future and they do a whole lot more besides with their mentoring and time given, in many cases, for free. It is astounding that in this day and age this topic of conversation needs to be written about, an age where we are led to believe that funding is in place for our stars of the present and future. Changes need to be made and that starts with the media and the power they yield over what we watch, sponsors to see athletics as a viable source of exposure and in this celeb world, some famous faces to rock up and take an interest in our sporting youth.
If you followed the Women’s World Cup as I did, you will have noticed that media coverage stepped up because England went further than people expected. Why wait for that moment before giving them or any athlete the coverage and support they rightly deserve from the start?