The Legacy of London 2012
Unless you are reading this from good ol’ Blighty you might not be truly aware of the amazing impact the London 2012 Olympics has had on this country and the fever it has created. I’m sure many of you will have attended the Olympic Games in the past, or maybe even this one in (sometimes) sunny Great Britain and can testify to the amazing atmosphere that is created by the athletes, the competition and the fans.
But what will this do for the future of cycling in Great Britain and across the world?
The series of unfortunate events, which were officially called The Mens Olympic Road Race drew fantastic crowds, the likes of which I have never ever seen at a bike race, including the Tour. The final day in Paris see’s thousands upon thousands of fans, but not the entire length of a day’s stage… 4 or 5 people deep… for 250km! It was phenomenal and an absolute pleasure to experience the atmosphere with so many cycling fans as well as people who’d never watched a race before.
What the road race did create was some seriously misguided questions and comments from friends who ‘are not in the know’. A colleague rued the moment he asked me why Mark Cavendish didn’t win the race if he’s the quickest bike rider. 40 minutes later he looked tired, bored and very confused so I just smiled and told him the former doper was quicker than he was. Which again blew his tiny mind. Due to Mark Cavendish being such a favourite to take the race, the fact he didn’t win seems to cause a bit of confusion to start with amongst the non-cycling public, which if we are honest is who we want to promote cycling to. I don’t need convincing that cycling is great by watching the Olympic Road Races, but if Dave (a truck driver from Leeds) decides he likes it and takes it up…that is a success.
The inequality of men and women in sport, nay life, is a subject that never goes away and rightly so. I will hold my hands up and say that other than the British women riders, I don’t know a great deal about women’s professional cycling. I’m of course a big fan of Emilia Fahlin (who isn’t?…when she’s not wearing that crazy Swedish TT helmet!) and as much as I don’t enjoy MTB…I could watch Emily Batty ALL DAY LONG!
But I digress, I don’t want to fall into a male stereotype. The Women’s Olympic Road Race saw huge crowds again the day after the men’s race and that was great to see. The crowds were slightly smaller due to it being on the Sunday and the weather not being as great but the noise and support was still superb.
Something for British cycling fans to be very proud of. The female track riders have also been superb and the new London Velodrome has provided the perfect setting for all the drama.
The beauty of the Olympic Games is that men and women are almost always held in the same regard within their sports. Yes there are some disciplines that are not available for the women for various reasons, but mostly, women compete with the same crowds, the same support and the same great drama.
The spectator friendly track events are much easier for the casual viewer of cycling races. Most are over within a few minutes and the format is repeated over and over again giving someone the ideal opportunity to learn the rules about track riding and enjoy it without having to dedicate 5 hours of your day to watching it on TV!
Track cycling is exciting. No doubt about it, it lends itself well to music, lights and fanfare. If you’ve never watched a 6 Day race from Belgium., check out the video below to see what I mean. Yes the Olympics reins back a bit on the Belgian looniness but it still has a great feeling in that velodrome and the crowds have been ace. British riders have taken their fair share of gold medals and there still should be some more to come.
Track cycling is harder to get into if on;y because there are not always the facilities locally but I think along with Bradley Wiggins’ & Team Sky’s dominance in Le Tour de France, the track racing will have the biggest impact on attracting new riders and their bikes into exercise and competition.
All of the athletes, regardless of nationality have commented on how loud and supportive the crowds at London 2012 have been. Yes we’ve been screaming like crazy for Team GB but all the other nations have been suitably supported by everyone at the stadia (if you discount the moron who threw the bottle at Tyson Gay). We are a proud and patriotic nation about this event has taken it to new levels not experienced since…well I don’t know when…maybe V.E. Day!
It already feels like the whole country has found out about the secret a few of us have been hiding… that cycling is great, and they are now about to spoil it by increasing its popularity and exposure.
I had that feeling once with a band. Mr Hudson & The Library. Awesome early stuff and Ben Hudson was a genius. I saw them play in a tiny, grimy venue in the back-end of Portsmouth and danced till I could sweat no more. Well that Ben Hudson got a bit famous..and Kanye West decided he wanted Ben to produce his new album and wrote a track with him. Ben became rubbish. He was nothing like he had begun all those years before and I missed that artist that I had loved so much. I resented that others had found out about Mr Hudson & The Library and in time, their popularity and success had been the catalyst for change…and I’d lost my favourite band. I’d post some of his original stuff here…but I think it’d make me cry. Go look it up.
So I hope that the Olympic’s will not be my Kanye and spoil what I love. I have every faith that it will only increase cycling in a positive way because I don’t want to be the one to lose faith after the ‘awkward second album’.