Steve Moore, Chief Creative Director of Britain’s Personal Best, explains how the Olympics have inspired him over the years to want to celebrate all those involved in making the Games happen, while recognising the brilliance of the kid who slips away quietly having come fourth…
It was around 5.30am UK time in the summer of 1988 when he emerged from the pool in Seoul having come third in what was to be the biggest race of his life.
He was interviewed poolside by Alec Weeks.
Andy Jameson was 23 years old, competing in the 100m butterfly. He was plainly thrilled to get a bronze at his third Games. Innocently enough, he was asked by Weeks if he might return to improve on this effort in four years’ time in Barcelona.
His reply was emphatic.
Andy had shown a natural talent for swimming since he was a little boy and had practiced relentlessly to reach this moment, the pinnacle of his career. Now Andy had nothing more to give and felt he had sacrificed enough, spent enough of his life getting up in the middle of the night to swim alone.
He was spent. No more. He would clasp his medal, swell with pride and head home to Merseyside, not empty handed, but with a prized Olympic Bronze. Mission accomplished, job done and time to move on and do something else with his life.
At least that’s how I remember it.
I discovered Andy on Twitter last night and tweeted him to say I was writing a piece for a blog, and that he would get a mention. He tweeted back to say on that morning 25 years ago he achieved a personal best, ‘but not as fast as the plan or goal! How to go faster? Better never stops’.
Championing all competitors
Andy’s interview has stayed with me. It changed how I watch and emotionally engage with sport forever.
But I’ve also never stopped thinking of Jon Sieben, the Australian swimmer and former gold medallist who came fourth in the same race.
Ever since I have always looked out for athletes who don’t quite make the top three slots; the fourth placed finallists, fifth in the heats, those who miss out by a microsecond, the people pipped at the post. It is their stories of dedicated self-advancement, the sacrifices they and their families made, and the teachers that supported them that makes our veneration of winners, even if inevitable, seem so misplaced.
It is the Jon Siebens of this world, who move me more than anything.
Last summer in London was not just the most joyous, beatific of national occasions but an unrivalled showcase of great human accomplishment. The nation embraced the Olympics and Paralympics like nothing else experienced in my lifetime.
As we mark the one year anniversary of the Games, we are reflecting on how effective the legacy has been, having hosted the hugely successful Anniversary Games and the splendid Go Local celebration of volunteering.
But can you really re-ignite the spirit of 2012 by returning to the stadium or celebrating once again the marvellous contribution of the Gamesmakers?
You can’t rekindle a spirit by containing it.
Britain’s Personal Best starts from a place that is open, social, inclusive and universal. You don’t have to have a ticket, wear a uniform or finish in the medal places. You are competing with no one other than yourself.
London 2012 talked about ‘inspiring a generation’ but it feels to me now that it was our gift to all of us.
Imagine if we, the people, could create our own individual personal bests, PBs, our personal legacies to share with others and together we got ourselves together, pushed ourselves further and achieved them.
Imagine if we made a national habit of doing so every year in every school and every community?
The things we could do
That is our ambition, which we’re achieving be working with one of the largest alliances of social sector organisations ever seen in the UK covering schools, community groups, charities, environmental groups and enterprise agencies to create our collective PB. We are thrilled to be part of the keeping the spirit of 2012 alive family of ideas.
So in the words of our ambassador, the brilliant poet Musa Okwonga, ‘Inhale a lungful of hope and laugh as you beat your target’.
As Andy Jameson and Jon Sieben might agree, being ‘better never stops.’
Britain’s Personal Best: What’s yours?
Britain’s Personal Best is one of four Keeping the Spirit of 2012 Alive projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund