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Olympics2012The Games: What's not to love?

Posted: Saturday, July 28, 2012 | 07:31 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Scott Dickens of Ancaster, Ont., clocked his fastest competition time ever, for a new Canadian record. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) Scott Dickens of Ancaster, Ont., clocked his fastest competition time ever, for a new Canadian record. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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Swimming's top rivalry, a Canadian record from Scott Dickens, and the leadership of Sebastian Coe - Scott Russell says there's a lot to love already about the London Games.

Finally, the talking is done and the actual doing begins. It's the story of every Olympics. Sooner or later the athletes take over.

Not that the spectacle of the opening ceremony wasn't worth every delicious moment. The way to soak it in by the way, wasn't on a private TV or in the stadium but rather on the giant screens that are all over London. 

The host of CBC's The National, Peter Mansbridge and I had just finished an interview for the show and I hoofed it back from a jammed and delirious Trafalgar Square to our hotel in the centre of the city.

Along the way I was amazed at the crowds at Piccadilly Square as they remained transfixed on what was happening on the video wall. There was actor Kenneth Branagh in a period piece about the Industrial Revolution. James Bond along with Her Majesty the Queen dropped out of thin air. 

Coe nailed it

Honestly, traffic stopped dead and not because of volume but because of fascination. The drivers of double-decker buses gawked through the windshields. People pointed and cheered as the Olympic rings fired up over the stadium. Even the reluctant cabbies pulled over and stared at the wonder of it all.

And when Sebastian Coe spoke he nailed it.

"There is a truth to sport," the head of the organizing committee and two-time Olympic champion in the 1500 M said. "It makes it irresistible to compete in."

Hooray!

At long last the world was embarking upon a sporting spectacle under the influence of a disciple of sport. It was telling that Coe spoke first about the power of athletic competition and second about what the Games would mean to the city of London and the ensuing cultural and economic benefits.

It's because Coe believes that sport is what these Olympic Games should be all about.  I'll never forget encountering him in New Delhi, India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

He was touring a city which was coming under fire for not being ready to host such an event.  Everyone it seemed questioned security, sanitation, corruption, you name it ... there was an eagerness to dismiss New Delhi as the wrong place at the wrong time.

Coe saw it differently. He seemed to revel in the situation. 

"If you believe sport has power then every once in awhile you have to take it out for the comfort of your own backyard," he told me. "You have to let all of the people benefit from sport not just some of the people."

I guess he was setting the tone for London 2012. Coe wants these Games to have sport at the centre and everything else to be coincidental. I hope he can steer things in the right direction.

It's about sports now

I got an indication he was on the right track on Day One at the aquatics centre. The place was packed and Michael Phelps was taking on Ryan Lochte in the 400 IM. There were hundreds, literally hundreds of journalists in the mixed zone area and Phelps blew by them all after the heat in which he barely squeaked into the final.

Game on!

All of the nice talk about friendly rivalry between the two American swimmers is over. The public relations game has been displaced by a race to Olympic glory.

It's about sport now.

And then Scott Dickens set a new Canadian record in the 100 breaststroke and became the first from his country to go under a minute for the distance. It was a bit of a surprise and Dickens safely made it to the semifinal, ranked very well thank you very much.

What happens the rest of the way is now unpredictable but that doesn't matter because the most important hurdle has been cleared. The athletes are in the driver's seat as they should be.

"That's the beauty of sport," Mark Tewksbury, the Canadian Chef de Mission said in the opening press conference when he talked about team goals. "You cannot say who will win and when. You can only prepare yourself to win."

Dickens echoed that when he emerged from the pool after his record-setting swim.

"I sat in the ready room and thought to myself: I love my job," Dickens beamed.

And why not?

If you're an athlete and at the greatest of all sporting events, the Olympic Games, what's not to love?

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