THIS past week the Olympic torch has been winding its way through the leafy country lanes of Sussex en route to London 2012, an Olympics that will cap what has been a truly remarkable year of sport.
A year which has showcased the best Britain, Europe and the world has to offer. Sport, more than any other field, crosses borders and speaks a common language everyone understands.
Chelsea won football’s European Champions League, piping Germany’s Bayern Munich in dramatic fashion. Meanwhile Ulster missed out on rugby’s top European prize to in-form Leinster.
At Euro 2012 in June the peerless Spanish swaggered their way to a third major international tournament on the trot.
Later that same month we cheered Andy Murray to the Wimbledon final.
July may have seen the best yet as a new name was carved into the history books when Bradley Wiggins rode down the Champs Elysee in yellow, triumphing in that most European of Sporting events, the Tour de France. His three weeks crossing the high Alps and Pyrenean peaks was a testament to human ability and showcased the very best in terms of team work, self-sacrifice and an iron hard will to win.
For me these achievements highlight several things. Firstly the UK’s ever expanding role in global sport, both in terms of our individual sportsmen and role as an international hub of excellence (think of the Premiership).
Perhaps more significantly it also tells us something about the world. Can a more internationalised workplace than the Premier League be imagined? Players and owners come from all over the planet to try their luck. The same is true of rugby, golf and so many other sports.
Competition is ferocious yet British athletes are increasingly rising to the top, lifting the bar and breaking new ground.
How has this happened? UK sport has embraced the internationalisation of competition and competitors, becoming a global leader. We have looked outwards and reaped the benefits.
I emphasise this point because the debates around sport mirror those around the EU and international relations in general. We must look after our own interests but the best way of doing that is to engage, challenge and ultimately find the right way of reaching the top. Our sportsmen and women have shown us the way and politicians must take heed.
David Cameron talks about the global economic crisis like it’s someone else’s problem. It’s not. We’re part of a global economy and have been an international trade hub for centuries. Sticking our collective heads in the sand isn’t an option. I want the UK government to rise to the challenge rather than laying the blame!
Later this month our Olympic and Paralympic athletes will showcase the best of Britain. Their boldness and willingness to compete and be the best in a global system has many valuable lessons. I hope the Prime Minister is listening.
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