Roger Alton Roger Alton

Our (nearly) golden summer

Is it a coincidence that we seem to do worse at the big sports hidden away on Sky?

It seems like a long time ago, but back in the day, when Sir John Major launched the National Lottery, there was a fair bit of sanctimonious tut-tutting from the liberal establishment: it was a tax on the poor who couldn’t be trusted to spend their own money, it encouraged gambling, it was just a bit vulgar. And all that. Well, how’s that drivel looking now? A shedload of Team GB golds later, and how do those who sneered at the lottery feel about it today?

Notwithstanding Britain’s staggering achievements, the Games are not perfect, of course: there’s too much track cycling and way too many swimming events. And possibly — whisper this — a bit too much rowing. Golf and tennis shouldn’t be in the Olympics, but try telling that to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, or Andy Murray and Juan Martín del Potro, who battled out one of the sporting epics of the year, with a raucous crowd rooting wildly for the Scot because if there is one thing a Brazilian can’t stand it’s an Argie.

We all have our favourite bits: John Inverdale and Sir Steve Redgrave looking like two burly bickering coppers from Thames Valley CID in pursuit of some fugitive villain; the women’s cyclists all in plaits — even the gorgeous Jo Rowsell Shand, who had plaited her wig; the refugee team: the Sudanese farmers, Kenyan exiles and fugitives from the Syrian wars who have picked up a couple of medals — in shooting, which is what you’d expect if much of your life is spent in danger; the bravery of the cyclists on that narrow, steep descent in the road races; Adam Peaty, solid citizen of Staffordshire with a physique that could flatten a bull, shattering the world 100m breaststroke record and proudly belting out the national anthem as he looked around in wonder, savouring every moment.

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