By Nic Higham (Inpatient Care Consultant and Health Care Support Worker)
Being somebody who has never really been into sport and who is allergic to most kinds of popular national hype, I thought I’d be successful in avoiding all manifestations of the 2012 Olympic Games. How wrong I was. Not because I chose to avoid it but because I involuntarily caught the bug. For me London 2012 wasn’t just about sport; it was about the global community coming together, celebrating amazing human achievement and expressing powerful emotion.
A Welcome Epidemic of Tears
From weeping runners, sobbing rowers to blubbering judo stars and bawling long jumpers, these great athletes (both female and male) demonstrated that it was okay to openly communicate emotion. And it wasn’t just the sport stars; spectators and commentators were also seen to shed plenty of tears throughout the games. The Telegraph put it like this: ‘We are in the age of the new emotionalism, where it is not only acceptable but almost compulsory to let it all hang out, to give free rein to our innermost feelings.’ And the Daily Mail: ‘Emotional is a perfect, one-word description of the 2012 London Olympics — the leitmotiv, or guiding spirit. It’s used continually by competitors, commentators and spectators’.
For the athletes, the Olympics is the peak of years of training and so this event represents all kinds of emotions. Dominican athlete Felix Sanchez’ tears for example, were a mix of joy at having won the gold medal for the 400-meter hurdles, but also sorrow as he had previously found out his grandmother had died on the day of his heat in Beijing in 2008. Cycling superstar Sir Chris Hoy who now has six gold medals to his name, also demonstrated that he isn’t afraid to openly cry upon receiving his gold medal; his reward for four years of hard work
Crying is cathartic for us all. When tears are shed the emotions which have built up inside us are released helping us maintain a state of good mental health. Empathy is built into the human system and even watching the games at home unlocked this important quality.
Celebrating Amazing Human Achievement
The retired British middle distance athlete Dame Kelly Holmes told BBC news: “London 2012 has the ability to inspire people from so many walks of life, and so many abilities and disabilities, to get involved in sport.”
It was amazing to watch South African sprint runner Oscar Pistorius (otherwise known as “Blade Runner” because of his prosthetic limbs) make it through to the 400m relay final. He was born without the fibula bone in either of his legs, and both were amputated below the knee before he learned to walk. On 4th August 2012 he became the first double leg amputee ever to participate in the Olympic Games.
As cyclist Joanna Rowsell completed a lap of honour after winning Olympic gold, she removed her helmet to confidently reveal her bald head. Extraordinarily, her win in the women’s cycling team fell on International Alopecia Day which seeks to raise awareness of the condition. Joanna hopes she can be inspiration to other girls with the condition and help raise awareness of it. As a teenager she had little confidence but cycling soon became her main focus and her looks no longer mattered. She told BBC news: “When I started winning that was the best feeling ever. I wasn’t going to stop; I wasn’t going to let it hold me back. You only live once, so go for it.”
South Korea’s archery team is said to be the best in the world. The remarkable Im Dong-hyun, who is part of the team is visually impaired making his target appear very blurred. As he’s become so accustomed to seeing the target this way that he’s chosen not to improve his sight with glasses or contact lenses. Incredible how we can adapt and so inspiring that he set an individual record this year. Im Dong-hyun doesn’t compete in the Paralympics as there are no events for blind or visually impaired archers in the games!!
Great Britain’s Nick Skelton won us our 17th gold in the show jumping at Greenwich Park. After breaking his neck in 2000 he thought he’d never ride again. The upper half of Skelton’s spine was immobilised for five months but with time and treatment by a German specialist, his bones eventually healed and he returned to his sport in 2002. He also came through hip replacement surgery to reach this year’s Olympics. Skelton is now due a back operation but has no plans to leave his passion behind. He described winning gold this year as his “greatest moment”.
Team Heather Ward Have Olympic Fun
The Olympic Games is one of many seasonal / festive occasions mental health wards can celebrate. Heather ward at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust had loads of fun throughout the games. Staff and patients got involved in games (including an egg and spoon race), a special buffet lunch, smoothie making and art activities. There was something for everyone to get involved in including helping to create a wall display.
The atmosphere on the wards here in Leicester has been great.There’s been a lot of excitement, jubilant cheering as well as the odd tear. The patients have really got behind Team GB and have been encouraged and enabled to play their own part in the festivities. Therapeutic Liaison Worker Tara King said, “It was brilliant to see the ladies enjoy the occasion. Patients can feel cut off from the rest of the world so we always try to do things so they feel connected with the community. The Olympics also shows them what it’s possible to achieve. It really brightened up the ward.”