Gale`s View – Wednesday 1st August 2012
 
There is no such thing as “a good loser”.
 
There are people who are able to accept defeat with courtesy and grace.. There are people who are able to treat with respect  those that have vanquished them. There are even those that take a real pleasure in being beaten by someone whose prowess and skill far exceeds their own and who enjoy a thrashing at the hands of a master of the art – whatever that art may be.
 
But people who compete do so because they wish to win.  It is not “the taking part” but crossing the line first or scaling the bar higher or throwing a javelin further, that matters.  That is the whole essence of competitive sport and that is why, in these few days, we shall all wish to allow some of whatever glory falls to Team GB to rub off on us and why those of us who care about this, in global terms, relative trivia, will have felt real pain on behalf of those who have worked and trained and striven so hard only to come second, or third, or worse. Losing is not “good”.
 
Years ago my eldest son was awestruck by the fact that Daley Thompson, truly the greatest all-round athlete of the modern Olympics, ate three shredded wheat for breakfast.  We knew that, in our household, because Daley used to call to join me at an early hour on his way to the location of television programme that we worked on together.
 
I was awestruck by Daley`s total inability to recognise defeat.  It was, quite simply, a word that did not exist in his lexicon.  He was not obsessive, just dedicated to the exclusion of everything other than achieving the objective in hand.   As a sportsman he started training earlier, worked harder, stayed out on the road or on the track or in the gym later and honed himself more finely, than anyone even remotely near him in the field.   He had, and from his recent television appearances I am delighted to see that he still has, a truly magnificent arrogance that comes with believing that, without question, you are simply the best.  He started with the huge advantage of knowing that everyone challenging him also knew that he was there to win, he intended to win and he was determined to win. And so he did.
 
Some time later I fought a by-election in Birmingham Northfield, following the death of the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament, Jocelyn Cadbury.  Mid-term in a parliament we were expected, even allowing for “The Falklands Factor” to lose this marginal but predominantly socialist swing seat by about 5000 votes. In fact, I lost that election by the smallest recorded swing in politics at 0.02% and just 279 votes after two recounts.  I was told that “we fought a good fight” and that I “had done well”. I hated it.  I was, I hope, suitably generous to my Labour opponent, John Spellar, who subsequently became a good parliamentary friend and colleague, but I doubt that I hid my real emotions very well.  I was “in it to win it” and in politics there are no silver or bronze medals. Just losers.  “You blew it, mate, didn`t you”, Daley would have said, and he would have been correct.
 
Those of whom we, at present, expect so much and who, for whatever good reason, do not achieve their goals endure a gut-wrenching experience.  To be subjected to anguish of sinew and mind is bearable if you end up at the top of the podium. If you are even one or two steps down,  or not there at all, is truly terrible and warrants only one response. Get back on the track, get up there again, and at the next opportunity go out and do better.
 
We have heard much of legacies and I trust that a great deal of benefit to our Country will flow from the thirtieth modern Olympiad but I hope above all that those young men and women at primary schools, at secondary schools, in further or higher education and in sports clubs around the land will take away one very clear message: do not tread on your fellow men, do not hurt people who may not enjoy your own good fortune or talent,  be magnanimous in victory but first go out and win. No other position is acceptable.

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