The best summer of Sport in living memory. Perhaps ever…

Andy MurrayIN YEARS to come, sports fans will look back on 2012 and recall that in the words of Harold MacMillan “We have never had it so good”, especially if you are British.

Whatever your sporting tastes, it was covered from the breathtaking and crushing/joyous moments. To name a few: Manchester City winning the Premiership in the 93rd minute, the masterful displays of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France and Olympics, or right through to Andy Murray’s victorious performance in the U.S Open.

The hours that some sports fans must have clocked up over the summer may have reached those of the thousands, especially with the festivals of sport like the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The slogan was ‘inspire a nation’ and to many spectators this will certainly have been inspiring. Especially after witnessing feats such as Gemma Gibbon in the Judo final, winning the silver medal. Her words of “I love you Mum” whilst looking towards the skies, pulled at everybody’s heartstrings as she had won her semi-final.
Then the Paralympic Games couldn’t fail to inspire anybody. Ellie Simmonds, who suffers from Achondroplasia, winning gold medals in the swimming was one example which made headlines and all fans behind Team GB proud, but the accomplishments of everyone in the games have to be lauded as simply extraordinary.

Like all good sports, there was an underdog. For years British tennis has always had a plucky underdog, and for most of our lives it was ‘Nice boy’ Tim Henman, who tried his hardest every time but never quite pulled it off, especially at Wimbledon. Even Cliff Richard couldn’t help him, so what hope was there for anybody else?

Then along came Andy Murray and for the last few years most people have just thought he was the moody Scot who got everybody’s hopes up but still had a case of chronic fallingatthelastfenceivitis. Then suddenly in late June, we found that we had someone from Great Britain in the final at Wimbledon. The first person from these Isles since Fred Perry who is better known in popular culture for his brand of trainers rather than his pre-war tennis exploits. So everybody thought it could be the year where we had a British Wimbledon winner, without really giving Roger Federer credit for being the best tennis player on a grass court since Pete Sampras, if not of all time, and Federer beat him cueing tears from Murray, his family and the section of the nation who had lost money at the bookmakers.

Then we decided he was Scottish again, until nearly a month later at the Olympics, where we found him in another tennis final. After what had happened a month previously, not many people gave him too much of a chance and not many paid attention but then to everyone’s surprise, he won. A British sportsman had won something! But, someone somewhere had denied us our real sense of achievement when it turned out it didn’t count as a grand slam.

Fast forward another month and a few days and Murray was in another final, a ‘proper’ final this time in the U.S open against Novak Djokovic who has been supreme in the last year since realising he was allergic to wheat and hadn’t looked back since then. In a final that will probably be referenced in the same way that snooker’s black ball final was in the 1980’s between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor, where half the nation stayed up until the small hours to watch the climax, this time half the nation stayed up to watch Murray win his first grand slam. Ever. Our first since Greg Rusedski in 1997 when he too won the U.S open, which nobody ever seems to remember anyway. So the plucky underdog overcame all the odds and accomplished his dream, all in the space of two months. Great drama.

But perhaps the biggest and most important sporting event over the summer was one that went under the radar for the majority of this year until it occurred, not in any way to demean the event but because there was so much else going on. The publishing of the findings of the Independent enquiry into the Hillsborough Football Disaster in 1989. While not as joyous or celebratory as the Olympics, it was far more significant and brought home how futile and pointless sport can be, when compared to the loss of lives.

96 Liverpool fans travelled to Hillsborough for a cup tie and never came home. Boys as young as 14, right up to adults, were killed as a result of the ineptness of the police in the area and in the ground on the day. The final outcome that, contrary to what The Sun said, it was not the fault of the fans as to who was in the ground that day, but that of the people who were supposed to be protecting them. Answers finally to the parents, siblings and families of those who were lost that day, and for those families to finally get some form of closure is, in my opinion, far more important than any other sports related event this summer.