Dom G
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Why The Torch Matters, And What It Means To Me

Dom G
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29 Jun 2012

I’ve never thought about what it would be like to ‘trend’.  To be honest I’m not completely sure I know what it means.  I’m not the biggest fan of being talked about (makes putting together a big public campaign seem a really good idea), but apparently an interview I did with BBC London (click link to listen) was trending for a day or so this week. 

A colleague at CAFOD just asked me what it feels like to ‘trend’.  It was the same colleague who asked me what it felt like to be 27 the day after my birthday.  Absolutely no different, obviously.  But it got me thinking, and though trending means nothing beyond suggesting that people are interested (good for the campaign), the interview itself meant something.

The clip is one of a few segments of a chat I had with BBC London on during the week.  The full interview will be aired on 26 July, the day I carry the Torch, but they’re trailing some clips in advance.  In the midst of another mad week – with work, crises in Sudan/South Sudan and the Sahel region of West Africa, and a global food system so fractured that 1 billion people are hungry right now despite the fact there is enough food for everyone, alongside the need to get through enough training miles on the road or in the pool, as well as see some friends and watch as much football and tennis as possible – the interview gave me the chance to stand still and reflect on a moment that is starting to loom larger every day. 

Being honest, I’m uneasy about carrying the Torch.  It’s the greatest honour I’ve ever been given, and probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s come out of one of the worst things that’s happened in my life, and I’d trade it in a heartbeat to hang out with Steven again. 

That’s feeling led to Leading Lights.  I thought I’d done my bit with the Mad Hatters Challenge – after that the plan was to quietly hang up the running shoes and retire the bike, watching LLR with affection, but from afar.  But it was pretty quickly pretty clear that, if I were to keep the Torch as something just for me would be incredibly selfish and a complete waste.  In my view, those of us granted this incredible opportunity – with all the exposure and attention it brings – have a responsibility to use it to do as much good as possible. 

The Kenyan children I talk about in the clip show us all why it matters.  They’ve got nothing material, but they all wanted to hold the Torch and be part of the experience.  It matters to them, despite the fact they’re born with the dice loaded horribly against them, because the Olympics – and therefore the Flame – is a universal symbol of courage and hope.  These things without material value may seem dated or corny to those of us for whom hope is an option, but if it matters to them it should matter to us because, despite some of the tragic and gut-wrenching ways blood cancers have touched our lives, we’re still the lucky ones. 

There’s a new poll today that suggests public support for the Olympics has dropped from 75% to 62%.  Unbelievable.  People can have their concerns about commercialisation, or creaking transport networks, but the Olympics is bigger than that.  For a few weeks every four years, something happens that brings together more than half the world’s population.  The world’s greatest gathering for good.  And this year it’s here.  And we’re all part of it.  And despite McDonalds and Coca Cola and all those other ridiculous sponsors – at its heart it’s still about humanity.

You all remember Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani (video link), who turned up at Sydney 2000 with a wildcard to represent Equatorial Guinea in the 100m freestyle.  He only started swimming lessons 8 months before the Games, had never seen a 50m swimming pool before he dived in, and barely made it to the end.  But because of false starts he won his heat.  For me, that’s still the central beauty of the Games – we get to celebrate peerless sporting excellence, but we also get to witness and celebrate an excellent of spirit that doesn’t often have the chance to shine from such a platform. 

Which brings me back to the campaign.  It’s no accident that it’s called Leading Light.  The Light can mean anything you want it to.  For me, right now, it’s the Torch.  The Torch Relay is a decent metaphor for what this campaign aims to be.  8000 people will have carried it before the Games begin – each of us arriving at the relay because of our own journeys, about to embark on a new one, but this time heading in the same direction. 

Everyone (still) reading this is on their own journey.  Some of our favourite companions on along the way have been replaced by blood cancer – and we have no choice but to carry it with us.  But while we’re all still on the road, it doesn’t mean we’re lost. 

So they’ve given me a light we can get behind, but it doesn’t mean I’m the Leading Light.  It’s not about me, or sporting achievements, or the Torch as anything more than a good metaphor.  It’s a big group of people who are on the same road, a little bit broken and a little bit determined, working out how they can do their bit. 

£1 million is a lot.  I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but it doesn’t matter.  There are enough of us on this road, and because of LLR we know where we’re going – a world without blood cancer.  We can move at our own pace, in our own time, and heal along the way, but we’ll get there.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only trend that really matters.
 

Have a good weekend

Dom