At about 6.15pm yesterday I closed my laptop and started eleven days of Christmas – I don’t return to work until 2 January. With the hustle and bustle of work behind me for a while I have been thinking about 2013 and all that it holds. But before I do that, I want to reflect on 2012 and pick out my sporting highlight and lowlight.
If you are British and a sports fan then 2012 has been the year of a lifetime. We have won a tennis major, a golf major, the Ryder Cup, the Tour de France, an away Test series against India and roundly thumped the All Blacks – all major achievements in their own right. But it is difficult to look beyond the Olympics for my best moment of the year.
A home Olympics was a real privilege and my television didn’t leave BBC 1 for nearly three weeks. Team GB served up a feast of sporting achievements and a record medal haul. But the highlight for me came on Saturday 4 August on what has now become known in Britain as “Golden Saturday”. Two TeamGB gold medals in the rowing and one in the track cycling during the day were just the hors d’oeuvre that preceded the feast that was to be served up in the Olympic Stadium that night.
My sporting highlight of 2012 was the last of the three athletics gold medals we won in the space of an hour that night. M0 Farah in the 10,000 metres. That is not to take anything away from Jess Ennis or Greg Rutherford, but distance running is my thing. We weren’t sure about Mo’s form coming into the Olympics. He had lost in the 10,000 metres in the World Championships the year before and had lost in shorter races in the build up. But how could we have doubted him. He looked relaxed and in control during the race and took it on with 600 metres left. The noise inside the stadium during the last lap was incredible – it was pretty hectic in our kitchen too as we all left our seats and jumped up and down with excitement. I think “Go on Mo!” was the most used phrase in Britain that weekend! When Mo crossed the line doing the “Mobot” I thought Crammy in the BBC commentary box was going to explode. A moment to savour forever.
My low moment was the announcement that Lance Armstrong had decided not to contest the USADA doping allegations at their hearing. It was not a low moment because I wanted him to contest them, it was low because to me it was the point at which he tacitly admitted he was guilty. From there it spiralled out of control for him with USADA, WADA and then the UCI upholding charges that he doped and stripping him of his seven Tour titles. An unseemly and unecessary stain across a beautiful sport.
I am not bent out of shape because Lance Armstrong took drugs. It is not right and I don’t condone it, but on a Tour where you either doped or fell off the back of the peloton it is easy to see the temptation. In the minds of the cyclists doping simply made it a level playing field because everyone was at it. I am offended more by Armstrong’s continued hubristic denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.
At some point in the late 1990s Lance Armstrong did a deal with the Devil. He left his soul on a hill climb somewhere in the French Alps and he has to live with that forever. My hope for 2013 is that he decides to confess in full and take the consequences whatever they are and lets the truth set him free. That could well be my sporting highlight of next year.