26 Jul 2013

A nation expects at London’s Anniversary Games

The London Anniversary Games starts on Friday, but unlike 12 months ago, the nation goes into the festival of track and field expectant rather than hopeful, writes Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.

What a difference 12 months makes. Many sceptics and doubters were yet to be convinced that hosting the Olympics and Paralympics was anything more than just a four week party, where we might pick up the odd medal.

And to be fair, the analysis of whether the Games was a success beyond the medal count is currently ongoing. But the lift in morale and unity it gave the nation can’t be counted in financial growth.

The Olympics was the springboard to what has been an incredible 12 months for British sport, including success in golf, tennis, cycling, rugby and seemingly cricket.

But a year on we’re back where it all started. Stratford, East London. Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and the rest are back in town – but this time they’re bringing Paralympic stars Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockcroft and crew.

Top talent go for gold

The International Paralympic Committee World Championships are in full swing and London gets its chance to embrace the superhumans once again this Sunday (Channel 4, 3pm).

Peacock, the poster boy of British disability sports, will be racing in the T44 100 metres, fresh from winning gold in the 100 metres at the Lyon World Championships. And if you cast your minds back to last year’s Paralympics, Peacock made his name beating the then unbeatable Oscar Pistorius in the same race.

Wheelchair racer Hannah Cockcroft will also be flying the flag for Great Britain, as she reinforces herself as the world’s leading T34 sprinter. Cockcroft, who also shot to fame at the London Games with a double gold, replicated that this week with another two at the IPC World Championships.

It seems that disability sport is finally getting the stage it’s craved, alongside able-bodied athletes. A huge statement from the authorities and sponsors to combine the two events in what can only be a reaction to the change in attitudes from the British public to Paralympic events.

Athletes like Richard Whitehead and Shelly Woods are now seen as talented, hard-working, world class sportsmen and women and deserving of the same platform as Jessica Ennis-Hill and James Dasaolu.

Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are without doubt the standout, household names of the weekend. But with the IPC sharing the same weekend, Paralympians are one step closer to becoming the international stars they seem destined to be. It’s fair to say a year on, going into these Games, for once Great Britain is demanding gold medals rather than asking for them.

One thing is for sure, the nation and definitely the capital will get a short, sharp injection this weekend of what was possibly Britain’s proudest month.