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12th of the 12th of the 12th …a good time to look back

Here we are a couple of weeks off Christmas on the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of this millennium, and I think it's a good time to take a backward glance. I think we might have expected 2012 to be a special year for Great Britain with the coming together of both the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But in these years of global recession and the worst summer anyone can remember, I think we were prepared for both to be fairly low-key events on the world stage.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

But how wrong could we be! 2012 was amazing, spectacular, incredible, awesome and extraordinary in so many ways. The year, like the Olympics started slowly, as in June we had already been blown away by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which, in spite of the appalling weather for the final River Thames pageant, showed such an outpouring of affection and respect for our monarch from every corner of the world, that I think both the Queen and the British people were delighted and very proud indeed.

The Royal Pageant on the River Thames

But then, with the cheers of millions of cycling fans still ringing in our ears, as Bradley Wiggins won the gruelling Tour de France, the London Olympic Games commenced. Although preceded by the inevitable whinging and moaning by certain sections of society whimpering that Britain could never compete with the Chinese extravaganza of 2008, the opening ceremony in London was so gob-smackingly amazing it silenced most of the critics at a stroke. Over the succeeding two weeks we watched in awesome wonder as a truly breath-taking global event unfolded, supplying spectacle after spectacle to an enthralled world. Hundreds of records were smashed and much more significantly, many of the repressed women of the world finally found a sporting platform on which they could excel and attain recognition and approbation.

But then, just when we thought it was all over, the Paralympic Games started. I have to admit I had always felt a bit awkward about the Paralympics; I guess I, like many people, was selfishly distressed by so much human damage and disfigurement being so highly visible, forgetting of course that if you’re the one who is disabled, you may want to minimise the downside and try to be as normal, competitive and motivated as the next person. And so it was something of a revelation to watch paralympic sport with real interest for the first time, and it appears that, as I discovered paralympic sport, so did the rest of the world, as the stadiums were packed, the TV viewing figures were far in excess of expectation and the atmosphere at the events was electric.

But we hadn’t finished! In tennis Scotland’s Andy Murray, having won Olympic gold in London went on to snatch the US Open; his first Grand Slam victory after a run of four defeats. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy became the world’s finest golfer winning the US PGA Championship by a record eight strokes, then going on to be a key part of the European Ryder Cup Team which, in the most dramatic golf competition of all time, wrested victory from the United States having been written off 10-4 down at the end of the second day. So YES, 2012 has been a very special year indeed and I don't think we will see its like again for quite a while - but I hope that won't stop us trying.

In the UK at this time of year, the BBC puts on an annual event called ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ in which TV viewers vote for their favourite sports person of the year. There’s usually a shortlist of 10 names, but this year they simply could not reduce the shortlist to less than 12, and with a year like 2012 you can understand why. The 12 names cover Cycling, Sailing, Boxing, Athletics, Rowing, Golf, Tennis and Swimming, but in a year of such outstanding achievement in sport how can one name be fairly selected from the list.

Seb Coe

For me, simply because of the vast range of excellence this year and the difficulty in selecting just one name, there is a person I’d nominate as Britain’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year’, and that would be Sebastian Coe. A middle distance runner himself with two gold Olympic medals for the 1500M in 1980 and 1984, he  headed up the successful bid to host the London Olympics. He was chairman of the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and, in effect delivered the best Olympic and Paralympic Games the world has ever seen. I think the seven years’ hard work of steering this vast organisation from bid to bed in such spectacular style deserves the country’s gratitude. He already has a life peerage, an MBE and OBE, so the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012 would, in my opinion, be very appropriate, justified and richly deserved in this remarkable year of superlatives.

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