Who's Sorry Now

Remember Arthur Fonzarelli a.k.a. The Fonz?

There’s a great scene in the American comedy series Happy Days where Fonzy, a cool, much admired lady killer in a leather jacket, tight jeans and a quiff the size of the Statue Of Liberty, has to admit to the loser Ralph Malph that he made a mistake when advising him to join the Marines.

“I was Wrngggggg”, he says as the word ‘wrong’ sticks in his throat. He tries again. “I was wrrrrrrgggg” he mumbles, pained and incapable of admitting he’s less than perfect. “You mean you were wrong?” asks an incredulous Malph with a huge smile. The Fonz looks away hurt as if hit across the face with days old fish wrapped in wet underpants.

I now know how The Fonz felt as it’s difficult to say that you were wrong when you think you’re always right, but I’m going to have step up here and proclaim very loudly, “I was wrong”. There, it’s not that difficult is it?

So what am I admitting to? I wrote a blog at the beginning of summer saying I didn’t want the Olympics here in the UK and that it would be an enormous waste of money and an embarrassing failure. I criticised the whole scheme and said no one was interested. Since I wrote, not only was it considered the most successful summer Olympics since Zeus drove his chariot from the clouds to open the first Games and Aphrodite won gold for synchronised swimming, the follow up Paralympics has now taken on legendary global status with record crowds and TV audiences. Apart, of course, from America where NBC deemed it about as important as cheese wrapping and consigned it to one, short, broadcast.

In the end our London roads didn’t grind to a halt, our underground trains continued to move, and everyone had a smile on their face as thousands of kind volunteers kept the thing running smoothly and historically.

I sat in the Olympic stadium for the Paralympics’ athletics, joining eighty thousand others in awe of athletes running on blades instead of legs, being guided round the track in races for the blind by sighted helpers who train every bit as hard as they do, throwing heavy shot putts from wheelchairs further than I could throw a tennis ball, and all of us teary as the anthems played to hail another success.

I will always, and I mean always, remember the fifteen hundred metres heat, four laps of the track with every athlete home and dry apart from one obviously pained runner who still had two laps to go. A one armed, limping man named Houssein Omar Hussan, the only athlete sent by his country Djibouti, hobbled round for eight hundred metres on his own. As I noticed him getting lapped, initially I felt sorry for him but this turned to total admiration. He refused to bow out. He wanted to finish for pride. I have tears in my eyes as I write this, remembering as I stood with the rest of the stadium and applauded him all the way round those lonely hundreds of metres.    

That’s what you missed NBC, you idiots.  A spirit that speaks to generations, an endeavour that feeds souls and encourages the triumph of hope. In this light your network branding stands for No Bloody Clue.

So, I and NBC were wrong, wrong, wrong. The Olympics and Paralympics were a one off. A bit like me admitting I made a mistake.

It will take more than four years for me to do that again.