The aftermath of Euro 2020 has been quite unlike any other international tournament wash-up. And we at Sportside, like the vast majority of the country, deplore the vile abuse directed at the players whose penalties didn’t go in and give England the victory it craved.
But from this abuse, there is a sense that the anti-racism campaign grows stronger, and even more so among the younger generation for whom the idea of labelling someone because of their colour, gender, size or ability is utterly alien to them.
So there were many victories for England to savour from Euro 2020 – and plenty to take encouragement from when Gareth Southgate’s team go again at the World Cup in Qatar next year. He has built a team that exudes confidence and capability and one that earns a bit of luck as it goes. The final bit of luck eluded them with the last kick of the tournament, but they will be back.
And while Sunday night saw the end of one major sporting occasion for 2020, there is still so much to savour, particularly the Olympic Games in Tokyo which start on July 23.
Expectations will be sky high for Team GB, and rightly so. While it delivered our best Games ever as hosts in 2012 (was that really nine years ago?!), it went one better in Rio 2016 with a haul of 67 medals, compared with 65 in 2012.
Of course, it was only 25 years ago that Great Britain won only one gold in Atlanta (Redgrave and Pinsent’s rowing). A nadir that the British public – and British government decided simply wasn’t good enough.
The Prime Minister at the time was John Major and he took the bold decision to start funneling funds from ‘his’ National Lottery into the British Olympic team. It was possibly his finest move as Prime Minister, and the success Team GB has enjoyed ever since is directly attributable to his decision.
The impact that Lottery funding has had on Team GB is celebrated in a brilliant three-part series on BBC iPlayer called Gold Rush: Our Race to Olympic Glory. The series takes us back to Atlanta as Linford Christie recounts his disqualification from the 100m final for two false starts before we are shown more baton-dropping relay disasters, Kelly Holmes suffering with injury and riders being ejected from their horses. In the year that football was coming home for the first time, our Olympians were bringing very little home in terms of medals.
But the series goes on to tell the story of how the Lottery was able to change the narrative, and how sports across the Olympic spectrum used the funds to create elite sporting conditions and prepare athletes and teams that knew how to win.
With impeccable timing the National Lottery operator Camelot has launched its biggest brand campaign to date to remind us that every lottery ticket we buy supports Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes competing at the Olympic Games.
The commercial shows sprinter Jonnie Peacock, wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley, taekwondo athlete Lutalo Muhammad, discus thrower Dan Greaves, paracanoeist Emma Wiggs MBE and race walker Tom Bosworth.
It shows members of the public trying to support the athletes by making cups of tea, attempting to put them through their paces and giving them household items for them to practise with (piles of plates for discuses etc).
As the ad ends the voiceover (Dermot O’Leary) says: “There is an easier way to support our athletes. Just play the National Lottery. When you play a little, you help our athletes a lot.”
It’s a simple message – and the 25 years of lottery funding going to help Team GB is essentially a simple process. Buy a lottery ticket and – even if you don’t win the jackpot yourself – you will contribute to medal success in Tokyo.
All ads throughout the campaign will be badged with the Team GB and ParalympicsGB logos, and Lotto “It could be you” TV ads will be updated with a Tokyo “twist” – a further reminder to players of the part they play in funding the nation’s athletes. And when the Games start, commercials will celebrate gold medals as they happen in real time.
Keith Moor, Camelot’s chief marketing officer, told Campaign: “Through the scale and reach of this campaign – the National Lottery’s largest ever – we want players left in no doubt of the role that they play in supporting our Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
“Our blockbuster TV ad – starring an incredible group of our Team GB and ParalympicsGB heroes – will be followed by high-impact out of home, an unmissable retail presence and thumb-stopping stories on digital. Then, as the Games get under way and the medal count begins, we’ll plant ourselves at the heart of Team GB and ParalympicsGB triumphs to remind the nation that our athletes’ success is built on play.”
The BBC, as ever, will be supporting the Games night and day. Following its quite brilliant coverage of the Euros, the Beeb has announced its schedule, with over 350 hours of network TV coverage of the Games and a live stream available on the iPlayer and the Red Button.
There will be a new virtual reality studio at dock10 in Salford where presenters and pundits will be based, including: Michael Johnson, Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Katherine Grainger, Nicola Adams, Rebecca Adlington, Victoria Pendleton. Presenting the action will be the stellar cast of Gabby Logan, Clare Balding, Hazel Irvine, Dan Walker, Jason Mohammad, Alex Scott, JJ Chalmers and Sam Quek. Meanwhile Jeanette Kwakye and Nihal Arthanayake will host an extra highlights show daily on BBC Two. Mark Chapman, Rachel Burden, Kelly Cates and JJ Chalmers will lead the radio coverage on 5 Live.
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, sayid: “There will be something for everyone on the BBC for Tokyo 2020, with a huge range of content available across TV, radio and online, plusa world-class line-up of presenters and pundits.The anticipation for this year’s Olympics is higher than ever, and we’re proud to be showcasing the very best of the action.”
And, of course, because we haven’t got our fill of football yet this summer, it all begins in Tokyo with Team GB’s women’s football team playing their group opener at 8.15am on Wednesday July 21.
No, we didn’t win Euro 2020 but I believe our players inspired a nation. Now it’s the turn of our Olympic athletes to do the same.