Michael Brown: London represents a golden opportunity

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Nick Willis wanted to be like his boyhood hero John Walker. Photo / AP.
Nick Willis wanted to be like his boyhood hero John Walker. Photo / AP.

Slogans are invariably a bit naff and the official London Olympics one - Inspire a Generation - is intended to be vague enough to be used on many levels but it's something that could also apply to the New Zealand Olympic team.

New Zealand have a golden chance, if you'll excuse the pun, to not only bring home the best medal haul in some time - perhaps ever - but also inspire Kiwis to similar feats in the future. It's a fairly broad concept but also a significant responsibility.

As much as a lot of kids want to be Dan Carter, Laura Langman or Brendon McCullum, some might one day want to be like Valerie Adams or Mahe Drysdale.

Nick Willis certainly did. New Zealand's flag bearer at these Games wanted to be like his boyhood hero John Walker and rower Eric Murray has spoken about how Rob Waddell was a big influence on his career. All the money in the world can be pumped into high performance sport but it won't deliver success if the raw materials aren't around.

High Performance Sport New Zealand, the agency that dishes out the Government's money, have targeted "10 or more" medals in London. This would take this country's historical total past 100, but other predictions vary wildly.

USA Today have forecasted 17 medals, including five golds, Sports Illustrated expect us to win 16 medals (five golds), Associated Press believe New Zealand are in line for 14 medals and the Wall Street Journal have penned in 13 medals (five golds).

Contrast that with more pessimistic prophesiers - PricewaterhouseCoopers have crunched the numbers and come up with just seven medals - and it shows the vagaries of Olympic competition and folly of predictions.

Of course, the only true measure of success is the final medal tally at the end Games. Kiwis will only really be satisfied with medals because it's what defines us at the Olympic Games and makes us feel important as a nation.

The rowers, sailors, cyclists, eventers, Adams (shot put), Lisa Carrington (canoe sprint) and Andrea Hewitt (triathlon) represent the best hopes and there's a chance New Zealand can eclipse the 13 won in Seoul in 1988.

That would be big news in New Zealand but will barely create barely a ripple globally given it's only a slice of the 2415 medals on offer in London.

There will be blood, sweat and tears - and not just on London's creaking transport system - and more gaffs than the one that saw the South Korean flag pictured alongside profiles of the North Korean players before their opening match with Colombia.

But ultimately these Olympics will be remembered for what happens in competition. People will watch the showdown between sprinters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake or swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and whether Bradley Wiggins can follow up his historic win in the Tour de France with another Olympic gold because it's pure drama.

The hand of big business might be infiltrating the Olympic ideal horribly but the Games are still, ultimately, about sporting excellence. And they can still inspire a generation.

- APNZ

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