Four years ago the Olympics came to my home town of London for the 2012 Games. It was a great time of optimism for Great Britain that time. We had the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and we thrived like a strong powerful patriotic island nation. Everyone across the world looked to us as a land of hope and glory with opportunism for all walks of life. I could never have been so proud a Briton watching this magnificent spectacle.
The mission of the London 2012 Games was to ‘inspire a generation’ and as Lord Sebastian Coe put it the Games would inspire many people to take up sport and invest in developing talent and infrastructure. The East End of London was transformed from a derelict wasteland into a thriving community of sport with the Olympic Park now the Queen Elizabeth Park with all kinds of sporting activities going on a daily basis. There are rowers in the river, cyclists going along the paths, runners jogging along the paths and sports lessons taking place in the arenas used in the games like the velodrome and the aquatics centre. As for the human legacy of the games they have increased participation in sports unlike anything this country has ever seen. It’s great to see that enthusiasm flourish across the country as well. Here is my story on how London 2012 inspired me to not only take up a sport but advanced it.
Of all the sports in the games there is one that I was particulary curious about. That was archery and I had been interested in it but never taken the time to explore it. My interest in archery began as a fanboy of classic adventure and fantasy shows on TV and film like Robin Hood, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and reruns of classic cartoons on Sky TV. Looking back at my time enjoying them I often wondered if I had been aware of archery’s presence as a proper sport then maybe I would have taken it up a lot sooner before London 2012. I didn’t have long to wait as archery was the first sport of the games to be played and I was glued to the TV as I watched these archers come out for the first time and I saw their amazing bows. They looked nothing like what I was expecting with their long rods and technical sights and other inventory. It was even more surprising to see what kind of quivers they wore. Up until then I had never heard of a side quiver or even bows and arrows made from metal and synthetic materials. It was a real eye opener to see what modern target archery was all about.
After the games I went onto find an archery club and take some lessons in how to use a bow and arrow. I also took the time to geek myself about archery by reading about it and exploring the types of archery there was. It was a great passion that expanded the fandom that I endorsed. It was like exploring a new territory of my being that had never been endorsed. The effect of London 2012 would stay with me for a very long time. Now I have become such a big archery geek that I was determined to make my own mark with my own bow. Of course I did have aspirations to become an Olympian myself but along the way my ambitions got sidetracked because I had discovered opportunities. When I got into archery I came across a sport that was very inclusive to all types of people from all walks of life. I have shared targets with able bodied people, disabled people, youngsters, other ethnic groups and people older than myself. This was a great community of sportspeople to be a part of but it didn’t look like it to outsiders.
Archery is a minority sport like lawn bowls, squash, ten pin bowling, judo, sailing, rowing and diving. The problem with these sports as I discovered was that although they are inclusive they appear as exclusive and isolated from mainstream culture. Major sports like football, boxing, rugby and cricket are able to make vast swathes of money, sponsorship and ticket sales because they are run by astute business people who know creative ways to sell them, which allows them to make a big presence in popular culture. This led me to believe that the reason why I never got access to target archery when I was young was because the people who run the clubs and the sporting organisation were not able to sell themselves effectively. Most of their management are run by people with backgrounds in charities and local community work and were funded largely by subsidies from government backed sports charities like UK Sport. I was told by my fellow archers at my club that there is no money in archery or any minority sport for that matter.
I however believed that they could be better and I wanted wanted to achieve something better than what the current Olympic archers had got out of archery other than medals and playing at big sporting events. This is where I saw an opportunity for my own goals. Instead of trying to go for my own gold medals at this stage go for a golden opportunity to make archery better. What I can do to bring to archery that makes me better than a professional archer or the archery industry itself. Well I’m a political activist and as a Conservative with friends in politics I can bring archery to the attention of popular culture. When I was a volunteer at the Commonweath Games in Glasgow 2014 I saw an opportunity to improve archery as I talked about it at the games and I found some way to improve it there. I set up a campaign to make archery a core sport at the Commonwealth Games to promote it’s current status as an optional sport. I put up a petition to raise awareness and call for the President of the Commonwealth Games to make it happen.
A few months later I promoted the petition in the archery media and thanks to them the petition was widely known and I became an invisible celebrity amongst the archery community. Afterward I seized another opportunity to gain sponsorship for new equipment for my archery gear. I became a blogger for Legend Archery and with that I was able to reach out to the archery world as a popular sport writer and adventurer. I wrote so many posts over the last twelve months that I probably learned more about archery than my friends did that I was able to write references and articles for people that were not available elsewhere like the archery equivalent of King Arthur’s Excalibur, the types of clothing and fashion of modern target archery, the science of how bows and arrows work and my favourite archery gadget: quivers. It became such a good opportunity that I developed business connections with people within the archery community itself.
The connections that I have established in my role as a blogger and campaigner has led me to consider my employment prospects and providing me with a future to play at the Commonwealth Games for Team England. To that end I have decided to combine my love of archery and my love of science and invention to create my own archery equipment business. Now with the Rio 2016 Olympics on the horizon I feel like I can lead an example to the archery community and the legacy of the two great sporting events of the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games to show the world how minority sports can be better. The Olympic legacy has certainly inspired me in a way I never expected it to. My life is full of so many surprises it can certainly make an interesting read that Sebastian Coe would be proud of. Now I must go and advance my business and get to work on improving archery.