So the curtain has fallen on the ‘happy and glorious’ London Olympic Games. As the competing athletes exit stage right to London’s airports and the country awaits – with now heightened anticipation – the Paralympic Games, we have a chance to reflect on just how it’s all gone.
As a Londoner, born and bred, I’ve taken great delight in how a) London can put on a pretty decent show when asked, b) that Team GB secured a dazzling 65 medals (just 23 behind the far more-peopled China), and c) that Team GB represented the multiculturalism which I love of London.
Sir Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Nicola Adams, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and Mo Farah were just some of the amazing athletes which set the Olympic venues alight and made Britain bristle with pride. And in representing Team GB, it mattered not that Sir Chris Hoy was of Scottish origin, while Mo Farah was of Somali origin – all contested for medals under the same flag. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown‘s piece on the Mail Online today celebrates the diversity of Britain which Mo Farah and so many other athletes represent.
Meanwhile, although success has poured forth for Team GB, the road to London for many other athletes has not been paved with gold medals. For them it was about something even greater.
Take the other athlete called Mohammed Farah. Or Zamzam Mohammed Farah to be precise. Ms Farah ran in the first heat of the women's 400 metres, she spoke of the threats she has faced since competing. As BBC News reports, Zamzam has faced threats since she competed.
Many parts of Somalia are controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabab which opposes activities they consider to be ‘western’. The 21-year-old says that her parents have been warned that once she returns, she will be dealt with. In spite of these threats Zamzam Mohammed Farah is returning home.
Speaking before the Games, Ms Farah said medals were not a priority for her: "I am not going there to win, but for pride... I will be representing my flag, my soil and its people." She has done that, and the tragedy is that she runs the risk of losing her life for her courageous act.
Meanwhile marathon runner Guour Marial was determined to take part in the Olympics, despite his country (South Sudan) not as yet officially recognised by the IOC. So while Ms Farah was able to represent her flag, Guour Marial could not. Marial ran as an independent athlete under the Olympic flag and came 47th in yesterday’s marathon. As Reuters reports, Marial was born in the early stages of the bloody civil war, during the course of which he ended up losing eight siblings and 20 other family members. When he was 10, Marial was kidnapped and forced into hard labour. He hasn’t seen his parents since 1993 and on Sunday, they finally got a chance to see their son – albeit on a TV screen in a town about 30 miles away from the place where they live.
The South Sudanese athlete said he was going to run for his family and to raise awareness about South Sudan and refugees who fled the conflict. Like Ms Farah, Guour Marial had something to prove as he ran. At a news conference prior to the competition, Marial said that he hoped “the young generation in South Sudan will see me and be able to dream high for the next years to come.”
As printed in countless spaces, including the hoop of the basketball rim I noticed while watching yesterday’s Gold Medal match, the London Olympics were intended to ‘inspire a generation’. While I’m sure thousands of young Brits have been motivated by these Games, I hope that thousands of young women and men from both Somalia and Sudan have been inspired by the acts of Zamzam Mohammed Farah and Guour Marial.
I’ll be keeping an eye on news reports out of Somalia to see how these Zamzam Mohammed Farah - an extremely brave athlete will fare upon her return. Meanwhile, if you’ve inspired by the great athletes at the Games, click here to sign up for Team Amnesty. Not only could you become the next Jess Ennis you’ll be doing it for an organisation which seeks to run alongside courageous rights defenders, much like Guour Marial and Zamzam Mohammed Farah.
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