Best honours list for years as Olympic gloss shines on
It is fair to say that in recent years some of the gloss has rubbed off the honours system in Britain. Whether because it began to look as if some of the recipients were time-serving senior civil servants rewarded only for doing their jobs or – worse – celebrities whose private lives were sickeningly at odds with their public persona, the shine had dulled.
Not this year. After one of the most incredible 12 months in British sporting history so many of those connected to the success of the London 2012 Olympics – both sporting stars and backroom staff – have been rightly recognised for their efforts.
Bradley Wiggins may have been a name known only to die-hard fans of cycling a year ago. This year, with the Tour de France yellow jersey in his trophy room and an Olympic gold medal alongside, he will shortly be travelling to Buckingham Palace and told to "arise, Sir Bradley".
Ben Ainslie has been a powerful example of dedication and skill at competitive sailing for many years here in the South West but in the wider nation, until this year's Olympic glory, he was hardly a household name. Now, however, he too can put a knighthood next to his four gold medals won at successive Games, a truly magnificent performance.
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Mary King has been a star of the horse world for more years than even she might care to remember and her efforts were properly recognised this year with an MBE. Others, including Cornish PE teacher turned Olympic rower Helen Glover and Dorset farmer's son and ace clay pigeon shot Peter Wilson, are also made MBEs – crowning a year in which they have earned their fame, thanks not to some manufactured idea of celebrity, via a TV show, but as a result of hard work, exceptional skill and true grit – qualities worthy of an honour.
So it is sporting stars who make up the bulk of this year's honours list, which is just as it should be. In an age when celebrity for its own sake had become empty and meaningless for many, Britain's Olympians came to signify success and the fame that goes with it, for the right reasons. They got their reward on the sporting field but an honour from the Queen is something more; recognition that the efforts these individuals have made and the impact they have had, extends far beyond the sports ground.
And in the case of Britain's Olympians and those who helped to organise the Games that is definitely the case. The Olympic and paralympic effect has percolated right through national life and sustains even today, months after the end of the Games. Whether or not the much-vaunted 'legacy' is as long-lasting or significant as hoped remains to be seen. Will participation in sport increase? Will the national pride engendered by the Games endure? Will the opportunities available to disabled people continue to expand? We will see. What's not in doubt, however, is that the Olympians, and particularly those honoured today, have done their bit. We salute them.