My Olympic Dream

Since I became conscious of movement, I have enjoyed physical activity of all types, and as I developed an understanding of sport my desire to achieve at the highest levels governed almost all areas of my life.

The apartheid system of racial separation was adopted by the South African government (my home country) in 1948, and thus, I was born into this system in a small town in the (then) Eastern Transvaal in the early 1970s. Sport was divided along these political lines in the early years of the apartheid system – there were for example white soccer leagues and black soccer leagues. This racism in sport led to South Africa’s exclusion from the international sporting arena. South African sports teams that travelled abroad to compete were boycotted and those who competed against South African teams where threatened with job losses and shamed in public.

So, a white South African girl, who had no greater desire than to compete, challenge herself physically and mentally, and strive to compete internationally was denied this opportunity (my ongoing frustration with politics and sport holding hands so tightly is still something that I cannot get my head around in our modern world). The only way I could continue the dream of maybe even representing my country as an Olympian was to take the dramatic steps that Zola Budd took in order to compete at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. She took on British citizenship. My mother did offer this option to me at the time, but the pressure of then having to perform, when she had given up her life for MY success, was just something I was not prepared to do. I just wanted to step into South African colours and perform….why was my country’s politics preventing me?

My dream was not to be…..

But, fate has put me in London, over 25 years later, which means I can get involved in the 2012 Games, and almost 2 years ago I volunteered to participate in any capacity the organisers saw fit. I just wanted to be there… feel the excitement, and be a part of something that had been so sorely destroyed for me, so many years ago.

I had my interview in Spring 2011, and arriving at the venue in east London, I cried. I could not believe that I was about to ‘sell’ myself to someone who had the power to make me a part of this amazing event. It seemed surreal – all the Olympic logos, the professionalism, the buzz – and even if I did not get offered a position, it did not matter. Just being at the interview, talking about my love of the Games and what it meant to me to be involved was enough.

And yes, to my greatest joy, I was offered a position. Again I cried with emotion – the Olympic Games! This just didn’t seem real to even just say the words!

….and the training began. Every session I have been to so far I have felt so incredibly privileged, so ecstatically excited and like I am floating. Is the little girl, who dreamed of being a part of the greatest sporting event on the planet, actually going to be there? Actually going to be a part of the success? I am so fearful that something will happen (between now and then) that will prevent me from actually being there – it still doesn’t feel like it is reality.

But, so far I have not woken up…..and to the powers that be….let me not!

Dawn Denton©


One Comment on “My Olympic Dream”

  1. sandybarker says:

    What a beautiful post. And jealous I am of what you get to do.

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