“As we enter the second half of August the minds of many people mind start to turn towards the start of the new school term.
Most of the holidays are over and school uniforms, school starts and school runs are now looming large. Like many parents I have enjoyed the holidays but am also looking forward the new school term with a little relief. Of course, that relief is tempered by the realisation that I expect to be as busy as ever with mayoral duties but as I often tell myself, if you enjoy what you’re doing it doesn’t qualify as work.
“For my part I have enjoyed the time since becoming Mayor, and continue to feel both humbled and privileged at the opportunities I have had to meet so many people making such a magnificent contribution to the life of our city. For me it is the hundreds of Derry people who are working way in their communities, their streets and in their workplaces to realise Derry’s potential that make this such a great place to live.
“The summer months in particular bring this to the fore. The community festivals and summer schemes that take place all around the city, supported in many cases by volunteers and parents, are a testimony to the community spirit and volunteering attitude that makes me proud to be a Derry man. Of course, as a Creggan man, it would be remiss of me not to make a special mention of the Creggan and Gasyard Wall Feiles. Both festivals, which in my view are essentially the one big festival, once again offer a host of activities for the young and the not so young. Fancy dress parades, fun days, more bouncy castles than you could shake a stick at added to sporting activities and discussion, debate and drama and we have a programme to be proud of.
“And speaking of pride, how can anyone look at the London Olympics and not fail to be impressed by the sheer excellence on display. For the course of the Games I have decided to put aside any nationalistic feelings, except when Irish competitors are on, and just appreciate the dedication, skill and talent that are on display.
“From tiny gymnasts hurtling through the air, rowers pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion and then another bit further, swimmers breaking records and two highlights that will remain through Olympic history, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. If ever we were privileged to watch greatness these two stood out. Michael Phelps got off to a scratchy start in the pool but his greatness shone through. He leaves London arguably the greatest Olympian ever, and without doubt the most successful medal winner in Olympic history. According to the media if Michael Phelps was a country he would be the 48th most successful country in Olympic history. By any way of reckoning that is some achievement.
Then we had Usain Bolt. For an athlete who seemed destined to stroll through life and competition without seeming to break sweat or feel a nerve the last year must have been challenging. Losing races he was expected to win and coming under pressure from all sides seemed to pose a set of challenges many thought he would wilt under. How wrong they were. As he stepped out onto the track for the final the confidence was back and 9.64 seconds later so was the gold medal.
“Champions can be born, nurtured or created. We may never know which but what these Games are showing us again is that at the top level of Olympic competition, each and every one of the competitors has invested time, effort and energy into a dream that only a few can realise. They may not all be medallists, but in my view they are all heroes worthy of respect and admiration, be they Michael Phelps, Paddy Barnes or Alison Morrison.
The Olympic ideal, or more accurately the Corinthian ideal, of not being the winning that is important but the taking part is an attitude we as a city, and more importantly as residents of our city, could adopt. We may not all be able to go faster, stronger, higher but how many of us could do a little more? Be it the local youth or community centre, be it your local residents’ group or sporting organisation, is there a little contribution we could make or a small part we could play? Massive oaks come from small acorns. Derry is a great place to live and work, a city and a people I am proud to be of and represent. As we see so many dreams realised in these Olympics, couldn’t we also dream about making Derry even better?
“I intend to dedicate the rest of my mayoralty to just this, and am keen to facilitate all those in the city who wish to do likewise.