Grant Woodward: Triathlon showed our kids what real heroes look like

Crowds watching the Columbia Threadneedle ITU World Triathlon Series race on the large screen in Roundhay Park. Credit: James Hardisty.
Crowds watching the Columbia Threadneedle ITU World Triathlon Series race on the large screen in Roundhay Park. Credit: James Hardisty.
Have your say

Brownlees, council and the people of Leeds should all take a bow.

OK, the situation with the bags on Sunday was nothing short of a disaster. People clad only in lightweight lycra waiting four hours or more to get their stuff back – one poor soul getting hypothermia for Pete’s sake. Not good.

If it was a straight choice between giving cash to Party in the Park or this, there would only be one winner in my book.

But I have to say that, from a spectator’s point of view at least, the visit of the world series triathlon to town was a rip-roaring success.

And not in ways that are immediately obvious.

On Saturday we pitched up at Roundhay Park and discovered there was a free Duathlon for kids.

Our four-year-old twins were desperate to give it a go and, helped by the wonderful organisers, ran, pedalled, then ran again round a special course designed to take it easy on little legs.

Their faces when they crossed the finish line and were handed their medals and goodie bags were an absolute picture.

In fact, the photos adorned their Magic Moment sheets that they took into school on Monday to show their class what they’d been up to.

From that moment on they were hooked. We were back at the park on Sunday to see the women’s swim round Waterloo Lake, then later lined the street to cheer on the Brownlees, our two waving banners from their goodie bags that they’d coloured in for the occasion.

They were glued to every minute of the closing stages on TV once we’d returned home – and keep asking to watch the recording.

Alistair and Jonny were immense in finishing first and second, but they should take just as much pride from the work of their Brownlee Foundation in inspiring ours and countless other children to get involved in running, cycling or any other sport.

It would be all too easy for the pair of them to become self-obsessed athletes who only care about their next personal best or piece of silverware.

But instead they’re using their success and profile to do something wonderful for UK sport and an entire generation of kids.

An event like this coming to your home city can leave an indelible impression, one that leads to a lifelong love for sport that in turn builds exactly the sort of attributes that will serve you well for the rest of your days. Well done too to the people of Leeds for proving that if these big events are brought to the city then they will get the support they deserve.

The television pictures were a sight to behold, with big numbers lining the streets and huge crowds gathered round Millennium Square. Leeds looked great.

The sponsors who poured their money into the event also deserve praise, as does Leeds City Council.

The council may come in for criticism – some deserved, some not – but its support for the triathlon was a great example of a local authority seeing the bigger picture and recognising the huge benefits of hosting an event like this.

And how much better to be putting public money into something that will inspire youngsters to get active rather than a concert populated by instantly forgettable pop stars?

If it was a straight choice between giving cash to Party in the Park or this, there would only be one winner in my book.

Here’s hoping the glitches can be ironed out and the triathlon comes here again next year, and for many years after that.

It shows Leeds at its best and serves as a marvellous advert for all the city has to offer – from the splendour of Roundhay Park to its upwardly mobile city centre.

More important than that though is the legacy it helps to create.

How many future sporting stars from this great city will say they were inspired by last weekend or the Brownlee Foundation sessions that visited their school?

But events like this give every child a reason to get on their bike, head to the pool, kick a ball or pick up a racket – even if it’s just for fun rather than conquering the world and getting gold medals.

And that makes them truly priceless.

ITV losing the off-pitch battle

We’re less than a week into the Euros but already a clear winner is emerging on our screens – and it’s not ITV.

The channel’s coverage of the tournament was always going to struggle with the added handicap of having Clive ‘That Night In Barcelona’ Tyldesley on board. The man renders Alan Partridge redundant.

But his “Justice for the England XI” comment when Eric Dier scored against Russia went far beyond the realms of his usual cliche-ridden drivel and saw him take an ill-advised delve in the box marked ‘Beyond the Pale’.

A Hillsborough reference after an England goal? Really Clive?

Alongside him there’s Glenn Hoddle, with his incessant mangling of the English language. “Al Jazeera are in with a chance here,” he told us when Algeria took on Germany at the last World Cup.

I can only think we’re paying for the sins of a former life by being forced to listen to him.

Chairing things back in the studio is Mark Pougatch, who looks and sounds like a travelling salesman chewing the fat at a Welcome Break halfway up the M1.

Over on BBC1, Gary Lineker has thankfully abandoned the awful puns and has the articulate and illuminating opinions of Thierry Henry to call upon – even if the Frenchman’s wardrobe needs some work. That shirt for the Portugal v Iceland game was a shocker.

So the Beeb win off the pitch, here’s hoping England can follow suit on it.

Good move to let pupils watch game

Staying with the football (don’t worry, England will probably be on their way home by Monday night), hats off to all those schools that are letting pupils watch the Wales game.

Although I’ve every sympathy with parents who don’t want to pay through the nose for summer holidays (after all, I’m one of them) it’s ridiculous to say headteachers are wrong to do this if they can’t take their kids out of school during term time.

We’re talking two hours here, not two weeks. And those children with no interest in the football can go and do something else anyway.

This is a time for a nation to come together to chew its collective fingernails and besides, how many older pupils would be tempted to skive for the entire day if they thought it was the only way to see the game?

And there’s more good news for all football-mad youngsters who will be sitting down in their school halls to watch the match. It’s not on ITV.