An ideal opportunity to inspire all of us

Today sees the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the Borders, when a team of runners will carry it through the region from Eddleston to Foulden.

In just under four hours, it is expected thousands of local people will turn out to witness an event they will probably not get the chance to see again in their lifetimes.

The flame itself represents a tradition stretching back through the mists of time to an ancient land of heroes, who would lay down their weapons until the Games were over.

Viewed from a distance, however, it is easy to forget the founding motivations of the modern Olympic Games, suffocating as they seem under a welter of commercialism, doping scandals, bribery of officials and the threat of terrorism.

Yet the Games are still the world’s greatest global sporting gathering, and winning gold or setting an Olympic record can be a life-transforming event for an athlete and a regenerating one for a host city.

And up close and personal with the chance to actually see a tangible part of that Olympic tradition in the shape of the torch, and you can sense the levels of excitement even here in the Borders, hundreds of miles away from the main sites of Olympic events.

And that excitement is what the Olympics are all about. The Olympic ideal states it is not the winning that is important, but the taking part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.

Hopefully, that ideal will still inspire, not just the young men and women who will take part in the long list of sporting contests that will occupy our television screens from the end of July until the middle of August, but all of us.

And for long after that famous flame has been extinguished.