LONDON 2012: Locog spread goodwill on the troubled streets of Cairo
THOSE Olympic ideals of respect and friendship seemed a world away on the troubled streets of Cairo last night.
INSPIRATION: 12 million children and young people in 20 countries are involved in London 2012's International Inspiration programme. Egypt was the final country to sign up (Locog via Getty Images)
Two young men are reported dead after police used teargas and rubber bullets against football fans enraged by the death of 74 people in shocking scenes of violence during a match between al Ahli, one of Egypt's most successful clubs, and fierce rivals al-Masry in Port Said.
As the sun sunk over Tahrir Square, angry crowds attacked those security officials they accuse of being complicit in the violence, while in Suez another two men were shot dead as 3,000 demonstrated in front of police headquarters.
Just a few days earlier, London 2012 officials were in the Egyptian capital, the fulcrum of the bloody Arab Spring, to unveil the country as the 20th and final stop of their International Inspiration programme.
The initiative, which is delivered by the British Council, UNICEF and UK Sport, is a direct result of the pledge made by Seb Coe when London won the bid for the 2012 Games – it is tangible proof his promise to 'reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport'.
Its grand ambition is to give 12 million children and young people the chance to participate in sport in 20 developing countries around the world.
But as young Egyptians were dying at a football match on Wednesday night, Locog's well-meaning intentions might appear like a band-aid solution for an open fracture.
However, that should not take away from the impressive work of those behind the International Inspiration programme - a legacy commitment that is already delivering on the bold vision expressed by the bid team in Singapore seven years ago.
If only the same could be said in the UK, with sports participation figures, especially among youngsters, remaining well behind the ambitious - although achievable - target set.
© Sportsbeat 2011
MORE COLUMNS BY SPORTSBEAT'S JAMES TONEY