The Rugby World Cup, won on 22nd November by England,
led to a feel-good mood even among people who didn't usually follow
rugby. Millions of television viewers cheered as fly-half Jonny
Wilkinson scored the winning points with a drop-goal in the final
minutes of extra time. The following Saturday more than 750,000
people turned out to cheer England's players on their victory
parade in an open top bus through the streets of central London.
This was followed by tea with The Queen at Buckingham Palace and
a reception at Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister.
The players were awarded honours in the New Year Honours
List. These honours are awarded on merit, for exceptional achievement
or merit in a number of fields. The England Rugby team coach, Clive
Woodward, was knighted - so he becomes 'Sir Clive'. All the members
of the team received an award, in contrast to the last time an England
team won a World Cup. That was back in 1966, when England beat West
Germany to win the Football World Cup. Some members of that team
had to wait 30 years for official recognition.
Just before this year's Honours List was published
it was revealed that some people who had been offered an award had
decided not to accept it. Among the titles that are awarded are
MBE (Member of the British Empire), OBE (Order of the British Empire)
and CBE (Commander of the British Empire). It is this reference
to an empire which no longer exists that has annoyed them.
Other countries have found the benefits of sport can
be widespread. Australia hosted the last Olympic Games in 2000 and
was widely praised for their success. The 2004 Games will be held
in Athens, which is using the occasion to improve transport and
other facilities, and the 2008 Games will be held in Beijing, which
plans to build new metro lines and carry out environmental improvements.