LONDON/ATHENS: David Beckham did not need being prematurely ‘knighted’ by the stadium announcer at the Olympic flame handover, to appreciate the honour and the thrill of his role in the London 2012 project.
This will stay stay with the former England football captain whether or not he is selected as one of three over-age players for Team GB in the Olympic football tournament.
Beckham, called ‘Sir David’ in the Panathenaic Stadium, said: “I was very honoured to be on the bid team in Singapore seven years ago and then to be in Athens and feel the history which runs through the country and will run through ours brought it all back.
“The Olympics means a lot to me as a fan. Having seen people like Daley Thompson, Seb Coe and Steve Ovett and thar rivalry and then be a part of that moment in Singapore was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in my life.
“Looking over at the French side and seeing all the media in front of them . . .and then going from that to finding out we had won was an incredible moment.”
London and Paris were the two bidding cities in the last round of voting and even IOC president Jacques Rogge has said that, on the basis of voting in the previous rounds, he had expected to find ‘Paris’ on the card inside the announcement envelope.
Beckham, asked about prospects of playing for Team GB in a BBC interview, said: “I’m in good form, I’ve scored a couple of goals recently and I’m feeling fit and working hard so if I’m called upon I’m ready but, whatever happens, it’ll be a proud moment for me as an East End boy to see the Games in that part of London.
“In any case, I’ve always said I’d want to be there on merit. People have said about me being picked for shirt sales. If I sell shirts then, great, I’ve always been honoured that people want to buy the shirt I wear and the team I play for.
“But you don’t play for Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson or for Real Madrid under Fabio Capello on sentiment. I’ve always been picked becaue, obviously, of what I’ve achieved on the field and what I can do so that doesn’t change.”
Beckham said that whatever happened during the Olympics he intended to go on playing football beyond the Games “because I enjoy the game too much to stop” and he refuted suggestions that he might be chosen to light the cauldron in the Opening Ceremony since “there are so many more people who’ve achieved more than I ever have or could and in the Olympics.”
Turning to England’s prospects at Euro 2012 next month Beckham was full of praise of manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to include old Manchester United team-mate Gary Neville in his coaching squad.
Beckham said: “It’s great for Gary and the country and the team and it’s a clever move by Roy Hodgson to bring him in because his experience in tournaments means Gary knows what’;s gone wrong in the past and he knows what’s gone right.
“Players respect him so it’s an amazing advantage for us to have. I’m excited for Gary and really pleased for him.”