Yet some of the greatest victories are won outside the main stage.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Ian Sockett, (one of the Olympic torch bearers), tells his story:
“Four-and-a-half years ago I was lying in hospital, terrified I was about to die. I weighed about 5½st and had been anorexic for 20 years. Of course, a lot of people assume men don’t suffer from eating disorders, but I’m proof that they do, and that they can recover.
My problems started in the summer immediately after my O-levels. I was in the top sets at school, I played cricket and rugby for my county and I was a very good runner. I’d won the Midlands 400-metre title and competed in the English Schools Championships.
But, that summer, my nan died and my world turned upside down. Suddenly, I felt I had no right to enjoy life. I know when you look at it in the cold light of day it’s irrational, but I felt I was only justified in being alive if I punished myself in some way, so I started cutting down what I ate. At first, I would just skip the evening meal. But, as time went on, I ate less and less until all I was having was coffee for breakfast, an apple for lunch and a salad for dinner.
At the same time, I continued to run every day. This carried on for years. I looked skeletal. I hated myself and what I’d become. But then, in December 2007, I got a chest infection that turned into pneumonia. My right lung collapsed and I was told I needed a blood transfusion. As I watched the blood dripping down the tube towards me, I was suddenly petrified I was going to die. That was the turning point. Something switched in my brain and, for the first time in 20 years, I wanted to get better. To spur me on, I set myself a goal: within a year I would run a marathon. Today I weigh 9st (within the normal range for someone of my height) and I’ve run three marathons – the last one in three hours 13 minutes – and raised £11,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
It’s a huge honour to carry the torch. I’m slightly worried I’ll break down in tears, but I hope my story can inspire hope in others. Anorexia doesn’t have to be a life sentence. You can go on to do amazing things”.