'An honour to witness a golden period of sport'

By David BondBBC sports editor
Great Britain's golden Games

And so - after more than four years covering the biggest stories in sport - this is my final blog as the BBC's Sports Editor.

During that time it has been my enormous privilege to witness first hand some of the most memorable moments British sport has arguably ever seen. But, more than that, it has been my incredible good fortune to have reported them for BBC News.

Throughout my time as Sports Editor, in addition to trying to be first with the news, I have always tried to put such events and moments in a broader context and to explain why sport matters.

But over that period, and through my 16 years working as a national newspaper journalist, that has become a much easier task. For there can surely be few people in this country who now doubt that sport is a central and essential part of cultural life in this country.

One only has to look at the huge crowds who came out to see the Tour de France as it made its way from Yorkshire to London 10 days ago.

You only have to review the huge TV audiences for the World Cup in Brazil to realise that even when partisanship has dissolved in a shrug of disappointment, these global mega events remain a huge draw.

And you only have to close your eyes and drift back to that golden summer of 2012 to acknowledge that something changed in the sporting psyche of this country - perhaps and hopefully forever.

Jessica Ennis Olympic gold medal
Heptathlete Jessica Ennis was one of three Britons (along with long jumper Greg Rutherford and distance runner Mo Farah) to win gold on Super Saturday during the London Olympics

Sport will never matter more than human or natural disasters or the big political and business stories of the day. Anyone who argues otherwise is deluding themselves.

But that doesn't mean that people don't care about it passionately. And let's face it, it remains wonderful escapism.

London will always be the highlight. To be in the Olympic Stadium on Super Saturday was something very special. But there were countless other moments from the Games which still send a shiver down the spine.

The roar in the velodrome. The vast, enthusiastic crowds on the Olympic Park. And the pride which grew as British medals kept rolling in and the realisation dawned on the nation that we couldn't only deliver an Olympic Games, but do it with efficiency and some style.

I remember, back in 2000, reporting for the London Evening Standard the early, tentative discussions about a London Olympic bid. To have seen the story through to its triumphant conclusion is something I will always treasure.

It was much the same last summer when I was on Centre Court to see Andy Murray end Britain's 77-year wait for a home-grown champion.

The moment Murray won Wimbledon

As for football, while the England team continues to fall short of these new high standards, the Premier League's popularity and financial power just grows and grows. If only the national game could find a better balance which would allow both the league and the England team to flourish.

But with so much money flowing into sport, the past few years has also demonstrated a darker side. World governing body Fifa's corruption scandals show that while sport has become more high profile and more powerful as a business, the governance of so many sports remains stuck in a different age.

There are still so many questions about how Fifa is run and about how it reached its decision to hand the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

That extraordinary vote may never be revisited but Fifa president Sepp Blatter (who will be running for his fifth term next year) must now know that world football cannot continue to be run without proper transparency and greater accountability. If he won't reform the game, then someone else should be given the chance to do so.

Equally there remain concerns about doping and match-fixing. These are real threats to the integrity of sport, which will only increase as sponsors and broadcasters pay more and more money to be associated with sport and the pressure grows on the very best athletes to deliver.

Such concerns are often forgotten once the action takes over. But they matter and it is vital that the British media - both print and broadcast - continues to lead the world in asking the difficult questions and shining a light on the conduct of senior officials.

England's footballers exit the World Cup
England's footballers were eliminated from the World Cup after just two matches

After the disappointment of England's early World Cup exit,Murray's failure to retain his Wimbledon title and below-par performances from our cyclists, cricket and rugby players, this has been a pretty dreadful summer for British sport so far.

The fear might be that, after the highs of the past couple of years, we are going backwards. The events of the past few weeks should certainly serve as an important wake-up call for those who might take our place at international sport's top table for granted.

But over the past decade or so, the level of investment going into British sport has transformed the landscape.

Those in charge must work hard to ensure this summer is a temporary blip, part of a cycle of renewal after such a golden period. A period it has been an honour to witness close up.