Etched into my memory are the olympic games from Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing – distant, blurred and frail pictures of previous sporting occasions I really didn’t give two hoots about. Destined to join them, I thought, would be London 2012. However, we’re only a few days into the games and it has already cemented a far more prominent position in my memories.
For those of you that have followed me for a significant proportion of these 150 days, you’ll know I’m quite the patriot. I love England (and deep down, I love the rest of Britain too) and all that it stands for. The opening ceremony was a wonderful collection of all things British, but whilst memorable, it’s not the opening ceremony I’ll remember the most. I haven’t missed an England international rugby match for about three years now; I have been known to quite literally have been so passionately engaged in a game that I’ve ended up stood on a sofa with absolutely no recollection as to how I even got there! But rugby isn’t everyone’s sport, so not everyone cares if we win or lose. It’s the same with pretty much every other sport going usually, but the Olympics seems to have a unifying effect that seems to have transformed everyone around me into fierce patriots. It’s incredible!
Earlier this afternoon I was glued to the television as two of our British guys competed in the synchronised diving competition. Everyone else in the room was as mesmorised as I was; through every dive we’d wait with baited breath, willing them to succeed. At one point, my mum had even covered her eyes as the suspense got the better of her! It’s like we’d joined the almost entirely English crowd in the stadium – reveling in the initial small victories and feeling the desperate agony of that 71-pointer that ruined the occasion. Twitter was ablaze with encouragement for Team GB in profound unity. Suddenly, I’m beginning to find myself not just interested, but borderline emotional as the men’s team gymnastic squad win the bronze for the first time in a hundred years. I’m willing on the rowing teams in another sport I know nothing about. And I know that other people are into the Olympics in a big way this year. According to the Guardian, the opening ceremony hit an average of 23.02 million viewers over the course of the evening – nearly a third of the entire population of the United Kingdom. That’s unity!
I’m sure it’s been like this before but it’s just escaped my notice. Combine this with the meteoric rise of Twitter since 2008 and it’s pretty hard not to feel this sense of occasion. I’m going to carry on enjoying it!