Sunday, August 05, 2012

Olympianism, cynicism and optimism, that's enough isms

Here's the truth, had it been my decision, I'd not have bothered to try and obtain tickets to any Olympic event, I'd have watched the occasional event that appealed, cycling, (maybe the beach volleyball) on TV and generally been a grumpy old git about it all. But my lovely wife is cut from very different cloth, she pursued and obtained tickets to last Saturdays morning athletics session and I heroically moved from "can't be bothered" to "might as well go and experience it". 

Then I caught the opening ceremony, I pasta'd for friends and we sat and we ate, we drank fine wines and we marvelled at the spectacle, a splendid mix of tear-jerking emotional manipulation, British weirdness, sheer good fun, and a delightful celebration of lots of UK folk doing good stuff, and enjoying it. Thanks to Danny Boyle and some excellent editing by the BBC I moved toward "starting to well-up a little" and "almost looking forward to it" mode. 

Saturday morning and we drove to the train station, parked, collected tickets, found seats on a busy, but not stupidly so train, we got to Waterloo, busy, but not too bad. We caught a tube train, and stood to Stratford, we disemtubed and shuffled towards the exits, guided by cheerful, megaphone-wielding volunteers exuding pink-clad bonhomie and cheerfulness. As you know, gentle reader such an attitude normally brings out the misanthrope in me, not this time, I started to smile back, obviously this scared many small children (and my lovely wife) but I couldn't help it. 

We made our way, slowly but acceptably into the Olympic park, we were searched by smiling soldiers, (how lucky are we to live in a land where it's reassuring to see a military uniform?) we were scanned by smiling G4S recruits, we were engaged in conversation by purple-clad games evangelists, well-informed, engaging and enthusiastic, normally I'd have riposted to unasked-for dialogue with a brusque "have we been introduced?" but no, I was happy, I smiled, I made a pretty good effort to engage like a nice person. 

Mrs Stuffy was nonplussed. 

The park was impressive, serious kudos to those who planned, built and fitted out this testament to design, project management and construction. I may be even one of the few people who likes the Orbit sculpture. My cheerful optimism was challenged a little by the biggest MacDonalds in the universe and a heaving Olympic souvenir and overpriced tat-shop. Pouring foul tasting coffee (courtesy of Coca~cola, I really do despise MacDonalds and coke) down my lovely shirt gave us the opportunity to get retailing and get even more patriotic and support Adidas, and, to a lesser extent Team GB, check out my manly and patriotic chest in the photo.

Mrs S was ecstatic about the lack of lavatorial queuing and we found our excellent seats. The stadium itself and the atmosphere inside the stadium were just awesome,(and I do mean awesome as it should be used, not as so often, to describe a mildly amusing you-tube clip or a pleasant burger) really, awe (look it up).

I'm very much not a crowd person but we spent four hours not just watching but actively engaging with some very attractive ladies doing pole vaulting, young Mr Bolt doing his thing, the inspirational Oscar Pistorious generating a sonic wall of enthusiastic appreciation, Jessica Ennis long-jumping and javelining,  all the obvious things but, more than that, for me, it was the less obvious things that moved me, I was proud to be a Brit, standing with 79,999 other people to cheer home a lass in the steeplechase who finished 3/4 of a lap behind everyone else but ran her heart out, proud to commiserate with my Brazilian neighbour as his pole vaulter crashed and burned for the third time. 

I left the stadium, proud to be British, to walk through the stunning wildflower meadows, guided by enthusiastic and engaging volunteers, to find a cab, a London cabby who reset the meter because the one-way system makes them do a £5 detour to get going in the right direction, and he was cheerful about it, and not whingeing despite the lack of business engendered as everyone not doing Olympic stuff stays out of Town. London traffic was a delight, we late-lunched in Covent Garden with friends who'd been watching the rowing at Eton, we were all, without exception, enthusiastic, passionate, un-cynical, and very, very proud of all, the athletes, all the people working to make the Olympics work, all the audiences, behaving like happy, responsible grown-ups. 

In tough times it's most astonishing the effect these games are having, on me, and on those I see around me. Well done Seb Coe, well done London, well done Great Britain!

I'm sure that normal service will be resumed at some point but until then, I hope this feeling lasts ... 

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At 10:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just testing the comments settings


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