I must admit to entering into an Olympic-sized sulk last year when I discovered I hadn’t got ANY of the Games tickets I’d applied for. As a Londoner, I felt excluded from the once-in-a-lifetime event that was coming to my hometown. So, I channelled my disappointment into cynicism, with a touch of nonchalance, and joined the many naysayers. Over the past year, I’ve moaned about ‘spiralling’ costs, inappropriate sponsors and Olympic traffic lanes. I’ve ‘bah humbugged’ tales of lasting legacy. I’ve even watched gleefully as life imitated art, thanks to cock-ups mirroring the BBC’s TwentyTwelve satire.
Despite this, in the last few weeks, Olympic fever has slowly crept up and got the better of me. The feel-good-factor is outshining the tiring stories of doom and gloom. I’m pleasantly surprised at how many good friends, colleagues and acquaintances are volunteers, here and outside London: performing in Danny Boyle’s extravagant opening ceremony; stewarding various venues; carrying the torch. How can I not be excited for them? Plus, the Olympic torch relay itself has been genius. Forget (most of) the celebrities (especially Will.i.am… Why?). Overwhelmingly, it’s been about acknowledging the achievements of everyday people and the many athletes that usually go uncelebrated, and reaching out to all parts of the UK. I’ve been hugely impressed by its inclusivity. The organisers and communications team played a brilliantly co-ordinated stroke there, giving almost everyone and every town a feeling of ownership towards the Games.
As if I wasn’t succumbing enough, I picked up the newspapers on Tuesday night while en route to my weekly running session with East London’s Run Dem Crew and read profiles on some of our amazing athletes. That was it.
I’d finally found my Olympic mojo. In that moment, I got over myself and connected with what it’s really about. Part of the reason I love being part of RDC is that their philosophy of hard work and comradery inspires me to challenge myself, plus they’re dedicating to working with and inspiring young people to achieve in life, which is really important to me. The bonus is that we run through the streets, canals and parks of London, reminding me at every step why I’m so proud of my home city.
Reading about the athletes reminded me that such pride and inspiration is a key ingredient of the Olympics. These people have worked unbelievably hard to reach the top of their game and in the coming days they’ll be competing at world-class level, representing their country, in front of their home crowd. What an achievement. How many of us “could have, would have, should have” but didn’t quite fulfil our potential, in whatever area, because we didn’t knuckle down as much as we needed to.
And in my previous state of nonchalance, I hadn’t really appreciated how far across the UK the events are spread – until a Welsh friend replied to a Facebook comment and told me the football was starting in Cardiff. As much as I love London, it’s great that other cities will experience the games – not just the torch – first hand as well.
Now that the London 2012 Olympics are actually here, my overriding feeling is of pride: for our athletes, for my country and for my hometown. It’s time to cast aside any leftover negativity, welcome our guests and show the world what we’re made of. Truth to be told, it’s not just the next generation that’s being inspired. Current generations, like me, are too.