Boom. The London 2012 Olympics are here. I watched the flames fill each of those 204 bronze petals before they coalesced to reach the sky. What’s more, I did it in the way that all cynics should: a day late and in the sweltering stickiness of Spain mid-summer rather than the (shall we call it variable?) climate back home.
Like the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee, I shan’t be there for much of this latest extravaganza to arrive on one small island. But I shall be there for one day. And I have been hearing much about it.
Most of what I’ve read about the Olympics, of course, consists of whingeing, a topic which I’d assumed would have been introduced this year as part of the tradition to allow the host country to introduce a new sport (generally assumed to be one that they would win.)
For months, all I’ve heard is that the Olympics are over-budget (true,) hand out privilege to those who already have more than their fair share (always true,) involve surface-to-air missiles on east end rooftops (less common) and will massively inconvenience any and everyone within a missile launch and beyond of London (to which I kind of shrug my shoulders. Living in London IS an inconvenience. Subtract the Olympic crowds and the London Underground at rush hour will be no more bearable.)
Thank goodness. Thank goodness for the fearless reporting and investigative journalism that really does expose the injustices, prejudices and downright lunacy of those with plenty of power. For every other whinger, however, maybe this is just one of those times to let down your guard.
Yes, not everyone got tickets (myself included. Partly, insert gnashing of teeth, because of the visa vs mastercard sponsorship debacle.) Yes, athletes will get caught in doping scandals. Yes, the criminalisation of a grandmother for knitting a set of Olympic rings in order to protect McDonalds is something the world could do without.
But shhh. Ever so quietly, look and listen to the rhetoric of the opening ceremony and between the inflated claims and the corporate-PR hype, some truly inspiring images do still emerge.
Nothing’s perfect. But Iran, Iraq and Israel have come to compete on British soil. Women have entered as equals for the very first time. Innocents have truly been inspired and, who’d have ever believed it, the Queen joined in with a parachute jump with James Bond.
For my one day in London when the Olympics are on, despite my very best efforts, I still don’t have a ticket. I won’t be able to see a thing.
Yet I’m still so excited to know that they’re there. To see the landmarks I know so well flash past as the background to the world’s best athletes.
But above all else (cough, splutter, look embarrassed here) I’m glad that they take place at all. I hope that the press continue to scrutinize and evaluate every aspect of the games. They should do. It’s what they’re there for.
But I hope that the rest of us manage to find a moment for each of the following thoughts: respect for those who work hard, contempt for those who abuse, and pure and simple childish joy for what the Olympics are really supposed to represent.
And with that sanctimonious sentence, I’m off to, er, watch TV.
The beach volleyball is on. And, according to my husband, these are some of the best athletes in the world.
What are your feelings about the London 2012 Olympics? Do you love the idea? Hate the hassle? Or are you one of the select few who actually managed to get a ticket?!!