Tuesday, 14 August 2012

London Games 2012; A Love Story

There's a void in my life. A massive gaping hole that for 17 days was filled with a glorious, whirlwind romance that has suddenly, inexplicably come to an end. It consumed my waking hours and dominated my dreams. Yes, please pass me the kleenex, the London Olympics has finished. I'm not really sure what to do now (except perhaps eagerly await the Paralympics) and I'm certainly not really sure what I did with my time before the Olympics. 18 days ago, I really had no idea how attached I'd become to these incredibly Games.

I wasn't interested in the Olympic Games before it started. I hadn't actually even realised that it had taken 7 years of planning to achieve. I don't remember the Beijing Games and I didn't watch them. The media stories around 2012 were negative, the weird logo and strange mascots and I'd had no interest in applying for tickets. To be honest, I think I really rather resented it. I thought London would heave with tourist, travel would be a nightmare and it would be an inconvenience to my daily, plodding life.

About three days before the Opening Ceremony, things started to change. I arrived in Victoria on my way to work and saw some Olympic volunteers, ready, willing and waiting to help anyone who needed it, the posters were up and there seemed to be more of a buzz in the air. I suddenly thought 'this might not be as bad as I anticipated.' The main turning point when my frostiness melted considerably was when a thoughtful friend sent me a blog about the Olympics. Not just any blog though, a blog about the top 50 hottest Olympians that were going to grace our shores. (Personal favourites; 39, 36, 32. Yes, my type is tall and muscly. Ladies it's worth a read). This was more my type of Olympics, I was now officially excited.

I went home on the Friday of the Opening Ceremony and watched every minute of it with my parents. I thought it was fantastic, though heaven knows what the 6 Nepali athletes thought of it. From that moment, I was lost to the Olympics. Watching with bated breath the Men's Road Race on Saturday and feeling the devastation that Team GB didn't pull through despite the weight of expectation and hard work of Bradley, Cav and the guys to seeing our first medal come through after Lizzie Armistead's fantastic effort at the Women's Road Race. It was a drug, I was hooked and needed more. And certainly more I got.

After the furore of the BBC's Jubilee Coverage, they stepped up to the mark and provided the nation with some incredible Olympic coverage seemingly 24/7. I could sit in the office and ignore Club Testosterone's rubbish chat because I had plugged in my iPhone and was watching it all, engrossed, thanks to the Beebs brilliant app or all 5 of us would stop what we were doing and cheer the Olympians on. I wasn't the only one. My mother, not known for her sporting prowess or even interest in anything sports related, could barely move from her chair (apparently the cats were on her lap though which prevented her). She could have taken over from Jake Humphreys or Matt Baker as a commentator so knowledgeable was she on all events. 'Oh he didn't jump very well then' (Phillips Iduwo), 'should've tucked up better then' (Diving) 'she should've over taken then' (Women's Road Race). That's how much the Olympics captured even those least suspecting it.

Men's Swimming quickly became my favourite sport. Of course this was because I admired the skill, ability and drama of the sports. That's quite a big lie. I appreciated all of that a little but really it was the rows of men in teensy shorts with incredible bodies. Never ever has a swimming cap been more of an aphrodisiac or speedos my preferred outfit for a man. Ryan, Nathan, Chad, Helge, even Phelps but only when he kept the cap on, were the ones I lusted after. Diving was naturally my second preferred sport but who could not enjoy it when the face of the sport is the lovely Tom Daley, 18 and with so much hope placed on him, and always appearing so modest.

I loved the underdogs too, willing the slowest across the finish line. My absolute favourite was the rower from Niger, Hamadou Issaka who had started rowing a casual 3 months before the Olympics and, rather than speed up each race, continued to slow down. He received a standing ovation when he finished his first race, considerably behind the other rowers.

The Gold near misses from the eventing team and cycling road race team united the nation from the start, willing on our nations hopefulls. Then Heather Stanning and Helen Glover brought home the first Team GB gold and what a moment that was! Any Olympic haters much surely have started to come around then. This first gold seemed to trigger a gold rush and the following 28 medals, not to mention the 17 silvers and 19 bronzes, saw us sitting a proud 3rd on the medal table. Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams, Peter Wilson, the rowers, oh there are so many to mention! I don't think even the Royal celebrations of the past year have seem the United Kingdom so united. Team GB had gone beyond our wildest dreams and done so much better than we had expected. For the first time in a long time, the nation was proud of what their representatives had achieved. 

Another reason why the Games was so wonderful was because it was the first time every country had fielded a mixed team. The judoka, Wojdan Shahrkhani, was the first Saudi Arabian female to compete in the Games while Sarah Attar was the country's first female runner, competing a few days after Shahrkhani. She competed completely covered, a stark contrast from the other female runners in their bras and pants. There was never going to be a chance she would win but nobody cared, she is a trailer blazer and a role model for future Saudi athletes and her participation was more important than her performance. We mustn't forget either Tahmina Kohistani, Afghanistan's only female athlete who ran in the 800m. She has overcome immense prejudice to be involved, fighting against those who oppose women doing almost anything. Personally, I think that to have these athletes, who have fought against so much controversy to be at the Games, in our country, is one of the best things about London 2012. 

The 'Inspire a Generation' tagline is a winner. More than one generation has been inspired by London 2012. I wish I had pursued my Olympic career. My greatest sporting achievement was being Athletics Captain for my house at school & that was only because the housemistress felt she had to give me something to do to keep me out of trouble. If only I'd taken it more seriously then who knows what could have happened (very little I suspect). I have decided though, that perhaps I should take up swimming and do so with gusto, possibly in time for Rio2016.

What's there not to enjoy about swimming?

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