Citius, Altius, Fortius

It’s nearly over. After what seems like a lifetime of waiting, the London Olympics are nearly over and just when I was really getting used to watching sport on a daily basis (oh, the bliss!).

I live in the South East of London, you could see the Olympic Park from my road, so it would have been a shame to be so close and yet not somehow be part of it all. Not that I had planned in any way to be any part of it – a startlingly omission on part. I hadn’t even put in for tickets.

I. Do. Not. Know. Why.

Call it a momentary lapse of reason. So my experience of the games was somewhat last minute and totally up to the winds of fortune. Here’s this Londoner’s experience of London’s 2012 Olympics.

The Torch

The torch relay within the UK was 70 days. Seventy days and somehow I left it to the very last moment to get a glimpse of the flame that had started out in Greece and had travelled the length and breadth of the country. The flame’s last stop before the opening ceremony was City Hall. City Hall basically sits on the opposite side of the River Thames to the Tower of London. My office sits pretty much behind the Tower, so it really wasn’t that far. The Director of our department had spearheaded a torch hunting expedition the previous day (I missed out on seeing the torch on that occasion, though I got a photo of everyone else taking a photo of the torch). On the Friday we set out even earlier (fortunate as the flame arrived well early). I lost my work colleagues in the melee (we had to run – no small feat in heels – to get near the river in time) but found a small bench on which to balance. What did I see? The royal barge! The flame! The Olympics rings! Well, the back of the rings! Col. Campbell rang through my head Excellent Snake, age hasn’t slowed you down one bit. Mission: ‘See the Olympic Flame’ was a success.

The Opening Ceremony

Nope, I didn’t manage to get tickets. I wasn’t quite that fortuitous when it came to my last minute actions. In fact, I only decided that I was definitely watching it that afternoon. I think seeing the flame put me into the right mood. The opening ceremony was the first real test for London 2012. Just how would London present itself? I hadn’t been overly impressed with some of the earlier London 2012 paraphernalia – namely the logo. I still don’t particularly like it. The mascots have grown on me though. The names (Wenlock and Mandeville) are awesome but there is no doubting that they look weird. Occasionally they look evil. However, the opening ceremony was a win from start to finish (Elgar and Pink Floyd to open and close? How could it be anything but great?). The Bond sketch in particular stood out – James, when you’re looking for your Bond girl, come calling, I’ll answer. Once the flame had been lit it was certain: London could hold its head up high, the opening ceremony was ah-maz-ing.

The Commute (practicalities of living in an Olympic city)

London 2012. Two words, one date to strike fear into the hearts of London dwelling folk. Prepare for ‘over a million visitors a day’ was the daily (if not slightly ominous) reminder from Boris during my commute into the City leading up to the games. It’s going to be bedlam was the general consensus prior to the games. Be prepared to work from home, or from another location or just avoid London altogether was another shared sentiment. Forget the make up and high heels. War paint and fatigues seemed more fitting as the outfit of choice for travelling to work during the Olympics. The circling Pumas above my house added to the mood. The 30th of July dawned. The games were going to start in earnest for London’s commuters. Alternative travel plans were considered and back up plans were made and in the end…travelling into and out of the City proved to be nowhere near as traumatic as we were expecting. What happened? I don’t know if I care for explanations, but can it remain the norm? Please? Pretty please?

The sport: Team GB, Team NZ and Lizzie actually gets to an event.

I have split loyalties. Team GB and Team NZ. Except when they played each other and then my desire for the underdog to become top dog dictates Team NZ all the way. Both teams have had an outstanding games.

Team GB: If ever you needed proof that a home crowd makes a difference – look no further than London 2012. The support for the British athletes has been palatable, even through the television screen. There has been a plethora of British stars, but these are my stand outs: Mo Farah (long distance double), Andy Murray (beating Roger at Wimbledon for gold – doesn’t get much better), Nicola Adams (what an excellent advertisement for women’s boxing and such a beautiful smile) and Jessica Ennis. Jessica Ennis deserves a huge amount of respect. The pressure that was on her before the games even started was akin to the pressure on the All Blacks to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. In other words, a stupid amount of pressure and she still delivered. This took guts, supreme fitness and skill in her event. Watching 80,000 people sing ‘God save the Queen’ after she was presented her medal sent shivers down my spine.

Team NZ: For such a small nation, NZ sure does punch above its weight when it comes to sport. Then again, we do have high expectations. We do expect gold, sometimes despite the actual chances of securing any gold medals. Prior to London the most golds NZ has won in a single Olympics (that I remember) was three (Atlanta, Athens and Beijing). In London, Team NZ has won five golds (13 medals in total).* This sits us proudly in the top 20 nations – and there are some big nations below us. In all honesty, the mere thought of five gold medals brings tears of pride to my eyes. Oh, who am I kidding? There were tears when we won our first gold medal. The highlight was definitely the two golds within one hour in the rowing on 3rd August. Well done Team New Zealand, you wore your colours with pride.

As I said at the start, I didn’t put in for tickets, nor did I have any luck searching for tickets. However, fortune must have been on my side as my Mum won tickets to a session of gymnastics. Lizzie was going to an event after all! The session in question was the women’s individual all round. As I quickly learnt (as a rule I only see gymnastics during the Olympics) this meant individuals on the balance beam, uneven bars, vault and floor. Being particularly un-athletic as a child, especially in the realm of gymnastics, each of these apparatus are beyond anything that I could attempt. It was difficult enough to take in all that was happening (four competitors, each on one apparatus at any one time? That took a while to get used to). The crowd was phenomenal, there were two British competitors and both were so well supported (we waved our flags along with the rest). In the end the medals went elsewhere, well done Gabby Douglas on securing gold.

Lastly, two of my favourite moments (that weren’t action related):

Michael Johnson and Ian Thorpe on the BBC who both added a refreshing balance to the heavily GB perspective.

Footage of the BBC pundits during the men’s 100m final and the men’s 5000m final. Priceless.

* Now SIX gold medals since Val had her silver in the shor put bumped up to a gold, yipee!

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