Well the Olympics is finally here with the opening ceremony just 2 days away and the Womens football tournament starting today. We don’t really do excitement in England, unless it is for a public holiday or sunny weather, preferably both at the same time. We don’t do patriotism very much either and for many the highlight of the whole 2012 Olympics was 7 years ago when despite lots of urging from the French President, the Olympic committee voted for London over Paris. Beating France in anything is one thing we do enjoy.
When I go abroad I am often mistaken for being American as I’m always smiling and friendly but I presume that is because I come from the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne which is hundreds of miles away from London and famous for its parties and friendly people amongst other things but I don’t really get excited either. I am a little excited about the Olympics though not having any tickets I am equally excited that we are approaching the weekend and that I have a pepperoni pizza to eat in the freezer. If that sounds a bit churlish then a straw poll in my office of 5 colleagues reveal I am probably the most excited of them all.
I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympic torch being carried 8,000 miles around the country by the old and young and especially those for which every step is a struggle, let alone running a mile with a torch. To me this seems to be more in the spirit of the Olympics than much of the actual games to follow.
What I am looking forward to is watching the Opening Ceremony, for some reason I often enjoy watching them and usually enjoy them more than much of the sport. You can always tell a lot about a country by the ceremony it hosts and I am sure many people will remember with awe previous one in Beijing and the slightly less awesome but still interesting ceremony in Athens. I’ve avoided reading the spoilers about Friday night, it will either be the best thing sliced bread or it will be tacky and contrived. For some reason those that run these events do sometimes seem incapable of hyping up GB and its heritage, it either goes all traditional or at least the politically correct parts and makes us look like we are living 200 years in the past or it goes all ultra-modern and ditches any national identity. It shouldn’t be too hard to take the best bits of a few thousand years of history but so often it is so we may end up just having the Spice Girls eating fish and chips live on stage… which may be better than having them sing I suppose.
It’s certainly been a big year for London with on top of the usual events there has been Royal Weddings, Jubilee weekends and now the Olympics. Perhaps the biggest element though is the amazing regeneration of this part of derelict and severely run down Stratford in East London.
Whereas many previous Olympics have seen acres of construction green field sites which then become expensive and rarely used relics, in London old slums and dilapidated factories have made way for new stadia, shopping centres and parkland.
The old canal which used to have more abandoned cars and shopping trolleys is now rejuvenated and for the first time in centuries the concrete has made way for parkland and wild flower meadows.
With every 75 pence out of every 1 pound being spent on “legacy” then maybe this will be the biggest achievement out of everyone who takes part in the games and that is the bit that I am most looking forward to.
Surely as we will only have the Olympics this one time for the next couple of decades then we should try and enjoy it. It is something of an honour for the rest of the world to choose us in the first place.
The main gripes of the British public is the traffic chaos being caused in London and the argument that all the money could have gone on something more essential but now all the work is done and everyone has put in all the effort, can’t we be a bit cheerful and forget all the problems for just once in a while. Let the games begin!
All photos courtesy of the BBC, Associated Press, Daily Mail , Guardian, Liverpool Echo and Bloomberg