This may be jingoistic and me jumping on the bandwagon, but I wanted to add my two-penneth worth to the countless words written already on the subject of the Olympic Games. Here are five things that the Olympics has taught me this summer.
1. I really do love the Olympics
I thought that I knew this already, but this year’s Olympics really confirmed that I am a big fan of the Olympics. In the run-up to the games, I actively avoided the torch relay (bah!) and resolutely refused to enter the ticket ballots (Visa – pah!). But as the games approached, that familiar feeling of excitement took over and I looked forward to the sport itself with great glee.
You see, for me, it really is all about the sport. As much as I admire Danny Boyle, I was initially skeptical about the opening ceremony and was itching for the actual games to begin (as it turns out, though, I was rather impressed by the opening ceremony). But this was two whole weeks of wall-to-wall Olympics. Two weeks where you can legitimately turn up to a meeting five minutes late with the excuse “I was just listening to us win that dressage gold” and not only avoid getting rebuked but also spend the next five minutes discussing the finer points of equestrianism. Two weeks of great sport.
What could be better than that?
2. It’s probably the only time you get the opportunity to enjoy something new on the telly
With sport migrating to Sky like Canada Geese fleeing to Mexico, there is very little left for us freeview watchers to enjoy. There certainly isn’t the breadth of sports that are available during the fortnight of the Olympics. When else does the sentence “I might take a break from the water polo, I think there’s handball on BBC Three” get uttered in your house?
Would I sit down and watch an entire rowing meet if it were broadcast on any other Saturday morning? I honestly couldn’t say for certain that I would. But cometh “Super Saturday” and cometh the newbie rowing fan, desperate to wring every last drop of adrenaline-pumping excitement from the water at Eton Dorney. Will the die-hard fans, those who support their sport through thick and thin, come rain or shine, through funding cuts and unremarked-upon glories, will they shake their heads at me and sigh? Will they ask “where were you for the other 206 weeks”? Quite probably. But, my word, wasn’t it exciting? Wasn’t it fantastic to see your sport up their on the biggest stage, getting that adulation?
The BBC’s review, sport-by-sport, of the winners and losers from the London 2012 games included this quote from Hope Powell, coach of the British women’s team:
“We have raised awareness throughout the whole of Great Britain. People are now aware that women’s football does exist and that it is a fantastic product.”
And this from Scott McCarthy, British Judo’s chief executive:
“The increased interest in the sport has been unprecedented and provides us with a unique opportunity to grow judo in the UK. Almost five million people watched Thursday’s final [featuring Gemma Gibbons] and the entire competition provided an excellent showcase for the sport.”
Clearly I have selected a small, and very one-sided, set of quotes to back up my point, but I would like to hope that these will be representative of those involved in all of these wonderful sports that had their moment to shine this summer.
3. The Olympics are better than the Wii
A contoversial assertion I’m sure, but one that I’m prepared to stand behind.
Not just stand behind actually, but jump up and down, wave my arms furiously and pump my legs in ever-increasing excitement about. You see, I was there with them, the Wiggins’s, the Hoy’s, the Ennis’s and the Farah’s. They had given years over to their preparation for the physical demands of the Olympics. Me, I’d barely enough energy for the 10-yard dash to the kettle and back (surely a contender for Rio 2016). Yet I couldn’t help myself. There I was in my lounge, running, cycling, jumping and boxing along with them. It was like a real-life Wii Sports. It was exhausting.
I will admit that this inadvertent joining-in with the sports that I was watching wasn’t without its challenges. Whilst my legs unconciously began pedalling along with our cyslists and running with our runners, and whilst I threw myself out of my chair with Greg Rutherford, my body was somewhat stumped as to what to do as Ben Ainslie clinched his fourth Gold medal. My limited experience of what actually goes on inside a Finn let me down and I resorted to just standing in the centre of the room with both arms above my head in exaltation (or, if you prefer, in the type of pose normally accompanied by the phrase “you have the right to remain silent…”).
And that’s not to mention the rowing. They spend the whole time going backwards, not an easy position from which to see the telly.
So, QED. The Olympics are much better than the Wii. Take that Nintendo.
4. I’m also very excited about the Paralympics
Now I may not know much about a lot of Paralympic sports, but that doesn’t stop me looking forward to the Paralympics with great enthusiasm. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue about handball, water polo looked like underwater wrestling to me and I don’t know my ippons from my… um… other judo throws. So the fact that I haven’t the foggiest what goes on in goalball, or how wheelchair rugby works, is not putting me off in the slightest. I went into the Olympics expecting to enlightened and entertained and the Paralympics promise to do the same and more.
Channel 4 seem to be following the route that worked so well with the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics, with multiple channels showing the events and live streaming on their website and the red button. In their words, they will “broadcast the Games like never before”.
And it’s all going to start in less than a week from now.
5. We are pretty good at finding the funny side of life
Whether it was Mr Bean and the London Symphony Orchestra at the opening ceremony or Eric Idle leading a sing-a-long of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” at the closing ceremony, it was clear that humour had it’s part to play in the London Olympics. But even away from the opening and closing ceremonies, there was fun to be had throughout the games. From Clare Balding citing her interview with Chad le Clos’s father Bert as one of her highlights of the games, to the footage of the BBC pundits cheering Mo Farah’s first gold medal (and Galen Rupp’s silver), the sport was interspersed with joyous, light-hearted moments.
Even as we were cheering Mo Farah’s double gold medal, with Brendan Foster describing his 5000m run as “the best I’ve ever witnessed in athletics in Britain”, some bright spark was already hard at work on Mo Farah Running Away From Things. Brilliant.
And over on twitter, the official London 2012 twitterati included the irreverant and excellent contributions of @L2012PoolCam, @L2012GymCam, @L2012MatCam, @L2012BBallCam, @L2012TableCam and @L2012StadiumCam. Don’t forget that these are part of the official London 2012 twitter presence. If you haven’t checked these out already, I strongly urge you to stop reading this now and head over there. Enjoy!