London, you did me proud.
Over the past fortnight, you’ve put on a show to rival any other. You’ve organised yourself near perfectly, created history through extraordinary sporting achievements, and laid a legacy for British sports through a rejuvenated suburb of East London that will be enjoyed for decades to come.
You had me at the opening ceremony.
When you wheeled out the Great Ormond Street Hospital children, and the NHS nurses and doctors danced across the stage, I felt a surge of pride. The poignancy of the soldiers in the poppy fields, the humour of Mr Bean and our skydiving Majesty, the modern multicultural relationship taking shape beneath a British soundtrack to die for. The ceremony was inspired, eccentric, and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek.
|Photo credit: Paul Brennan (Flickr Creative Commons)|
Our greatest team
I thought I’d fallen out of love with the UK.
In Australia, I’m often reminded of Britain’s bad weather, bad manners, bad attitudes. The bad customer service, bad hygiene, bad housing, bad food. But, above all else, I’m reminded of how bad we are at sports – we invent sports but can’t play them, we’re poor losers and arrogant winners, we’re a country of anoraks and book readers, not athletes or outgoing people.
London, you reminded me how wrong these naysayers are. You performed an Olympic personal best and you did so with grace and good manners.
The athletic performances were inspirational and Our Greatest Team shone. From Jess Ennis to Mo Farah, the rowing team to the velodrome, I sat glued to my TV in the small hours of the morning cheering you all on and on and on.
You left me with memories of Wiggo camply enthroned on a gold chair, rain-soaked marathon runners sprinting down the Mall, the garish pink and blue of the hockey field, the beach sand of Horse Guards Parade, and Mary Poppins descending out of the London night sky.
The trains didn’t break, the security didn’t fail, the rain didn’t always fall.
A shift in mood
London, you showed me a positive, welcoming British people.
Britain has been rife with recession, unemployment, and the widespread rioting of last year. The country has been a shadow of its former self and an uncertain place in which to live.
Watching the Olympics has been something of a revelation. I learned a lot about my home country and countrymen over the past few weeks.
Not only was it superb to see the London skyline as a backdrop for those Olympic events strategically placed around the Capital, but I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people filling the arenas and lining London’s streets.
The positivity of the British was apparent throughout the Games. Sure, chest beaters and told-you-so’s were rife, but I sensed a growing confidence and pride as the two weeks unfolded. I felt a shift in the national mood and saw an abundance of support and enthusiasm for the Games.
Each time I discovered a friend had attended an Olympic event, I smiled. The same reaction every time I read a positive comment about the organisation of the Games or the lively atmosphere at the Park or the friendliness of the volunteers in purple.
I also learned a lot about the country I now live in over the past few weeks.
The narrative of Australia’s participation at the Olympics was the polar reverse to the UK’s, focusing on negativity and blame. The media, the Government, even the athletes searched desperately for somewhere to lay responsibility for their poor performance at the Games. Team GB and London rarely escaped their vitriol.
It disappointed me and was a wake-up call of sorts.
Looking forward not back
The media often remind us that this Games cost the UK more than $9 billion but I can’t help feeling that, as government stimulus packages go, economic turnarounds have been built on less.
The Games may have temporarily distracted Britain from its troubled times but why not believe it can serve as a reminder of what’s possible when the Brits put their minds to something?
Some may question whether the Olympics put the ‘Great’ back into Britain but it certainly put pride and self-confidence into the British people. London 2012 was a magnificent showcase of Britishness, a feast of union flag-waving patriotism, and I shall miss it now that it’s gone.
London, you pulled it off and you did it so well. You beat expectations and you delivered one of the, if not the, best Games ever.
You reminded me of the things I love about Britain and British culture. Happy and glorious.
London, you made me quite proud.
Did you enjoy the Games? Did you sense a change in British attitudes over the course of the Olympics? What were the highlights (and lowlights) for you?