Now, I’ll be the first to admit (as would anyone who knows me) that I’m not exactly sporty. That’s not to say I’m hugely overweight and just cabbage, more that I don’t particularly enjoy sport and never have. I was the last person to be picked for sports at school and never particularly got involved in any of the teams or found a sport I particularly enjoyed. I’m just not a physical person.
But over the past couple of months I’ve had an almost frenzied interest in sport. First the world cup watching every England match (even though I wouldn’t be able to name half the players) and now the Olympics. At every opportunity the TV goes on and we watch whatever sport happens to be broadcasting at the time. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Team GB athlete in it or not, it’s the spectacle.
We sat riveted to the opening ceremony on Friday night, and granted we initially looked at each other after the first 5 minutes wondering where it was all going, but from that point on we were drawn in to this spectacle of people, light and sounds. In my mind the forging of the Olympic rings and the lighting of the spectacular cauldron were highlights that will live in the memory long after the games close. The fact that this is taking place in London for an unprecedented third time makes it more special despite the fact that we live 180 miles from the capital.
But that’s the point though. In these troubled times that seem to have been going on for decades (the longest period of world peace? Seriously?) an entire country comes together for a celebration of everything that can be achieved if we work together. When I say an entire country I don’t just mean the UK, I’m talking about 205 countries each coming together to support their team’s. It doesn’t matter if there are 3 or 300 athletes representing that country, the pride the athletes feel in taking part in this magnificent pinnacle of sporting excellence is palpable. Witness the number of athletes who entered the Olympic stadium on Friday night holding cameras, taking images of the crowds and the stadium and the people who have come out to see them while those very same crowds are taking photos of the athletes themselves.
I can’t imagine what it would be like for these athletes who have turned out to represent their countries with such pride, who have trained for years for this one event, the sense of their achievement. It doesn’t matter if they come first or last, the pride they take in representing their communities is admirable and I probably feel more empathy for the athletes from the smaller countries, or those who know that realistically they will get knocked out in the first round. To them it doesn’t matter, they have stood proud before their peers and tried their hardest at the world’s sporting stage.
There will be smiles, there will be tears, but most of all there will be 205 countries together, helping each other out, making new friends and doing their best for themselves, their country and their sport. Athletes will enthusiastically congratulate each other regardless of where they came in the rankings and whichever country the winners are from.
Perhaps if all world governments could come together with the same ethos as the Olympics rather than what appears to the casual observer to be the petty selfishness and suspicion we’ve become accustomed to what we could really achieve as a species. I suspect though that country ‘A’s government will be happy only if they appear above country ‘B’s position in the medal table and that’s quite sad.
So here’s to another two weeks of the Olympics, and the spirit of pride and excellence it brings with it. Let’s hope that this spirit of co-operation will transcend the event and perhaps make a small difference somewhere in the world.
We can hope and dream, and after all, surely that’s what the Olympics is all about.