I got in my car for the hour drive home yesterday and started the engine. Something was wrong, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I drove for a few miles periodically looking around but couldn’t work out what it was. I was missing something, I knew that for sure. I racked my brain and couldn’t think of anything I’d forgotten, the car felt okay so what was it? Turning the radio off I listened but the car sounded fine so I turned the radio back on.
And then it hit me.
For the past two weeks my journey home had been accompanied by athletics, fencing and a host of other sports as well as gold medals. And now it had been replaced by regular programmes, the grumbling tones of Radio 5 that for so long had been my companion until they became the official Olympic broadcaster.
And I was sad.
Very sad in fact. I started to think back to all of the times I’d been driving home cheering on Team GB, celebrating with them, commiserating sometimes. No matter where I was at any time, whether in the car or at home watching I had spent two weeks in the company of world class athletes sharing their pain and joy.
And now it’s gone for another four years, although I suspect Rio won’t quite be the same. The time difference will likely have some impact but the fact that it’s not ‘our’ games will make it just that little bit alien.
We’ve sat and watched as athletes didn’t achieve the potential that they knew they had. Listened as some apologised to their families, their countries, their population for a brief moment of weakness that showed the rest of us that they are in fact human. I was swept away in a tide of emotion as those athletes for who this will be their last Olympics just didn’t quite achieve either expectation or their own ambition and the sight of Victoria Pendleton in tears as she received her silver medal, knowing that this was her last Olympics, brought a lump to my throat.
The motto for these Olympics was ‘Inspire A Generation’ and you know what, I think they will. If even 10% of the population of the UK feel the way I do then they will have achieved what they set out to. Many an Olympic venue now lies deserted, legacies from previous games that are left to decline but I have a feeling that the regeneration of the areas that were chosen for these games will make a difference, that they will motivate others to follow in the footsteps of all the great athletes that passed through our small island nation to pit themselves against the ultimate challenges.
Despite all the doubters, those that said we couldn’t do it, we succeeded, those doubts unfounded and the critics are now skulking back to their pessimistic corners. I’ll be the first to admit that raising the wrong flag at one of the football matches didn’t bode well, but you know what despite that slightly inauspicious start it all went well.
Actually, the worst part for me was the closing ceremony which wasn’t quite what I expected. But how much of that was down to the content or my sadness at the games leaving is debatable.
But now we have the Paralympics to look forward to and we will no doubt throw as much attention into that. Yes there won’t be the same wall to wall coverage but that doesn’t matter, that small spark is still here for the next few weeks ready to erupt into flame again and then it will truly be time to bid the games farewell.
Thanks London 2012. You’ve inspired me, and I’m not even the generation you intended to inspire.