Welcome to my blog. There's no particular theme I'm just posting random thoughts and things that interest me

Sunday, 1 April 2012

London 2012 hype is getting to me

Cynical Londoner I may be but I think I'm coming down with Olympic fever

Ben Johnson stole my Olympic innocence in 1988. Along with the rest of the world, I watched open-mouthed when the Canadian sprinter won the 100 metres gold in Seoul. He hadn’t just beaten his bitter rival Carl Lewis. He had destroyed him and crushed the world record in the process. The greatest run in history! 

I can still see him now: whirling Road Runner legs, right arm raised high in victory and huge bulging eyes, blazing like burning cannonballs. Except a second glance at that crazed glare and his sideways smile and you didn’t need a scientist to tell you he was a drugs cheat. 

It was as plain as when you looked at one of the syringed East German swimmers who were as big and scary as grizzlies and almost as hairy. Johnson was banned for a while, then ran in the next Olympics, and later got banned again. I had already stopped watching.

It wasn’t only the cheating. It was the fact that just because a couple of nerdy looking blokes from Lymington had won the Men’s Star Team Sailing (whatever that was) we were a nation of Nelsons all of a sudden. Plus the way old women at bus stops would claim they had always loved hockey and didn’t Sean Kerly have nice legs, to say nothing of his stick work. 

So when we were given the 2012 Olympics, I wasn’t the only cynical Londoner rolling his eyes. I knew we were in for five years of propaganda. Forget the cost and the chaos.  This was the greatest thing to happen to Britain since Henry V was practising his archery at Agincourt. Or so we were told.

Once the Games start, the roads will be blocked, the Tube jammed and annoying tourists will stop you every few yards asking how to get to the Olympic village. Some chance - as if any self-respecting Londoner even knows where Stratford is, or would admit it in public if they did.  

For all that, the Olympic hype is starting to get to me. I still know the opening ceremony will be an embarrassing fish supper compared to Beijing’s delicate banquet. But the aerial shots of London will be breathtaking. Half the world will wish they lived here. St. Paul’s, conveniently cleansed of Occupy protesters, will look magnificent. 

I almost feel guilty now when I see wholesome Becky Addlington and shy Jessica Ennis staring at me from the back of cereal boxes. Maybe not all the competitors will be injecting steroids behind the bike sheds after all. 

I am coming down with Olympic fever and once the Games start, I may have to take to the sofa. 

I’ll fight it of course, like a true Londoner. But then one day the TV will be on and the commentator will be yelling that plucky Kerry from Kidderminster has just won a gold medal and is the best in the world, THE BEST IN THE WORLD, at Greco-Roman canoeing or short course artistic pistol shooting or something. All those early mornings practicing her triple drainpipe were not in vain.

And the BBC will play a montage of our Kerry’s proudest day, with dreamy shots of the Mall or Tower Bridge, set to a swooping anthem by Elbow. The crowd will be singing God Save the Queen and waving those silly little union jacks and I won’t be able to resist anymore. I’ll be staring at the screen as bug-eyed as Ben Johnson, with a lump in my throat, holding back the tears. Innocent once again. 

1 comment:

  1. You've got it, Simon. In spite of everything (including the likelihood that my street, which is a few hundred yards from the Olympic Park, will be jammed 18 hours a day for three or four weeks; and my business in Bethnal Green may have to switch to night working) - there's an undeniable frisson of childish excitement, just as there was when I breathlessly watched the early morning broadcasts in 1968, before trotting off to school.