As the closing ceremony effectively hands the Olympic baton to Rio De Janeiro, it’s probably appropriate to reflect on the last three weeks which have hijacked news, sport, radio, TV and pub conversations in the UK like nothing else in recent years. Especially as the games have also put a brake on my travel plans as I’ve spent every chance I got going to events.
I was lucky to get tickets in the original ballot and persistent enough to pick up others as they became available. Then there were the freebies like the marathons and triathlons, which just required you to turn up and cheer everyone – especially Team GB (which was really Team UK but lets not complicate things). I also appreciate living near London gave me an advantage over those further afield but I hope everyone managed to get to at least one event. If not, then the Paralympics is another chance to share in the atmosphere. It’s well worth it.
Quite simply the event transformed London from a busy, fairly impersonal, unfriendly place into a cosmopolitan cauldron of happy, pleasant people who all suddenly learned to speak to each other and smile. How long it will last is anyone’s guess but it’s worth trying to keep hold of if we can as one of the much talked about elements of legacy.
The Olympic helpers were excellent, the soldiers drafted in at the last minute were an example of how security should be done. These are men and women who know what a real security threat is and don’t over react when they find a tube of lip balm in the corner of a backpack. They are used to wearing uniform and don’t feel the need to treat everyone else as closet terrorists.
Even the police took a welcome back seat in most of the Olympic venues – apart from at Wembley where a line of them insisted on halving the walkway and not one of them could explain why they were doing it (I know because I asked each one in turn and was met by a mixture of sarcastic comments, arrogance and disdain which bordered on a threat to arrest me for daring to challenge their authority). Sorry some things never change despite some of their colleagues – devoid of shoulder chips and possibly from a non-Metropolitan force – entertained the crowd in the Olympic park with their impressions of Bolt’s archer and Mo’s ‘MOBOT’. The sooner the police believe they are accountable for their behaviour and attitude as well as their actions we could finally be on the way to an effective force properly integrated with modern society.
But let’s not dwell on the negative as there was so much that was great about the games. Everyone will have their favourite highlight and it’s impossible to even list the options without omitting some classic moments but all I will say is that if you can watch GB judo gold medalist Gemma Gibbons look to the heavens and mouth the words: ‘I love you mum’, without a tear – or a flood of tears – coming to your eye, I suggest you take some time to reconsider your values and what really matters in life. For those who don’t know, 25 year old Gemma’s mother Jeanette died from leukaemia in 2004. Jeanette introduced Gemma to the sport at the age of six and influenced her early career. Gemma was ranked 42nd in the world before the Olympics.
Gemma was just one example of what could be dubbed ‘The Crying Games’. Athlete after athlete, parent after parent were captured on camera shedding the odd tear, or some sobbing uncontrollably at the emotion of the occasion, the release of years of dedication, hardship, pain, setbacks and focus on being the best they can be. And even though many will not admit it, a world-wide audience cried with them. It may not be regarded as fashionable or cool because as we know ‘real men don’t cry’ because it’s a sign of weakness, but I think 2012 might just be the year when we all come to the terms with the fact that crying is a natural part of our behaviour. If more people admitted that crying is just one of our emotional responses and a perfectly valid response to certain circumstances, it’s hard to see how the world would be worse-off. We’re all fairly comfortable with public displays of anger – and we even cultivate them for effect at times – yet for many, crying remains something to be ashamed of, even when it involves tears of joy. Let’s hope part of the legacy of these games is an end to the bottling up of our emotions which can lead to far greater problems like stress, insecurity and depression.
So the games may have grounded me for a couple of weeks but this site is not just about travel. It’s about doing the things you want to do, enjoying the life you want to enjoy and I’ve certainly enjoyed the 30th Olympic Games in London 2012. The event has produced so many great stories and shining, positive examples that it should provide food for thought for all of us.
Decide what you want to do, work out the best way to do it and then focus on achieving it. Simple!
The Barefoot Bohemian.