Olympic Sized Hole… Again

FOREWORD – turns out I wrote a post very similar to this four years ago. And I used the exact same title, until I realised and changed this one!

I haven’t written in a while, but there’s no great surprise there.

One of the reasons why has been that during the whole of the Olympic period, I spent it doing one of either two things: working and watching the Olympics. Oh, I suppose I did sleep as well, but it wasn’t that much.

At this point I would normally say something trite like “I’ve always loved the Olympics” but I don’t think it’s true. The earliest Olympics I can truly remember is Atlanta 1996, and being only 11 at the time, I don’t really think I paid much attention to it. After all, I disliked competitive sport a lot back then. Which kinda put paid to me watching anything of Sydney 2000. Sport just wasn’t my bag. I was such a bore.

Skip then to Athens 2004. By now my attitude to sport had changed, mainly because I was no longer being forced to do it in school. In truth, I still don’t remember much, despite being 19 years old. I worked throughout the summer, but I only had a part time job, so I could have watched a lot more. I remember some amazing gold medals, and maybe it lit a little spark, but I don’t remember consuming TV coverage as much as I did this time.

In 2008, I had just graduated, and was jobless. I watched Olympics. I watched any sport and every event under the sun. Except dressage, because that just baffled me. But the timezone wasn’t favourable. By the time I got up, half of the day’s events were over. But I would load up the BBC’s live text and read back what had happened overnight. It made up for it a little, but I still felt like I was missing out.

When London won the Games in 2005, I was really positive about it. In the seven years between then and now, I remained positive, despite years of British self-flaggelation on the subject. I knew if we could get behind it we’d actually learn to enjoy it.

Then, what happened in the past two weeks completely blew me away.

First of all, it has provided some great moments. For the past two weeks I have watched so much sport, but – beautifully – so many tales of human endeavour against the odds. So many tales of people setting themselves challenges, and succeeding. Disappointment and sorrow, yes, but all part of one of humanity’s greatest spectacles of co-operation and peace. The events themselves are competition, but somehow when viewed from above, the sum transcends that. It is the ability of the human race to engage each other in a triumph of personal struggle against adversity, of super-human feats of effort.

Secondly, I enjoyed it because of how it finally smashed British cynicism and brought together the nation. We finally learned to appreciate that we are good at some things after all, and we really can achieve greatness if we work together.

Thirdly, the Olympics have given me some new heroes. An overused word, perhaps, but one justified for such incredible athleticism. Bradley Wiggins, take a bow. And Laura Trott, too. Bloody jealous of you, Jason Kenny…

Fourthly, I had been enjoying watching sports I wouldn’t normally give a second thought to, and learning about some sports for the first time. Some were very good spectacles, like the beach volleyball, and others were just wonderful through the Herculean efforts of the participants: like in cycling and rowing. I was constantly in awe at those talents.

But most of all it has just been fun. Fun that is no longer with me. Fun that I had been so much looking forward to, and now is but a memory… with four whole years till the next jolly exercise.

I watched the Closing Ceremony on Sunday night fighting back the tears on a number of occasions. Yes, I know some of the singers were crap, and did indeed cause tears for the wrong reasons, but the overall display of united humanity was just too much. Some of the song choices were inspired. Elbow, twice. Everyone’s here. One day like this a year’ll see me right. And Eric Idle. Just perfect Britishness. And I don’t often use that word…

But then the following days I’ve almost been in mourning. I’m still consuming as much Olympic news as I can, desperate to cling onto something. And occasionally a memory will pop in of sporting triumph. I feel briefly happy, then wish it would all come back, and so become depressed!

Somehow, the football that starts for me and my team this weekend just won’t cut it any more. At last, I think I have finally had enough of football. The Olympics have made me see the light.

Famous last words…

Here’s to another Olympic-sized hole in four years time. Roll on Rio.

Olympic Sized Hole

Yesterday was the first day I’ve had in a little while without any Olympics action to look forward to. Much as I feel very hypocritical for saying this, because I wasn’t impressed with the Games going to China due to their terrible human rights record, I do think the Olympics were a sporting triumph and an amazing spectacle, one of the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.

But all of a sudden, with them ending, I feel empty. I watched the closing ceremony with a forlorn sadness, even stifling a tear or two at the lowering of the Olympic flag and the extinguishing of the flame (bloody symbolism always gets me for some reason). It’s been awesome getting up every morning to see the latest Olympic successes of the British team, and watching loads of sports that I had never really given a consideration to in the past. Track cycling, for example. Swimming. Even diving. But then again, it doesn’t take much for me to get an interest in a sport. I can watch most sports pretty easily. Except weightlifting. I draw the line there…

I remember watching the Atlanta Olympics. My first Olympic memory. I remember Britain being a complete disaster, failing in most things. I remember lots of complaints from people – why are we so bad? But it turns out that was the absolute low point, and we seem to have used that to turn ourselves around. It’s been really cool to feel part of something for a change. Which is rather odd, because I haven’t done anything but watch the telly and cheer on people who happened to be born, by total accident, in the same country as me.

It’s just a part of human psychology though. We like to feel part of something. We need associations and belonging. I could identify with any country. The choice is arbitrary. But I might as well identify with the one I’m from. That, to me, is the limit of my patriotism. There are a lot of things wrong with this country, but just for a moment it’s nice to forget them and celebrate the achievements of some amazing athletes. They worked hard and deserved their success.

However, I doubt we will be as successful in the future with the rise of China… somehow I suspect that after London 2012 we will be slipping backwards towards our low point at Atlanta. China has the manpower, the financial clout, the discipline and the national fervour for sporting success to complete a clean sweep in every sport. And even more so now they have the legacy of the fantastic facilities to practice in. Nervous times for the rest of the world.

One of the most painful parts, however, was hearing the national anthem, which is a total dirge. Even after listening to it 19 times for the 19 different gold medals, it simply will not wash with me. There’s always the hope that a new monarch will change the anthem, but I suspect Chas will only change the “Queen” to “King”. But even then, I don’t see the Queen shuffling off any time soon. I digress…

As I was saying, now it’s all over, I have to find something else to fill my time. It was great fun, and I wish it went on for longer (two weeks seems awfully short for something that happens every four years) but then again we all say that whenever we’ve just enjoyed something. It’s going to be a long four years till the next Games. Having said that, I’m sure it will just fly by. Just like every other day lately.

A nice depressing note to end on.