I was seven months old. The memories don’t exactly come flooding back.
Los Angeles 1984
I was 4 years old. Again, not many memories here, only the ones that YouTube can give me retrospectively.
I was 8 years old. This is the first Olympic Games that I have memories of, even though it took place during the school term. Mum bought me a guide to the Games and I read it from cover to cover, again and again. Ben Johnson taught a generation of children that taking performance enhancing drugs (or, in fact, any drugs) is a Really Bad Idea – or at least, don’t take one that will immediately show up in a bog-standard doping test. Florence Griffith-Joyner’s nickname led to me being called Flo-Jo at school for YEARS. Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving board, but still won two gold medals. The GB Men’s hockey team winning gold against the odds.
I was 12 years old. Otherwise known as BAAAAARRRCELLLOOOOOONNNNNA thanks to Freddie Mercury (RIP) and Montserrat Caballe. The lighting of the cauldron by the Paralympic Archer. The mascot was Cobi. My sister (8 years old for this one) and I really wanted a Cobi. A unified Germany. South Africa were allowed to compete for the first time since the end of apartheid. The USA Dream Team in the basketball – to twelve year olds in rainy England, those guys were superstars. Chris Boardman and his bike made in a shed. A far cry from the cycling superstars we know today. Derek Redmond and his Dad. Dh and I went to Barcelona six years ago BT (Before Twins) and visited the still-impressive although slighty frayed around the edges Montjuic Park
I was 16 years old. I’d just finished my GCSEs and was working in our local Argos so I don’t have quite as many memories of this Olympics. Michelle Smith’s swimming achievements still appear in the record books, although she was banned in 1998 for doping offences. Michael Johnson’s ‘broom rammed up backside’ running style and all-round brilliance. GB only won one gold medal (a low point in our fortunes, which took place before lottery funding for sports kicked in) and it was, of course, won by Sir Steve Redgrave. He didn’t win Sports Personality of the Year, losing out to Damon Hill which led to a ‘heated’ exchange between my Dad and my Nan (his mother in law) over the phone at the end of the year which is now part of our family’s folklore.
I was 20 years old and just about to begin my final year at university. I watched half of it with my housemates in Reading and the other half with my Mum at home. Cathy Freeman lit the caluldron and won gold. Ian Thorpe and his MASSIVE FEET. Redgrave’s fifth gold medal (thankfully he won SPOTY that year, so family harmony was restored.)
History note for HoT fans: The Games finished on 1st October. I had my first date with Dh on Friday 13th October.
I was 24 years old and Dh and I had got married the week before. Kelly Holmes finally won gold and got her Damehood. Michael Phelps (swimming man/giant/geek/freak) won 8 medals. I’m sure I must have watched lots of it, but we were in honeymoon mode and had other things on our minds…
I was 28 years old. R and G were 8 months old. The Bird’s Nest Stadium. Team GB being abso-bloody-lutely amazing. I’d read good things about our athletes before the Games but dismissed it all as newspaper hype. I was proved wrong on the second day of competition when we won our first gold medal (Dh and I watched it in bed with the girls) and it just kept getting better after that. I even wrote a blog post on it, parts of which I’m going to replicate here:
“Most children watch cartoons, Baby TV or a music channel depending on the preference of the parent. R and G watch sport. They have already watched baseball, cricket and rugby and since last weekend they have been watching the Olympics with us. They were absolutely fascinated by the synchronised diving and were reduced to girlish giggles at the sight of extremely buff young men tumbling (mostly) gracefully into a deep pit of water wearing nothing but a pair of tiny speedos and sporting an impressive array of tattoos and body jewellery. I feel they are a little too young to be introduced to the concept of .gaydar., especially as mine is legendarily wonky.
Dh has refused to let them watch any of the equestrian events because he has an irrational fear of them becoming horsey girls. There’s no precedent for a predilection for horses in either family so he’s got nothing to worry about unless they pick up on his dislike and decide to rebel.
The girls have watched an American bag of muscles [I think I was referring to Michael Phelps here] break all sorts of records and be declared the greatest Olympian EVER. He’s not. I.ve explained this to them. They have watched the British women wipe the floor with their male colleagues: .SEE! SEE! Girls can do ANYTHING!.. They have also watched cycling, archery, rowing, swimming and canoeing. I didn.t let them watch the boxing or shooting.
The most important thing they are getting from the Olympics is a sense of what it is to be English/British. We’re good at the sailing, rowing, cycling and equestrian events. We.re quite bad at judo, weight-lifting, athletics, diving and almost everything else. It’s good that they develop an acceptance of mediocrity, failure and the “It’s been a great experience and I’ll learn from it”. (NO IT.S NOT! YOU ARE TWENTY EIGHT!!) culture now so that they can avoid years of disappointment caused by faded hopes and crushed dreams”.
During the Closing Ceremony the handover to London took place which was great except that it featured the twin evils of Boris Johnson and Leona Lewis “Don’t worry!” I declared triumphantly. “Boris won’t be mayor in four years’ time”. Oh.
I am 32 years old. R and G are Four (AND A HALF!) years old. It’s here. In our city. The city in which R and G were born. This is MEGA. This is once in a lifetime stuff. We have seen the torch relay. I have spent more hours than is strictly normal on the ticket website. I’m GOING to a couple of events (Archery and Women’s Diving) and the girls and I have Olympic Park tickets next week. For the next few weeks, life is going to be AMAZING.