Down the Olympic rabbit hole

I didn’t ever doubt that London could pull the Olympics off. As a nation, we’re pretty great at doing large events and pageantry. I wasn’t quite prepared for how amazing the Opening Ceremony was going to be. Danny Boyle produced a take on British social history of which my 17 year old self would have been proud, featuring Brunel, the Industrial Revolution, the Suffragettes, the NHS, Windrush and a tour through popular music that only lacked a burst of Pulp to make it complete. The torch lighting ceremony made me weepy with joy and the night was only tainted by Paul McCartney’s inability to sing his own songs any more.

I was already in love and the sport hadn’t even started….

LOCOG started releasing extra tickets at very short notice and I became addicted to the London 2012 ticket website. At 10.30pm each evening they release returned tickets and unwanted Olympic Family and Press seats. Dh had selflessly got everyone Paralympic tickets but didn’t manage to get himself any Olympic tickets. I decided that he had to go to something and picked up two single tickets for the swimming on the fourth day of competition as a wedding anniversary gift. As we approached the Stratford Gate of the Olympic Park I felt quite overwhelmed and we didn’t stop smiling the whole time we were there. We only watched a few heats but the atmosphere in the Aquatics Centre was fantastic and whenever a Team GB competitor appeared the whole place went bananas.

Dh’s Olympic sojourn ended there: mine was only just beginning. My Mum and I took the girls to the Olympic Park for the day – our adventures will appear in a separate post. After two heady days at the epicentre of the Games I took myself off to Lord’s for the Archery. It was the Olympics, clearly, but much more civilised – aside from one set of fans shouting MEHICO MEHICO and a whole gang of South Koreans chanting and banging sticks together whenever one of their countrywomen competed.

My late night forays on the ticketing website secured me three diving events in the second week. I had to go on my own, but that was not exactly a hardship. I went to the Men’ 3 metre springboard preliminary and was so into it all that the couple sitting next to me mistook me for the diving expert and started asking me about the nuances of the sport. I think I bluffed fairly well, largely thanks to listening to the expert commentary by Leon Taylor and Bob Ballard over the years. I have enjoyed watching diving for a while but I wasn’t expecting to become a fully-fledged groupie. My binoculars and the zoom on my camera were really put through their paces as I shamelessly peered at buff young (very young) men in tiny speedos. No need for Fifty Shades of Grey when you’ve spent a few hours in their company. In the interest of balance I also watched some women’s diving. I didn’t need to use my binoculars quite as much, but it was still really interesting. My second night of men’s diving gets a post to itself, too.

When I wasn’t at the Olympics I was watching them at home. We had access to a zillion channels of red button awesomeness so I set myself up with my work laptop on my lap, my home laptop to once side, my ipad on the other and the remote in east reach. I went into the office a couple of times for a few hours to get some bits and pieces done but I was largely based at home for the duration.

I watched more of this Olympics than any other. After a slow start, the gold medals started coming in and Team GB lived up to their pre-games billing of ‘Our Greatest Team’. One of my favourite moments was the first Thursday afternoon when we won Gold and Silver in the canoe slalom (who knew that canoeists – and kayackers for that matter – could be so charmingly geeky? They are an endearing counterpoint to the uber rah male rowers) and moments later won Gold in the shooting. Two more disparate events are hard to imagine. Alongside that I developed a fleeting love of judo or, more accurately of local girl Gemma Gibbons as she fought valiantly, with a broken thumb as it turned out, to win a silver medal and looked to the heavens to thank her mum. I, along with a million other women, did quite a bit of sobbing.

I became an armchair expert in a range of sports. I almost hurled my dinner at the screen when the men’s gymnastics team were demoted from silver to bronze thanks to a protest by the sulky Japanese team. Had I been in company I would have been arrested as I shouted expletives at the TV. Luckily the girls were fast asleep in bed and Dh was at work. The gymnasts (Max Whitlock for the teenies, Lewis Smith for the more discerning older lady like myself) were a million times more gracious about it all than I was.

I used to watch a lot of athletics as a kid but have fallen out of love with it in recent years. Too many whingers and too many druggies kept me away but on the magical Saturday night when we won three Gold medals courtesy of Jessica Ennis, Greg Ruthford and Mo Farah re-ignited my love of track and field. I sat with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and biscuits and marvelled as Mo’s wife, heavily pregnant with twin girls lumbered over to congratulate him. I didn’t leave the house in the last six weeks of my twin pregnancy and yet she was there cheering her man home despite being in obvious and entirely understandable discomfort. Richard Curtis could not have scripted it better.

The Team GB medal tally kept growing, thanks in large part to our amazing cycling programme. It’s always amusing to piss the French off and we are properly good at the two wheel stuff. I’m really hacked off that the events in the Velodrome have been reduced to make way for BMX and mountain biking. I could happily watch that old bloke with the cob-on expression trundle round on a Keirin bike for hours. I miss the individual pursuit and the madness of the Madison. I like the fact that the cyclists and their entourages all go out with each other and I fervently hope they all combine genes and create cycling babies.

I didn’t really watch the sailing but I do rather like Ben Ainslie. I bet I wasn’t the only one to go all wibbly when he did his ‘THEY HAVE MADE ME ANGRY AND YOU WOULDN’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY’ speech. I half-expected him to wrestle a bear to the ground and invade Poland armed only with a teaspoon, just because he could.

As things started to wind down I felt overwhelmingly sad. London had been building up to this for 7 years and now it was nearly over. The Closing Ceremony was the epitome of a curates egg. One minute I was bouncing with excitement and the next I was groaning and sinking into the sofa with embarrassment. I watched the whole thing though and felt quite choked up when the Olympic flame was extinguished.

I knew I was going to be consumed by the Olympics. I didn’t quite realise how hard I would fall for it and how bereft I would feel afterwards. On Monday it felt like I had the worst hangover ever and I felt genuinely downhearted.

A butterfly-like phenomenon had, in my lifetime touched down in Russia, America (twice), Spain, Australia and China landed six miles from our doorstep and stayed for a very brief 17 days. It is now in its way to the more exotic climes of Brazil and I can’t imagine that it will come back in my lifetime. Maybe the girls will get to experience it again. I hope they do. I hope they take me out of my nursing home in my wheelchair and plonk me in front of the male divers so I can get one more use out of my ancient binoculars. I don’t want this to be the end of our real-life Olympic adventures*

*Actually it’s not. We’re going to the Paralympics in a couple of weeks.


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