#L2012DAYS - London’s Games of belief
Disbelief. It can be a such a negative emotion, and yet be so evocative of a feeling that you’ve been somewhere you weren’t meant to be. These are the last days of 2012, yet the memories of the last 365 will live in the hearts and minds of people around the world thanks to events in some small corner of East London.
It has been some 90 days since the end of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. I was fortunate recently to attend the new Olympic Park tours that go some way to explain and bring to life the evolution, post-Games, of the legacy being delivered in Stratford. It was a bittersweet trip down Memory Lane. The Park itself is barely recognisable from its pomp in the summer. Whole venues and attractions have long been flattened and removed. There are no insignias to be found. The winter cold has brought a bleakness to what will be the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the New Year. The London Olympic Games of 2012, the city’s unprecedented third stint hosting, is well and truly over.
And yet, as someone who attended 40-odd sessions across the Olympics and Paralympics, letting go of that spirit that has shaped London 2012 has proved hard. As an unashamed supporter of the Games and the broader Olympic movement, it has been galling to see so many of our press and thought-leaders attempt to unseat the efforts of a great many in delivering this most enormous festival of sport. Their actions nearly sent a nation into a paralysis of fear and loathing. That as a nation we had no right to stage such an event; that history showed we would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That London 2012 would give us the biggest headache in modern times. It is their disbelief that the greatest joy can be derived from. Those of us who attended the Olympics and Paralympics, or watched on TV, proved that far from being a spent force Britain mattered. It was relevant. And we could deliver and then some.
It was a privilege to be part of London 2012 as a spectator, to see the incredible effort made in creating arenas and fields of dreams. And yet, the Park tour made you appreciate the ingenuity of the engineers and designers of the sprawling complex. These Games were a marker for the future. No more can a host nation justify building structures in the name of vanity - London has shown it is possible to make an urban landscape work in your favour. The success alone of Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade and the Equestrian events in Greenwich Park highlighted this.
As the days become shorter, so those memories begin to dwindle a little. Life was always going to move on, particularly in a city like London. Being a truly global stage means there will never be too much of a lull. And yet I, like so many, hanker for those days as we counted-down to the Games. To remember the feeling of immense joy back in July 2005 when Lord Coe and his team achieved the impossible in Singapore.
I kick myself now for not paying more attention in those formulative years after the announcement, seeing how plans came to fruition and how decaying wasteland in E20 would become the epicentre of the universe for a few weeks. That frisson of excitement which accompanied announcements for logos and mascots can’t be replicated. And as for the moment when tickets went up for sale for the first time…
Whilst not being the only one by any stretch, I was truly blessed to have attended London 2012 in the capacity I did. I saw all the ceremonies, from the joy of Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening, to Coldplay’s dramatic conclusion to the Paralympics. I was there to see Phelps make history, Bolt affirm his greatness and Hoy further his legend. And yet, ‘Thriller Thursday’ from the Paralympics was perhaps the greatest night in my summer. The dazzling brilliance of David Weir and Jonnie Peacock rocked all 80000 in attendance to their core.
I didn’t think I’d be able to get over the depression that settled once normality set in, which in the end was silly talk. As the year draws to a close, the opportunity to reflect and take-in events of the past year is welcome. I look forward to consuming all the recap shows, DVDs and books that are coming out in time for Christmas.
I was very fortunate to chronicle a lot of my time at the Olympics and Paralympics for Yahoo! and The Fanhub. At a very personal level, to combine two pleasures (writing and sport) made this a year I will never forget.
And so, in the end, it comes down to where I started. Disbelief. I can’t believe London won. I can’t believe so many people doubted the organisers. I can’t believe the Games were as good as they were. And I can’t believe I attended as much as I did; that I witnessed so much sporting history in such a short space of time. Let no one doubt the power of the Olympic movement - the force it can be for good. A generation was inspired this summer, be in no doubt of that.
Much more than that however, let London 2012’s epitaph be this: never doubt the greatness of Britain.
Written originally for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.