This Sunday saw the closing ceremony of the 2012 London 2012 Olympics. I stayed up to watch despite needing to be up early the next morning. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. It was truly fantastic and the Athletes who treated us to some amazing moments over the previous 16 days looked to be having a great time and rightly so. The Olympics had been a huge success.
Now turn the clocks back a year or so when the Olympic tickets went on sale, I was really excited. I wanted to get a ticket for something. I wanted to see the greatest sporting event in the world. I wanted to be a part of history. I selected a number of events I wanted to see. Hoping I would be chosen for at least something. I wasn’t. Stories came through about people who got loads of tickets, MP’s and the such being given tickets yet I couldn’t get a single ticket for anything. I only live about 50 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Was one ticket too much to ask for? I was gutted. I was angry about the whole ticketing process and I had lost all interest and excitement in the Olympics.
Even when the Torch relay began I was still fed up with it all. It was all we had been hearing about for months and I still hadn’t managed to get a ticket for anything. Although it was nice to see worthy people running with the flame, people who had done a lot for charity and their community, I did get cross that minor celebrities got the chance to run with it to for no apparent reason. Remember Will.I.Am running with it in Taunton? Why? What had he done to deserve that opportunity? He didn’t even have any connection with the place and couldn’t even spell it!
But one image changed the way I thought.
Day 39 of the Torch Relay and the flame was in Doncaster. The crowds had packed the streets to see one person carry the flame. Not a celebrity, in fact a relative unknown. 27 year old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. Ben was the most severely wounded soldier to survive in Afghanistan and had lost both his legs. With the help of his family it took him neatly 30 minutes to cover the 300 meters whilst the thousands of onlookers cheered and spurred him on calling his name. It was heart warming stuff and made even the most cynical person such as myself feel rather emotional.
Maybe this whole farce and waste of government money was a little less of a joke after all.
The days counted down and before long the opening ceremony was upon us. I decided to give the Olympics a chance. Still frustrated at my lack of ticket I watched the opening ceremony with some cynicism. That didn’t last. Before long I was captivated by what was happening. The ceremony was spectacular. It had turned my mood and thoughts completely. I was now really looking forward to the games to begin.
The coverage provided by the BBC was superb. Hours and hours of TV showing every event. Extra channels put on and live internet streaming. Even the commentary on Radio 5, 5 live sports extra and Olympics extra that I was listening to at work was brilliant. The days passed and incredibly the medals for Team GB were racking up. Iconic and heart warming images and stories from the games being beamed around the world. Social media was buzzing and it seemed not just me but a whole nation was captivated. Cheering on the team in every event from Swimming and Rowing to Judo and Volleyball. Crying at images of Victoria Pendleton final goodbye and Chris Hoy’s amazing sixth gold medal.
It seemed as the Olympics went on and the incredible medal tally rose, so did the spirit the nation. Everyone was being treated to coverage of sports they had never seen before and introduced to new exciting events. How many people were captivated by the Dressage? How many people were cheering womens boxing? And how many want to give Handball a go? I had soon forgotten about the anger I had felt about not getting a ticket and was backing Great Britain and feeling not just proud of the athletes who have trained so hard to achieve the sporting greatness we were witnessing, but feeling proud to be British and of a nation that was really putting on the greatest show on earth. Despite all the negativity that surrounded the games in the run up, Britain really pulled it out of the bag. I was in awe of it all even with a little sadness that I couldn’t have been at witnessed this great event in person and soaked up the atmosphere.
As the games end, we are given montages of the memorable moments. The highs and the lows, the tears and the joy, the euphoria and the heartbreak. You can’t help be moved by some of the images but most of all, you can’t help but be inspired by what you have witnessed. The games may be over but the work needs to continue. Sports clubs around the country need to take advantage of the nations desire to get involved in sport. Encourage people to take part, provide opportunities to all those wanting to get a taste of it, and most of all the government need to help out. Even if you don’t think you are able to participate in any of the sports, just helping out and volunteering at a local sports club will make a huge difference to many. The British Team exceeded all expectations over the last two weeks, who’s to say with more people wanting to get involved in sport, they can’t achieve even more in four years time? Let’s hope the much hyped Olympic Legacy is here to stay and not just a flash in the pan.
As for me? I have been inspired too. The success of the Cycling team has left me wanting to get out on my bike more often. I used to go out cycling a lot, but recently I’ve had less and less time. I need to make time though and get back out there. I know it is highly unlikely I will ever make Olympic standard and by the time Rio starts, I think 33 years old would be pushing it a bit, but one thing is for certain, I would love to be able to photograph the next Olympics and maybe I could capture some images like the once we have seen recently that have helped inspire a nation.
Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic games has been a fantastic event that has made the world take notice and for turning me from a grumpy cynic to a proud Brit. From the Volunteers and the organisers to the Athletes themselves, Thank you all. I’ve cheered, I’ve yelled, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve shed a tear or two and I’ve loved every minute of it. I never thought I would be saying that a few months ago. Britain really is Great after all. Bring on the Paralympics!