Olympics sneak preview

Cathy Freeman dodges the media scrum at the en...
Cathy Freeman dodges the media scrum at the end of the 400m final at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) CC Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license

I visited the Olympic site the other day. Work is still going on at the Olympic Park, with parts of it a sea of barriers (this is more than simply an expression, given the weather) and lots of staff preparing for the Games, however it is in the finishing stages. The army and navy were working there, and one LOCOG employee told me going through the security procedure was now easier with them instead of the G4S staff.

I saw the inside of the Velodrome and the Basketball Arena. I am not allowed to share photos, but I can say they look impressive. Volunteers have been rehearsing for the Opening Ceremony; there is a fair degree of secrecy and the volunteers I spoke to who were involved didn’t share much, but I heard loud drumming sounds as I walked past the Olympic Stadium in the late afternoon. For those working to prepare the Games, the next few weeks represent the climax and culmination of months or years of hard work. It must be exciting but cruel for them to know the next few weeks determine everything and so much hard work will be assessed on what happens in a very short space of time. It is these people I reflected on as I left the park. Whilst the rest of us waited passively for the slow but certain arrival of the Olympics, it is these people who have made sure the Olympics will happen.

I heard Jonathan Edwards speak at the park and one thing he said stuck out in my mind. He said he remembered Cathy Freeman winning (presumably he meant in the Sydney 2000 Olympics) and the crowd cheering. He said it seemed spectators were not just cheering and celebrating for her, but for the whole of Australia.  I also thought of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a country which was in some ways ill-suited to the other biggest sports competition in the world. For an impoverished country, there were worries around the time of the World Cup about the tournament being expensive and South Africans being left with enough white elephants to make a herd. However, during tournament time I remember hearing about the country deciding to party, never mind what problems there were.

In the United Kingdom it has not been hard to find criticism of some part of the Olympic process, largely because we love moral outrages, pointing out spectacular mistakes, and grumbling. There is the ticket sales fiasco, censorship of certain Olympics-related words, the weather, what happens to the Olympic Stadium afterwards, spending lots of money, David Beckham not getting picked, the Olympic lane, tube drivers getting extra pay, and the recent G4S problem. Hell, I don’t even like Seb Coe much. However, given that the Olympics are almost upon us and it is too late to go back, the sensible thing to do would be to put aside worries and complaints and to enjoy the Games. Let’s hope when we celebrate Team GB, we don’t forget to celebrate ourselves as well. Celebration of our achievements, of hard work, of sacrifice, and celebration for the sake of celebration.

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