Saturday, 28 July 2012

Catching Olympic Fever

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with sports. I love playing sports, but I'm generally mediocre at best. I love going to sports events live, but generally hate watching them on television. When it comes to the Olympics, I love the sports, I love the international celebration, but I hate the corporate nonsense. I've never lived in an Olympic city before, but it seems particularly bad here in London. All sorts of things have been banned in order to protect the corporate sponsors of the games (I won't say who they are, but they're not necessarily well-known for promoting good health or active lifestyles). Local businesses aren't allowed to use any advertising containing "2012", "London", "Olympics", the Olympic rings and the list goes on. I'm not upset about the IOC protecting their name, their brand, their logos, but 2012? Really? It's the bloody year. London? It's still the name of the city where I live. Surely if we all agreed to stop using "London" all these tourists would get even more lost than they already are.

All that said, political rant over, I went to see the Olympic torch relay...three times. Two of those times were unintentional, but I did wait for an hour to see it on Thursday morning. When it finally came by it was actually pretty cool, though it pains me to say that. I was all set to write a post about the silly hype surrounding this glorified candle. Instead, I have to tell you that it was really nice to see and got me in the Olympic spirit for sure.
Crowds waiting for the torch on Gresham Street
I would even go so far as to say that it was worth the hour I spent standing on a corner in the City of London defending my front row vantage point. The crowd was in very good form, strangers chatted, made new friends and laughed at the fact that we were all hanging around for ages waiting for what would only be a momentary glance at a person we wouldn't recognize carrying a bit of fire. Even the City Police were in good spirits despite the fact that they must have been sick of telling us all to stand back and explaining to motorcyclists that yes, they were a vehicle and so no, they couldn't drive on the street once it was closed.

The torch! Carried by...anyone know her? Comment if you do!
After our long wait we did get to see two torch bearers and would have seen the transfer of the flame - the kiss - except a coach stopped right in front of me at that exact moment. Nevertheless I got a good look at torch as it went by just moments later and, let me tell you, it's much more impressive in person than on television.

The more interesting sightings of the flame were the two unexpected encounters that I had, though. After seeing the torch up by Guildhall I was making my way to Waterloo when I happened to see Ade Adepitan carrying the torch over Millenium Bridge. Don't recognize the name? You will. He's a member of Great Britain's paralympic wheelchair basketball team and he killed his leg of the relay. Firstly, because they closed the bridge to the public, he didn't have to have any of the security and so it was just him, the flame and the amazing backdrop of central London. Secondly, his attitude was tops. He was waving, pumping his fists and putting on a brilliant show.

Ade  Adepitan rocking it on Millenium Bridge.
Then yesterday, I went for a run on my usual route and going over Vauxhall Bridge, saw the torch being rowed down the Thames on the Gloriana. It was pretty impressive to see it heading on down by parliament. So three views in, I was pretty well indoctrinated to the Olympic spirit.

For the first two months I thought the torch relay was a little silly and perhaps a bit of overkill, but having seen it, now, I see the point. It was a way for lots of people to have a small part in the games and having 8,000 torch bearers meant that lots of ordinary people who play a variety of important roles in their local communities could be celebrated. So, at the risk of getting all sappy, I thought it was really good and I'm happy I went.

There's nothing like being one of the crowd every once in a while.

4 comments:

  1. Annoyed with the corporate crap, touched by community spirit, sceptical and sappy, one of the crowd - exactly how I feel when going to the Gay Pride.

    Great piece - you manage to almost make me regret not going.

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  2. Thanks, Nikki!

    No regrets, though, it's still just an oversized candle!

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  3. I'm enjoying reading your blog Sinead!

    I still remember the excitement of watching the Olympic torch relay when it passed through the small town where my family was living before the Calgary Winter Olympics back in 1988! For a 5 year old child it was a great way to personalize the games as something more than just another sport on TV.

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  4. Thanks, Heather! I have to admit that seeing the torch was much cooler than I had expected. All that joy just eats away at cynicism! How's life in the prairies?

    Thanks for reading the blog and glad you like it.

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