Monday 13 August 2012

Olympics triumph

It's a grey Monday and the London Olympics are over. After a week of decent weather and 16 days of national fervour as the Olympics have brought out the best in Britain, it's hard not to feel a little bereft at the passing of a once in a lifetime (for me, at any rate) event. Will the boys ever get to experience a home Olympics again? They'll be old and grey if they do. Of the four, Sean has been the only one who has really got what the Olympics are about and he was miffed to be missing the second week, away with his brothers and Mam on the annual holiday to Ireland. Finn affected disinterest, as is his way, and Rowan just couldn't concentrate whenever we sat down to watch an event. Angus shouted along when it suited him but he will certainly be too young to remember the event first-hand, instead relying on memories related by others and a constant re-telling of the stories through the media.

The family is due back at teatime, but their sailing has been cancelled and it'll be later before they're all home. It's been a quiet week at home for me. Up for work, peaceful breakfast, some Olympics watching in Festival Square at lunchtimes and, in the case of Sir Chris Hoy's epic, golden record-breaking, Keiron swansong, after work, then home for a self-cooked dinner and, usually, more Olympics on TV till bedtime.

I say "work" but it's fair to report that productivity has been low this past fortnight, with the BBC Olympic live text stream a regular background feature, monitoring Team GB's progress in all manner of sports that I normally wouldn't give two hoots about. But it's the Olympics! Out in Festival Square, in front of the big screen, watching Helen Glover and Heather Stanning bring home GB's first gold of the Games in the women's pair; the Brownlee brothers winning gold and bronze in the triathlon; Trott and Hoy in the cycling; in the presence of steadily increasing and enthusiastic crowds, there was definitely a tear in my eye as individuals realised their potential in the greatest show on earth. Each medal may have cost several million in funding (the rowing has had £27m in funding over the last four years, to realise 4 golds, 2 silvers and 3 bronzes) but that's the inconvenient reality behind providing talented athletes with the opportunities to work and train relentlessly to achieve their goals and lift the spirits of a nation in these rather doom-laden economic times.

As a family, watching, the highlight was the half hour of madness on the middle Saturday when Jessica Ennis, Greig Rutherford and Mo Farrah won golds in front of 80,000 roaring spectators in the athletics stadium. On my own, watching Mo Farrah repeat the feat in the 5000m the following Saturday elicited quite a few shouts at the telly! The last of Team GB's golds, to Anthony Joshua in the super-heavyweight boxing, I followed on crackly Radio Five Live (which on several occasions had Sharon wound up to nerve-jangling fever pitch as she drove about) close to Flanders Moss as I drove back circuitously from Callendar.

The best moment for Sharon and I, naturally, was seeing Katherine Grainger finally achieve the gold she longed for in the women's double sculls. It was a long time coming, through the two "happy silvers", as she called them, of Sydney and Athens to the despair of losing to the Chinese in Beijing and finally the joy of pulling away from the field with partner Anna Watkins at Eton Dorney on Friday Aug 3rd 2012 and winning that cherished gold medal. For Sharon and I it was best that the race wasn't a nail-biter, and probably for the boys too, who weren't subjected to Sharon's usual vocal roarings from the couch. A few urgings were all that were required, with Angus throwing in a "Come on Katherine!" for good measure. Katherine looked delighted at the end and spoke so well in interviews. I hope she enjoys the fulfilment of her dream even more than we, and the many thousands who feel connected to her in some way, enjoyed seeing her cast off the pressure of expectation and deliver one of the triumphs of the London 2012 Olympics.

It's all over now and "normal" life goes on, albeit a little less vivid than the heightened experience of the London Olympics from July 27th to August 12th 2012.

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