Well, that surprised me. I have always enjoyed watching professional sport, but I didn’t expect to be as totally swallowed up by the Olympics as I was. I cheered, I cried, I had to step away from the screen when my heart rate went up too much….and I was completely inspired.
I was in Rome when the affair began. We made time to watch the opening ceremony on our tiny apartment TV. I was intrigued to see what Danny Boyle, the director of one of my all time favourite films, would do…though I didn’t expect much different from the usual fare.
But it was. Whether received with awe or slight confusion, the world on the whole agreed it was an amazing spectacle that entertained and was, undeniably, very British. Sure, it wouldn’t have all made sense to all people from all different cultures, but it was strongly reinforcing and, after all, educational for those who were interested.
There were political statements (just try to mess with the NHS now…) and a true celebration of the variety of creativity this island has borne… aptly displayed in organised chaos. Though it wasn’t chaos, it was perfectly choreographed – small groups going about their tasks perfectly as part of the seething whole, so like this tiny, very full island.
I felt recognised that night – so proud that someone had the confidence to produce something truly British and not bland, or pandering to the non committal. It was eccentric, individual and beautiful. I’m not sure I have ever felt so fiercely patriotic.
And then there was the tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web. A man who had a world changing idea and gave it, royalty free, so it could be easily and quickly adopted by anyone. ‘This is for everyone’ he tweeted in the opening ceremony. This is a man who should be known and recognised, so we can say thank you, but also to exemplify a unique character we could all nurture.
For two weeks our country became a beautiful place of smiling people, helping each other, welcoming other cultures, behaving well, supporting each other. Believing in the greater good. Then there was Super Saturday, where in the space of 45 minutes, as many a tweet put it ‘a Muslim, a ginger guy and a mixed race lass’ made this country very proud (Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis). One year exactly from the London riots, this was Britain embracing and celebrating multiculturalism.
And so we go on…these games have championed women – being the very first games where every competing nation have included female athletes. For Britain, the very first medal, and the very first gold medal were both won by women….if we choose to listen, there is a strong reinforcing message here. You can do whatever you strive for. Keep persevering (Katherine Grainger). Break stereotypes (Nicola Adams). Surpass your own expectations.
The men did pretty well too…unforgettable moments from Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie, Andy Murray, Alistair Brownlee, Bradley Wiggins….on and on….
Beyond the incredible medal score, there was a quiet message that I felt was very important: Personal Best. The very best you have ever done. Sometimes, rather than concentrating on comparing our progress to others, I think we could get further by striving for our personal best…whatever our profession.
Will these games inspire a generation? I think they have inspired many generations. The consequences, though, are up to us and what we do with that inspiration: what we do in our own lives, and in the opportunity we create for the younger and the older in our community.
If it taught us anything, it should be that we as individuals and together in teams, are capable of bringing about truly great things.
Celebrate and read about the incredible achievements of Team GB here.