I find it a bit amusing that the Olympic Games are here in London and I’m in England and doing my level best to avoid it all. Traffic is being diverted or restricted. There are special “Olympics” lanes on the Motorway and on the streets in London. Heathrow has designated special “Olympics only” car parks. We are constantly being told via the telly and the radio to “avoid the games” or to “plan ahead” or “be prepared for long queues”. It’s not that daunting to me but I’m not English.
I love sports. I love the competition. I love the history. I love the National pride teams get to put on display. I love the celebration of it all. But I would be the odd man out if I got too excited about the Games.
I think it’s because here in the United Kingdom we are a bit too pragmatic. We (collectively) are convinced that for most of us the Games will be a bother. Things will go wrong. And it will cost the taxpayers money. Some of this is proving to be true. The security firm that was awarded the contract was woefully unprepared and understaffed, so British troops have been deployed to support the security effort. Delays with traffic and congestion at the airports is only being magnified by a threatened strike by the Public and Commercial Services Union (those joyless souls that stamp your passport). Somehow this will probably cost the public, too.
Now there have been some bright spots along the way, such as Bradley Wigguns winning a gold medal in cycling and strong swimming by Michael Jamieson. And a gold medal win for Women’s rowing. It was also fun to see Zara Phillips’ (Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter) Esquestrian team win silver. She’s the first royal to win an Olympic medal.
Of course the joy is dampened by reports of empty seats while there is still a shortage of tickets for events and the rain (literally). Not to mention controveries with Badminton and Gymnastics and the Chinese and South Korean teams and a fatal crash with an official Olympic coach bus and motorcyclist.
My workmates say things like, “I knew it would be a disaster” or “none of this is a surprise to me”. Always the glass half-empty! There seems to be some perverse pleasure from being right about things going wrong. I’m not sure if this is a British thing or not but it seems pretty prevalent with the folks that I’ve come to know here. It’s almost as if there is some honor in being able to suffer through and make do with disappointments – keep a stiff upper lip – if you will.
So yes there is Olympic pride and there is a great amount of patriotism but it will be tempered with the almost certain disillusionment that we will all feel when things go wrong. Then the only joy we will have is being able to say, “I told you so…”