Just over seven years ago I was sitting in front of the television breastfeeding my 4 month old son. Suddenly the announcement was made that London would be hosting the 2012 Olympic Games and my heart leapt with a joy that was irrational and unexpected. This joy was channelled almost totally towards the small being I was nurturing. I dreamily and fondly imagined my son as a 7 year old, being swept away by the magic of the Olympics, witnessing the 100m final and celebrating as Team GB took a plethora of Golds.
So have the Olympics been a let-down? No, not in any way. Our first Olympic venture was trundling along with friends to watch the torch pass through our local park at Crystal Palace. We had low expectations of standing in the rain, being jostled by crowds, but instead were swept up by the momentum of watching the flame being held aloft by a local hero and not a fabricated one.
We managed to get last minute tickets to see Team GB vs Australia at Volleyball at Earl’s Court. Of course GB were thrashed, being 92nd in the world, but the children were over the moon with the whole experience. We had rushed to Sainsbury’s, bought Team GB T-shirts, flags, sweat bands (essential cheerleading kit, according to my son) and hairclips (more essential patriotic accessories, according to my daughter). We walked ‘in the road’ to get to the venue, we admired the bunting decking the route, we brought overpriced beverages inside, and perched on our wooden seats, like sailors in our crow’s nest, high above the deck.
Once the action began we cheered every point the brave British scored deliriously, and my son managed to elbow me at least twice in the face with his enthusiastic celebrations. Then, the highlight of the occasion came at half time, when the crowd was galvanised into doing a Mexican Wave. The children watched incredulously as a human wave surged round towards them, they threw their arms up in the air, and leapt to their feet. This was their first experience of being part of a huge number of people, all doing the same joyful thing at once.
To me, this Mexican Wave sums up the last two weeks of Sport. We think of ourselves as being solitary units with a web of friends. But then something national, indeed global, lifts us to our feet with one accord to cheer some real life heroes.