Okay, so I was one of the many who bemoaned the Olympics coming to London, the amount it was going to cost us, the disruption to transport and parks, how I would get to my parents in north London if not by car because of Olympic Lanes. Now, on day 5 of the Olympics, I have totally changed my mind and have gone from grumpy to ecstatically happy.
We’re very good at moaning over here in the UK, about the weather, the transport, the transport and weather. If moaning and complaining were Olympic sports, we would win gold every time. I’m not sure why we do it, perhaps we’re scared of winning, or unable to believe what we’re capable of, so rather than being optimistic, we begin with pessimism, and if we’re proved right, well, it’s a case of ‘told you so,’ and if we win, we’re just surprised and then say anything is possible if you work hard. A couple of GBR women swimmers apologised to their supporters for not doing better, I haven’t heard any other country do that – you’re in the Olympics, don’t apologise, it’s amazing. Obviously it’s a competitive sport and everyone wants to win, but the hours of commitment and hard work you put in, earn nothing but respect from me.
A few people have said, ‘you’re so lucky to have tickets’ – this is how lucky we are. Stella applied a couple of times and received nothing. She then woke up very early (6am) to try on-line when tickets were available again. This was during my grumpy, I-really-don’t-care, period. She was allocated tickets for beach volleyball and synchronised swimming, both of which we were satisfied with. By now I was a little more enthused, but thought no more about it. But then we were told that synchronised swimming had been over subscribed – would we like to change them, at no extra cost, to gymnastic or swimming finals? Stella is a gymnastics’ supporter, I prefer swimming and just wanted to sit (preferably swim) in the Aquatic centre. Knowing how much it would mean to me as a fairly new swimmer, Stella went for the swimming tickets – that’s how much she loves me. And so my journey from grumpy to happy began to take hold.
Admittedly the tickets are not cheap, but I don’t smoke, hardly drink, hardly ever go to gigs or sporting events, and perhaps have one decent holiday a year, spending money on these tickets was okay to do and a once in a lifetime event. We are aware how fortunate we are, but we are also aware that we don’t spend heaps on what others might. Stella woke up in time to apply – so for every person who calls us lucky, some of it is due to waking up in time and being bothered! And there are loads still on sale now. I am very tempted…
From watching the Olympic torch being carried along Coldharbour Lane at the bottom of our road, to the stunning opening ceremony, adrenalin had started to creep through my veins, and I was excited, so excited about it all and took back all my moans and complaints. But there are still people around me who moan (and a lot who don’t). I can understand if you don’t like or care about sport, but this is about so much more, a community and city coming together, collective enjoyment, London being transformed in a way it probably never will be again in my life time, of people being happy, talking to each other, getting into the spirit of the games and having fun.
First stop for us was beach volleyball on Monday in a spectacularly transformed Horse Guards Parade. Personally I think it should remain like this. Everyone said, watch out for the queues, take your time, leave early. So we left the house at 7.15am, to find there were no queues, security was swift, yes a slight queue for food and drink, but you can expect that wherever there are thousands of people. We laughed and danced, and learned about the rules and scoring pretty swiftly – best four hours we have had in ages. The crowd was tremendous, the commentators working so hard. I loved every minute of it, so much so that I would go again.
Second stop, Wembley, for the women’s football – GBR v Brazil. I was offered a ticket for this a day before the match. I already have a ticket for the finals (thanks to another friend), but thought as it was GBR I had to be part of the crowd. AND I have never been to Wembley, this would be a great opportunity. I met my friend at the station, and we were swept along by young and old, kids and teenagers and grandparents with painted faces and wigs, the Union flag draped over so many shoulders. I’ve been to football before, but this was different, this was the Olympics, women’s football in my city. I admit I don’t know heaps about the game but I know enough to enjoy it, to be part of it, to shout as loud as the man or woman next to me, to leap to my feet when we score and put my hands over my face when the other side are about to score…and then punch the air when they miss. I returned home just before midnight, and couldn’t sleep, I was so overwhelmed by it all. I then stayed up to watch the swimming finals that I had recorded, because I care about swimming and I was too wide-awake to sleep.
Third stop will be at the Aquatic Centre on Saturday for four swimming finals, and I cannot wait. I will have to restrain myself from jumping in the pool.
Fourth stop will be the women’s football final, again at Wembley. I feel like an old hand now and know what to expect, where to go, and each time I learn a little more about the players and the game and my own ability to shout louder and then louder still.
And during all of this, I have been overcome by how lovely people have been, in the streets, in tubes, school kids and parents and teachers, total strangers, all out there enjoying what I am enjoying, laughing and having fun and bringing us together. I know the world isn’t in great shape, and while we are enjoying, people are being slaughtered and wars continue, I don’t think any of us is unaware of that, but it’s a joy to let go of it for a short time, to revel in our stunning city, at what the organisers have actually worked towards, an amazing feat of planning and skill and creativity. And I find that I am happy and excited and enthused and passionate and I hope I can stay this way, when the Olympics and Paralympics end and London is restored to its usual beautiful self, when the sand has gone and the grass is restored, when I am allowed into the pool for a length or two, and the city returns to normal. And I will use public transport more because it works, and it has been easy and a joy to let someone else do the driving.
When I was at my secondary modern, way back in the 70s, I threw the javelin for Barnet, I even broke a few records. I have no idea how I ended up doing that, but I did. If I’d had the right kind of encouragement or showed any interest, who knows what I might have achieved. I remember hot summer days at Copthall stadium, and the sound of the crowd, and my very favourite Adidas trainers, which I kept for years after I outgrew them, caked in mud, their leather wrinkled and cracked. I loved those trainers, I still love them. I‘ve never thought of myself as a sporty type, in fact a friend I was having lunch with today said he was a little surprised I liked sport, but in later life, I realise I really do enjoy it. It’s not so much about winning for me, I’m too old and unfit to compete, it’s about being involved, being a partaker and a spectator. I’m a swimmer, not a brilliant swimmer, a later to life swimmer, and it has changed my life. I love doing it and watching it, I love watching the older swimmers hand over to the new, pretty much one of the statements of the opening ceremony. I love watching those young athletes, all of them, reaping the rewards of their hard work, even those who don’t win are heroes to me. They inspire me in my swimming and in my own work. As PE teacher, Helen Glover said today, being interviewed after winning Gold in the rowing with Heather Stanning. “I really hope my story can be an inspiration for kids in PE watching this, or at home thinking about taking up a new sport. Just go on, go for it, you don’t know what’s going to happen.” Glover and Stanning are both products of a British recruitment programme to find tall athletes with little prior experience of rowing. I wonder if there is anything an enthusiastic, more mature woman can train for?
I applaud the way London has been used and re-created for the Olympics and Paralympics. And another thing – didn’t we all moan about the land to air missiles – and they haven’t, as far as I am aware, been mentioned. It’s a shame they are here, but I would hate for anything to happen, to the professionals, the volunteers, the supporters or the good people of London who carry on with their work and life away from the games – and it is perfectly okay not to care about the games, but please don’t moan at those of us who do care and enjoy them.
Lastly, I’d like to thank all the volunteers I have so far encountered – every single one has been happy, smiley, cheerful, positive and willing to help. If only we could adopt this attitude as a nation, being optimistic instead of pessimistic, not apologising because we didn’t win, but applauding our achievements, I think the whole country would see its energy shift and if that happens who knows what might be possible. So let’s celebrate and be happy. Being grumpy is no fun at all.
And didn’t Bradley Wiggins do well!
6 thoughts on “Olympictastic! From Grumpy to Happy!”
Shelley you are the embodiment of the Olympics – apart from having zero tickets, I feel pretty much the same as you. Good on yer!
A golden blog post, full of joy..Such refreshing honesty.
Hello Mrs Silas,
we spoke yesterday in twitter and today I read your blogs. And I like very much. Your are easy and emotive and funny (sorry I don’t speak well). Good bye.
Shelley, I found your blog via Stella Duffy and want to congratulate you on its warmth, humour and freshness.
thank you very much Amanda.