Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Olympic Bug

Okay then. I’ll admit it. I caught the Olympic Bug. It must be a strong little fellow, because it managed to creep past a gigantic wall of cynicism, as well as a dislike of anything associated with too much tacky and overpriced merchandise. It even wiped out the three months of corporate mumbo-jumbo and too many Power Point presentations that are apparently a prerequisite for working at the Olympics. Then again – somewhere deep down, I always knew it would. I always knew, that once I was released by the high-rises of Canary Wharf and let loose in the Olympic Park, the magic would start. And it did!
Now, obviously working at the Olympics is not only fun but also a good bit of hard work - for everybody involved. And getting up at 5 am every day doesn’t do very much for your social skills. At least not in my case. So while I didn’t get to enjoy any of the live sites around London, I have to say I felt quite privileged to go to work every day in a place that a lot of people would literally sell their soul to get in to. Walking through the Olympic Park to get to my venue at 6 am, with only a handful of people around, was a lovely way to start the day. Needless to say, trying to get home towards the end of the day was a rather different experience…
Early mornings and crazy hours aside, what probably surprised me the most in this whole process is how London’s attitude towards the Games seemed to almost change overnight. Up until the 27th of July, it felt like London 2012 was completely drowned out by Games Lanes, G4S and just a general expectation of complete chaos. But when the magic Friday came, and Danny Boyle blew everyone away with his beautifully British Opening Ceremony, it was as if London caught the bug… And lets be honest – if the Opening Ceremony didn’t do it for you, then at least Super Saturday must have dragged you in and given you a full-blown Olympic infection!
I for one have never really cared about athletics. Or ball games. Or cycling. Every once in a while I’d watch the odd gymnastics event or a bit of equestrian. And that was it. Well, fast forward to Super Saturday and I’m the crazy lady jumping up and down in front of the TV screaming »Come on Jess! YOU CAN DO IT!!« The only thing that amazed me even more than the exceptional performances given by Team GB that night, was the way the crowd carried them across the finish line. To see how much energy Mo Farah got from the roaring fans in the stadium and how he just left everybody behind with that energy – I think that’s when I really, really realized how big a deal this Olympics business actually is.
But to be honest, I caught the bug a bit earlier than that. At around 3 pm on Friday the 27th of July, to be exact – that’s when my boss asked me if I wanted a ticket for the Opening Ceremony. And while athletics have never really been my thing before, I have always been a sucker for just about anything that happens on a stage and involves some sort of dancing. So obviously I jumped on my bike, raced home to change out of the poppy and purple nightmare that I have been required to wear, and raced back to Stratford to take my seat in the Olympic Stadium. And I won’t even try to describe that night – partly because you probably all watched it on TV, but also because there are no words to describe how it felt to sit in that stadium and witness pure magic. And while the show was everything I expected it to be  and more  I was actually surprised by one of the things that touched me the most: when Lord Seb Coe gave his speech and he started out by welcoming the entire world to London. That triggered one of the biggest roars of the night! Now, I don’t have an ounce of British blood to my name, but that evening I was very proud to be a Londoner.                
Of course my cynicism hasn’t disappeared completely. I still think that the uniform is the most frightfully ugly thing I’ve ever worn. I still find the London 2012 font utterly ridiculous. And I still can’t look at the logo without seeing Lisa Simpson doing something very R-rated that has definitely never been an Olympic discipline. But nonetheless, helping deliver London’s third Olympic Games has been an experience that I wouldn’t want to be without. Now bring on the Paralympics!