I didn’t apply for Olympics tickets in the initial rush as I thought I’d be happier watching it from the comfort of my sofa rather than braving the crowded tube to Stratford. I was wrong.
After the tremendous opening ceremony and a week of fantastic sporting action I wanted a slice of the Olympic atmosphere for myself. I was lucky enough to score some last-minute day passes to the Olympic Park, along with some much-needed corporate hospitality (thanks Acer UK).
As well as offering up a sporting feast packed with drama and new world records, the Games has also silenced the critics – mainly the grumpy Londoners who were incensed at having to share their transport network with even more tourists than usual.
Along with the realisation that TFL is capable of providing a decent service when it really tries, there are a few other things that London 2012 has taught me…
Ain’t no party like a British Olympics party. When the opening few bars of Elgar’s Nimrod rang out at the start of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony I knew it was going to be good, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for just how good.
Being a bunch of cynical gits, I think we were all a little surprised by how much we enjoyed the show and how proud we were of it. Beckham on a speedboat, Voldemort, Sgt Pepper, Chariots of Fire, the London Symphony Orchestra.
It couldn’t have been more British if we’d done a little dance to celebrate the NHS then got James Bond and the Queen to parachute in from a helicoptor. No, wait – we did.
The fact that some aspects of the ceremony appeared incomprehensible to many non-Brits made it all the more amusing (an astounding number of American tweeters and media outlets seemed to be under the impression that Kenneth Branagh was portraying Abraham Lincoln, rather than Isambard Kingdom Brunel).
And we haven’t even seen the closing ceremony yet, although the Spice Girls are currently limbering up to perform so perhaps the less said about that, the better.
The UK is a truly multicultural country, no matter what the Daily Mail tells us. It was a metaphorical kick in the balls for Rick Dewsbury and his outrageously racist post-opening ceremony diatribe on the Daily Mail’s website, not to mention the ill-judged tweets from Tory MP Aidan Burley, whinging about “lefti multi-cultural crap” when Jessica Ennis, a mixed race lass from Sheffield, won gold in the Heptathlon.
It was a further jab to the ribs, and a mocking tweak of the nose to the bigots when Somalian-born muslim Brit Mo Farah won gold in the 10,000m, to the deafening cheers of the home crowd.
When quizzed at a post-win presser on whether he would have preferred to run for Somalia in the 10,000m, Farah shot back “Look mate, this is my country”. And bloody good on ‘im, too.
The only shame is that we even had the need to draw attention to these athletes’ backgrounds. One would hope that those who continue to do so in a derogatory manner are nearing extinction.
Twitter has given racists, bigots and generic idiots a new platform. ”You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi may have been talking about the Mos Eisley cantina when he said that, but it’s a phrase that pops into my head when I consider the colossal amount of odious fools that populate Twitter.
We live in a country that embraces free speech so you’re more than welcome to say whatever you like on Twitter and beyond. Thankfully, we also live in a country with laws that prohibit racial hatred and the threat of violence so while you can say what you like, you’ll also have to face the consequences.
Tweeter @Rileyy_69 found that out when he mocked Team GB diver Tom Daley’s performance in the synchro diving event, making references to the young athlete’s father, who passed away in 2011. So far, so vile. But not really a police matter.
However, after dishing out some more abuse, the twitter troll spectacularly backtracked, making empty apologies and begging for forgiveness, before making another dramatic about-face, calling Daley a c**t and threatening to drown him.
After the whole debacle went viral, he was arrested and later released with a formal warning. No matter how comically unconvincing the culprit, the police are obliged to take death threats seriously.
Meanwhile, the Games has seen Swiss footballer Michel Morganella unceremonioulsy ditched after tweeting offensive comments aimed at South Koreans, while Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was dropped from the team after making offensive comments about African immigrants on the micro-blogging platform.
The only saving grace is that while vile bigotry can be broadcast to millions of people in an instant via Twitter, the backlash from more level-headed folk standing up to this sort of nonsense is just as powerful, if not more so.
Football shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. There’s just no need. There’s quite enough top flight football in the world as it is and I say that as a fan.
The Team GB footballers didn’t have what it takes to pull a winning performance out of the bag when it really counted. It was almost as if they didn’t care. Well, we didn’t either.
A sneaky channel change to watch the inevitable quarter-final penalty shoot-out exit and then swiftly back to the athletics. Move along, nothing to see here.
We don’t have to live in fear of a terrorist attack. It seems that the threat of terroism looms over any major public event these days and the Olympics has, of course, been a target in the past including the bombing at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and the massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972 by the Palestinian Black September group.
At London 2012, the airport-style security made it very hard for any would-be trouble makers to get anything remotely dangerous through the gates of the Olympic Park.
While I felt slightly uneasy watching the British army searching through my make-up bag, having the armed forces taking charge of the security certainly made me feel safer, especially after the shambles that was the Locog contract with private security firm G4S. Our government may have been caught napping in the past when it comes to security, but it looks like they’ve upped their game in keeping the would-be terrorists at bay. Let’s hope so.
I don’t understand competitive cycling. Not even remotely. Keirin, Peloton, Omnium – I haven’t the foggiest what any of these things are, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Hoy, Pendleton and Wiggins and the rest racing to victory.
In fact, we all enjoyed the cycling so much that ludicrously coiffed London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced a new annual two-day RideLondon event which will begin in 2013.
Britain is better at sport than Australia. Yeah, I said it. Great Britain is currently thrashing Australia at sport. Lots of sports.
We’ve always had a mostly chummy sporting rivalry with our antipodean cousins and having had to endure taunts about our rugby team and relentless sledging on the crease, we’re bally well going to make the most of our winning streak in the Olympics. As if Australia wouldn’t do the same.
Look, Aussies, no doubt you’ll be back to hammering us in whatever sport you see fit sooner than we can say “look at all our shiny gold medals!”, but just let us have this one for a while, eh?
I miss sport. As unbelievable as it may sound to my ’newer’ friends, I was pretty damn sporty when I was younger. I played cricket on a Saturday in the summer, rugby on a Sunday in the winter. I was in the school gymnastics club and the tennis club.
I competed in the annual mixed doubles tournament alongside the sportiest boy in our year, twice (we even got to the final – largely thanks to his sporting prowess, rather than my own). The following year I competed with my then boyfriend. Out in the first round. That time, it was undoubtedly down to my sporting prowess.
I ran in the district sports, once as a last-second replacement for a relay runner in the school year above. I don’t have any gold medals, but I do have a bronze medal for athletics and one of indeterminable colour for rugby (plus a paper medal that my brother made for me when I first managed to swim a width of the ‘big’ pool without armbands).
I’ve got a large collection of badges for distance and survival swimming and a patch for trampolining. Hell, I’ve even got badges for Grade I and II in roller skating (yes, really). Pretty much the only sport I didn’t play as a youngster was netball – simply because it’s one of the most tedious games ever invented.
The downside to lots of sports, is lots of sporting injuries. Dodgy knees, a back injury and a pesky Achilles tendon problem all put the kibosh on my sporty days. Having said that, the Olympics has inspired me to attempt to regain an acceptable level of fitness (albeit one that’s slathered in knee support bandages and Deep Heat).
Obviously I’m not aiming for the dizzy heights of Ennis-esque abs, but a sporty “sod off” to the pinched cartilage in my knee and the Sciatic nerve pain in my back would be a start.
But, enough bleating about my sore knee. I’ve definitely taken something away from London 2012 (and I’m not just talking about the Team GB sweatbands that I braved the London 2012 ‘megastore’ to buy).
It appears that the Games may well leave a tangible legacy in the form of a new generation of sporting role models to inspire the nippers, along with a few more sports venues for them to train in, not to mention a new-found confidence among the inhabitants of our green and pleasant land.
Bravo, London 2012 – you’ve done us proud. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to do some training. Or watch some more of the Olympics on the telly. One or the other.
London 2012: the top twenty Olympic moments from The Telegraph’s Harry Wallop
The best and least worst of the London 2012 opening ceremony by Kate Solomon
London 2012: 20 more olympic oddities by Kathryn Westcott and Lucy Townsend
A profile of London by AA Gill