Going for gold
I will hold my hands up and admit that I was very cynical about the Olympics. ‘It’s insanity forking out billions on a sports show when the whole country’s broke,’ I said. ‘The streets of London will be crowded with fat tourists walking very, very slowly. The Tube will be full of cretins – well, even more cretins than usual. I won’t be able to get to work.’ (Like that was a bad thing.)
I’m happy to admit I was wrong. I knew I was weakening in my hard-nosed attitude when I took the kids to see the Olympic flame coming through Ealing (although I don’t think either of them had a clue what they were meant to be looking at. Sam was just excited to be up past his bedtime, and Savannah fell asleep in her pushchair.) Yeah, I do still wonder a bit how we’re paying for all this, but the Games have been AMAZING. And I say this as someone who doesn’t really watch sport – not even the sports I like doing, like horse riding. Who knew we were so flippin’ awesome at everything? The third best country at sport in the whole world! We Brits always put ourselves down – it’s part of our national character – and I’ve always got the impression (as a non-sports-watcher) that we were considered a bit of a sporting joke by the rest of the world. Well, who’s laughing now, huh?
The British athletes are also so nice. They couldn’t be less like our footballers with their sordid private lives and contempt for everyone else that comes from being paid salaries so ridiculously high they can just buy their way out of trouble. The Olympic athletes are hard-working and humble, and also unlike our national football team, seem to be winning for the love of the sport, and to make their country proud, instead of putting in minimum effort because they know they’re going to get a huge pay cheque anyway. Maybe FIFA should take note.
Bradley Wiggins is the coolest athlete of the bunch, of course, but the horse dancing aka the dressage was my favourite sport to watch. That and the pole vaulting. Being able to jump over the equivalent of a small bungalow kind of makes you the closest thing to a superhero that we’ve got, I reckon. It’s a strange sport; I’ve never met a single person ever who’s even tried pole vaulting. How on earth do you even get into it in the first place?
I want to go to Rio in 4 years time – ideally, on the eventing team! And as there was a 71-year old man in the Japanese dressage, who’s to say it’ll definitely never happen? I’d need a horse first, of course. And I’d have to improve a million-fold overnight, but a girl can dream. And that’s perhaps what’s been the most amazing thing about the Olympics – suddenly, anything seems possible.
I think it’s great that the PM has pledged to keep up the sports funding in this country. Sure, I’m no less worried about the future of the NHS than I have been, but it’s not an either/or situation, and I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking that the bonhomie currently washing through the nation is worth every penny of that £300 million a year. It’s kind of cool to be able to say – in public – that you’re proud to be British without people thinking you mean you’re secretly a bit racist. (Morrissey’s is the only dissenting voice I’ve heard, and, well, he’s wrong. Stephen, you’re a 53-year old man not an angry-at-the-world teenager, now tidy your room like your mum wants and get over yourself.) It’s incredible to think that this time last year, London was burning during the riots and everyone was viewing each other with distrust and fear. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the Games really has managed to unite us as a country in a way that I don’t remember happening during lifetime – perhaps it hasn’t since the Second World War, and at least this time we won’t need to rebuild Coventry afterwards.
I don’t know how long this united, benevolent feeling will last. Maybe not far beyond the Spice Girls last set – although that really depends if they perform Mama, or any of Geri’s solo singles. We’re in a collective good mood, but don’t push us too far, girls. But I’m making the most of it while it does. I’d be pouring myself a celebratory Pimms right now if I wasn’t so hungover – and talking of bonhomie, I’d like to say a massive congrats to my friends Adam and Alex, whose engagement drinks I was at last night. I hope you have a long and happy life together, guys.
Right, I’m off to watch the Spice Girls. My money’s on them doing Spice Up Your Life…