Friday, 27 July 2012

And they are off...

Unless you have been living on another planet for the last few years you will of course know that today the games of the XXX Olympiad begin in London.

It amazed me that it was seven years ago when the nation held its collective breath as, at a little podium in Singapore, our fate was announced. Used to being the perennial also ran I found it hard to imagine that Britain would scoop this ultimate prize, much as I wanted it to. I distinctly remember the wait. I was at Whirlowbrook Hall in Sheffield taking part in a consultation day for the Library Management Software company that provided the system my library used.  (my how my life has changed... but that’s a post for another time!)   We didn’t have access to TV or radio but the technical manager running the day had a WAP enabled phone – quite the rarity in those days and definitely experimental (for which substitute flaky) technology.  The signal was patchy out at the hall but we did manage to get that we were down to the last two contenders. At which point we ceased to get any signal at all. As he frantically pushed buttons on the phone trying to get it to release the essentially information we heard a loud cheer from the halls kitchens. “Have we got it?”  “We must have, otherwise why would they be cheering?” ... the start of grins until someone said “But what if the kitchen staff is French?” A scout was rapidly dispatched who was able to come back with the happy news that the kitchen staff were indeed good Yorkshire folk and the games were ours. I am not sure what else we managed to achieve with the library management system that day but I know that I spent it in a happy haze that the Olympics were coming to the city I loved.

Since then my world and the world I live in has changed monumentally. Just the day following we were dragged to a different, darker reality with those dreadful scenes of the 7/7 bombs. A bloody and destroyed bus, its top pealed back like a tin can, becoming the dominant image that shoved the jubilant scenes of the day before to the back of the cupboard. Then a massive global recession that has left so many questioning whether holding the games here is the sensible thing to do, spending so much money when many are struggling to make ends meet.

But we are here, and despite what the detractors and moaners might have us believe, we are essentially ready. The eyes of the world we be upon us and I believe that we will not be found wanting.  The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger"
and certainly the competitors will be straining for this with every fibre of their being..... but what of the rest of us who struggle to run for the bus in the morning let alone run for Olympic glory?  What can the Olympics be for us?

Well call me naive and a dreamer if you like but that I think there is something magical that every four years the world unites behind a single event.  Yes it's a competition and so there will be winners and losers in the classic competitive sense of the word...  but to my mind it’s more than that. For at each games an Olympic truce is signed up to by all the competing nations. Dating back to the ancient games this was originally a practical step to ensure safe passage of all athletes to the games. Now it may be seen as nothing more than a hollow gesture – after all do we really think the Taliban are going to stop firing on foreign troops because they both nations have teams in the games, or that North and South Korea are going to become close friends for the next three weeks.  Of course not... but was it does do is set a standard, an ideal, a dream if you like, that such a thing might just be possible. We all love an underdog, the Olympic games proves that more than most – who can forget Eddie the Eagle on the ski jump or Eric the Eel swimming farther than he had ever done in the slowest Olympic time recorded. Was that pointless, no for it allowed others to dream that maybe, just maybe they could get to the games themselves. So to with the truce – dare we let ourselves dream that one day real peace may be possible, that one day all nations of the world will be able to join together harmoniously as a living embodiment of the Olympic rings? We may never strive to be faster  than Usain Bolt but we can strive to be stronger than the forces of evil and aim higher than that which we see before us. Now that’s an Olympic dream I believe we can achieve.