My, but weren’t the Olympics wonderful?
And I say that without my usual sarcasm; I really think they were great and that the Brits did a superb job of pulling it off.
I had my doubts. During the best of times, Britain is a nation famous for massive cost overruns and laughable timescale miscalculations. The Millennium Tower had to be renamed The Spinnaker Tower because it was finished in 2005 instead of 2000, as planned, and the Scottish Parliament came in 1,000% over budget. So a lot of people were expecting the British to really fuck it up.
In my opinion, they did not. From the opening ceremony onward it was—at least when viewed from my sitting room sofa—practically flawless. The venues were stunning, the contests were exciting, the commentaries were interesting, the athletes were inspiring and the closing ceremony was artfully calculated to help us return to the “business as usual” mindset by causing the entire nation to suddenly realize they were watching the Spice Girls ride around on the top of taxi cabs and collectively sigh, “Bugger this! I’m turning off the telly and going to bed.”
The best thing, in my view, was that it finally allowed the Brits a guilt-free reason to be proud. British people are ferociously self-effacing. The general consensus is that they are rubbish at everything, consummate failures and that anything they had been good at in the past involved the subjugation, enslavement and exploitation of weaker nations. So to see them (politely) proud of their efforts, their athletes and their country did this flag-waving American good.
One of the few moments I could have done without included the attitude—espoused by interviewers and athletes alike—that not getting a gold metal meant you failed; you failed yourself, you failed your family, you failed your country, why don’t you crawl into a hole and die you useless loser. Now, I know winning is fun and it’s what we all want, and there is nothing wrong with that, but where is the joy of simply taking part? And it’s the Olympics fer crissake! You are competing against the best of the best on the entire planet; coming in third is nothing to beat your head against a fence post over.
Anyway, well done Britain. I know these were officially the London games but it was, believe me, a national effort. And well done you 250,000 people who signed up to be volunteers, and you 70,000 who were chosen. And a special “huzzah!” to whomever it was who had the job of overseeing this army of enthusiastic helpers. I have heard, both from the media and from actual people, that these volunteers really made the “Friendly Games” friendly. So thanks for not being your usual grumpy selves (“The information kiosk? How should I know!”) and for being true ambassadors of Britain to the rest of the world.
And well done athletes, who gave your all and played fair. (And you who cheated, aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?) And kudos to all you “classic” entertainers who got up out of your rocking chairs to remind the world of what Britain has contributed to the collective culture. I know some of you were probably glad for the gig.
So many people contributed in so many ways to these games that it would be impossible to mention all of them, but I do want to commend those residents of East London who had the missile silos erected on the roofs of their apartment buildings. I know you complained when they first went up, but in all you gracefully accepted your role as the official human shield of the 2012 Games.
So well done, all of you.