I Saw The Torch (And I Liked It)

We saw the Olympic Torch! And my excitement over this is having a let’s-take-this-outside moment with my “feelings” about the Olympics.

Seeing the Torch happened when Juniper Junior’s primary school (and so, his nursery) were planning to go onto the high street to see the Torch come through town. Parents were needed to help, and I volunteered along with a few others. The volunteering part came about because I love helping out with the nursery, not because I love the Olympics.

Kneeling there on the flagstones, and in between moments of chatting with another mum when the kids weren’t cheering, it began to dawn on me the importance of community. There may have been a headache waiting to sidle up because someone had felt it a good idea to give whistles to the kids from the academy. There may have been some primary one children bellowing, “I WANT TO BE ON TV!” because they’d caught sight of a camera. There may have been the fact that the nursery children, as is their way, were possibly more excited by the super-cool police men and women, than they were by the Torch.

This was a chance for our community to be a part of history (if an, at times, difficult history). This has gone over Juniper Junior’s head, I’m quite sure. But to be able tell him, “Darling, you saw the Torch when you were five! You saw the Olympic Flame!” That’s pretty neat. Coming home after nursery, we pulled up the Torch Cam and showed him footage of a friend of ours carrying the Torch through another town, just an hour or so after we had seen it go through our own. His assessment was that she was a “very good runner.”

There are then the “feelings” I have about the Olympics. I know that the part of me interested in history, sport and culture should be jumping up and down with excitement over the Games of the XXX Olympiad, but then, there’s the part of my brain which stumbles around and trips over words like “politics” and “austerity.”

The last time London hosted the Olympics was in 1948. The Games of the XIV Olympiad were the post-war Olympics following WII. The world was still hurting (indeed, Germany and Japan weren’t invited) and money was tight. We had just fought a war, as had many of those who were coming to compete. And so, London hosted the Austerity Olympics. Now, it’s 2012 and while we have not just fought a World War, money, it has to be said, is something of an issue. We’re back in a recession, after all. Admittedly, there’s a lot to be said for job creation, for the regeneration of areas. But then there’s letting the cost rise and rise… while services are cut and cut. It is ever so slightly demoralising to see services getting cut and people suffering as a result, just as Danny Boyle is given more money to say, “Welcome to the Games of the XXX Olympiad!” Why not just have Stephen Fry say, “Are we sitting comfortably?” then proceed to read aloud the story of the Ancient Olympic Games and be done with it? The Olympic Flame could be his reading light.

These feelings of fiscal bitterness do begin to subside when at least there are the Olympics and Paralympics themselves to be enjoyed. During the BBC’s gazillion hours of coverage that we can look forward to over the summer, our nation’s youngsters are going to see hundreds of athletes competing. In the face of all that’s going on the world, the Olympics are an opportunity. An opportunity for education and inspiration, and that is, I’ll admit, pretty darn cool.

There is though more than just the financial which “grates” a little. When the politician who the Olympic organisers report to ends up at the Lord Leveson Inquiry because of his behaviour? When the security of peoples’ homes are compromised? When the London organisers have a paddy and tell Scots they can’t fly The Saltire over their stadium in Glasgow during Olympic football games held there (it took the International Olympic Committee to sort this out)? When the ticket lottery means ordinary people were often priced out of even trying to get tickets? The enthusiasm starts to wane. Sure, we get to see all the coverage courtesy of the BBC (who are taking coverage to new levels). But it sucks to see the ways in which people have lost out.

So I’m left finding that the Olympics involve balance. At least, if I’m to manage some appreciation for them. The Games of the XXX Olympiad are an opportunity for our athletes to compete on home ground. They’re an opportunity to learn. They’re an opportunity to inspire. They’re an opportunity to see the good and the bad of trying to organise an international event of quite this magnitude and history.

And so, the Olympics do have their negative effects, but they also have some pretty awesome positive effects. Almost three thousand years of history does have its own influence, too. So here’s to the Games of the XXX Olympiad. (If only just.)

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

6 replies on “I Saw The Torch (And I Liked It)”

I was also feeling cynical about the Olympics when Canada hosted 2 years ago, but since the torch was running RIGHT PAST my parents’ house when I was home for Christmas, I thought I better put my coat on and go see it.  And since I was putting my coat on, and going out in a blinding blizzard, I brought along a Canadian flag to wave.  And it was kinda awesome.  And when the Olympics actually happened, I decided to just embrace the excitement of being the host country, rather than being a curmudgeon, and I’m glad I did.

My mate who hates the Olympics can’t stop reminding me that the Flame ceremony was invented by Hitler. Whatever, dude; they mean something to me, you can’t take that away. I’m an archaologist and that fire came from one of the most sacred places in the ancient world and that is INCREDIBLE to me.

The flame changed runners right outside my friend’s house where we had all gathered for horribly early morning coffee (the torch was leaving town at 8.45, I was hungover, not so fun). It was awesome. I’m so glad I dragged my nauseous ass out of bed for it.

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