Monday, 6 August 2012

Golden roving

The boyfriend is one of those who can remember every sporting statistic that ever was. He is a Brit, so he often recalls in detail a loss in some rugby/football/cricket type sport and more often than not it is a loss to those unruly upstart colonials; he occasional gets to gleefully report a win. In some relationships this might make for fun banter. But in our house it is all a little one sided as I am (in his point of view) frustratingly disinterested in the sporting achievements and disappointments of my nation. 
But he perseveres.
Olympic rings in the shadow of Edinburgh castle

We are midway through the London 2012 Olympic games just now. An event that the boyfriend has been very much looking forward to. I have not been entirely grinch-like about it. I went to see the torch being lit in the shadow of Edinburgh castle and happily made noise with the rest of the crowd.

Olympic flame in Edinburgh

We listened to the opening ceremony on the radio as we drove down south from Scotland last week – and both enjoyed the unfolding spectacle, arriving at our destination in time to watch on TV as the athletes came out into the arena and the torch was lit by the athletes of tomorrow.

Day one we were out on a river splashing about on canoes – so despite his desire to be constantly checking developing sporting statistics on his phone he had to curtail the urge and paddle about in the thin British sunshine instead. But tiered out after a day of accidentally on purpose falling in the river we happily spent the evening in the pub and watched the days highlights. Swimming gold for the Australian swimmers seemed to suggest that all was as usual in the pool.

non-Olympic rowing on the river Severn, Shropshire

As the first few days went by though all seemed to have turned on its head. Australia was loosing everything in the pool to China, France and South Africa- And the boyfriend couldn't even rub it in with Team GB gold. Things in the UK (and in my house) were a little tetchy in the first few days of the Olympics as we waited for team GB to win their first gold medal.
After the glow of a great opening ceremony subsided the country began it's anxious wait. Putting on a world class event is not enough – there needed to be gold for the Brits to feel truly good about their Olympics. - Nobody wants to throw a party and spend all the time in the kitchen – you want to be out there doing the limbo with all your friends or what is the point.
Oh how the world can change in just a few days!
more pictures of Scottish hills

We had a day out walking on the West Highland Way (with so much phone checking of Olympic statistics that the phone battery died early in the day) and then the next day the drought broke - Helen and Heather won their gold medal in the rowing and since then there have been smiles all round as GB piles up more gold than Gringotts goblins.
Not quite so much gold as the US and China but far and away more than Australia – or as one friend on Facebook commented: 'Yokshire wins more medals than Australia. Cracking.'

Despite what I imagine is many Australian's existential crisis - If we are not winners what are we?? Even without a haul of gold for my motherland the excitement all around me is infectious. I find it hard to switch off and do anything other than think Olympic based activities. Even as I sit here just now I am listening to the Team GB jubilation over the gold medal won by Jessica Ennis. The Olympics creates hyper excitement over things that most of us don't usually give the slightest thought to – heptathlon? Gymnastics? Archery? Horses stepping daintily over things... and yet the Olympics brings it all together and each sport becomes more than the sum of its parts – because it is part of a bigger more spectacular event.

The athletes themselves are (in the kindest possible sense of the word) freaks – but what draws us mere mortals to them is not the freakishness of their achievements but the glimpses of humanity along the way, which lets us see something of ourselves and our own struggles and encourages us as we strive for our own dreams – whatever they may be.
I am not a sports head – not competitive, and not into flag waving, but there are a lot of admirable things within the games culture - participation, challenging yourself, being the healthiest, strongest version of yourself. I also really like the moments when we see behind the individual athletes to the support networks they rely on. The families, friends, coaches, schools, workplaces that make the end result possible– whether it be gold or simply being able to turn up. That is one of the many good lessons the Olympics has for us – that we all need to give and receive that support.

For all my 'it's the journey' philosophising I am still very much hoping that the Aussie women's basketball team storms home to a gold – because I may not be all that 'Aussie Aussie Aussie,' but I am all out in yellow and green with a southern cross painted on my face for my home town girl Belinda Snell – she of that spectacular 3 point shot at the start of the games. And so is the boyfriend.