I’ve never been one to get over-excited about watching sport. As a kid I’d fall asleep as soon as the footie was turned on and nothing much has changed. This year, however, things have been a little different.
As the London Olympics approached, I began to contemplate the impact it would have on my life, both negative and positive. Not really because I cared, but more because that seemed to be what everyone else was doing, and I was still trying hard to fit in.
Public transport would surely suck more than usual and it’d be a nightmare to get anywhere without being swamped by Olympic tourists. But I was wrong. They were all wrong. London doesn’t seem to have any more people, or tourists, than usual. The only real difference is that there is a constant buzz and excitement in the air and an alarming number of those weird little Olympic-mascot-alien things hanging around. Whose idea were they anyway?
What really got my motor running was watching the road racing (cycling) on television, and realising that I could ride my bike to where the athletes were in only 10 minutes. I could actually look out of the window and see the helicopter that was filming the footage I was watching on TV!
I jumped on my beautiful Raleigh Winner bicycle (it’s the same vintage as I am – 1984) and followed the crowds. Actually, that plan didn’t work out too well and I soon ended up on a few roads I’d never seen before. Luckily, though, an old lady pulled up on her bike at the traffic lights. If the Olympics has done anything for Britain, it’s united us. Somehow the fact that I knew the Olympics were happening so close made me feel more comfortable in striking up a conversation (traffic lights take forever here in London). As it turned out she was heading toward the race too, and in her almost cliché posh English accent told me to “take the second right, ignore the street signs, then follow the road”. I thanked her politely, the way I was taught to do it at school, and rode on. I didn’t trust her directions, but because she was behind me and would see if I didn’t follow her instructions, I did what she told me anyway. How British is that?
I’m glad I did, though. A biscuit-tin village scene unfolded in front of me and families were carrying their best picnic sets to the race. Kids were running wild and old men with big moustaches and pipes talked casually with the bobbies (police men) that were managing the event. It was everything youight imagine living in England to be.
Upon reaching my destination I felt like I was the only one without a Union Jack flag to wave, but it was truly inspiring to see such a celebration of Britishness. Awkward middle-aged men talked to their mates, sipping on warm beer whilst turning lobster-red. Young mums bounced toddlers around and tried their hardest to paint the British colours on each other’s faces.
I walked around and snapped as many pictures as I could, the cyclists would be coming past soon, but I knew they’d be gone in a flash so I focused on capturing what I saw as a unique insight into daily British life.
As it’s turned out, I’ve actually quite enjoyed being here, in the thick of it.