An Olympic Debrief (From A Londoner!)

I met Rachel Garrett in kindergarten, when we began riding the school bus together to Rockbridge Elementary. Even though my family moved to Indiana when I was in 7th grade, Rachel and I have been able to stay in touch through the years, which I’ve been so thankful for.

Both Rachel and I participated in study abroad programs in college, and we each fell in love with London during our time living there. Rachel loved it so much, in fact, that she went to grad school there and stuck around afterwards. She even found a wonderful Brit to marry, and she and Matt are tying the knot next spring. Rachel graciously agreed to write a guest post to give us a glimpse into what the Olympics were like from the perspective of a Londoner:

I must admit, as I Londoner (I’ve been here nearly five years, so I think I qualify by now), the build up to the 2012 Olympics felt more like a dreaded visit from some crazy, smelly aunt with lipstick all over her teeth and ashtray breath, that squeezes your cheeks too hard and still kisses you on the mouth…despite being nearly 30 years old. Simply put, we experienced buzz kill after buzz kill after buzz kill. You couldn’t get on single means of public transport without hearing Boris practically shouting at you/scolding you to “Don’t get caught! Get online and get ahead of the games!” (click here to hear the recording). The recordings, posters, TV commercials, etc. practically scared everyone from wanting to leave their homes when the Olympics finally got here. Many companies were offering “flexi-hours” during the games to help employees avoid transportation congestion and the efforts to get people to cycle or walk into work were even more prominent than they already are.

As the days creeped nearer, things continued to darken – taxis were protesting, lines at airport immigration were ‘horrendous’, buses were put on diversion or cancelled altogether, and then, two things happened almost simultaneously. First, there was light. After the wettest June on record and a similarly wet July, we saw sunshine. It came just as we entered the week of the Opening Ceremony and boy, was it overdue. Giving Londoners a warm, sunny day is like giving a kitten some catnip. We go crazy for it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that. Although the weather teetered back and forth throughout the games, it didn’t matter — we were riding on our week of sunshine high.

The second thing that happened is that Mitt Romney stuck his foot in his mouth (both his mildly offensive interview and desperate attempt to back track can be seen here). In my experience, the English view us (America, that is) as a kind of annoying-yet-actually-we’re-really-kind-of-fond-of-you-but-would-never-openly-admit-it younger brother sort of way. With that said and as to Mitt’s point number three in his interview, nothing brings the English, namely Londoners, together like a loud-mouthed American. An American ‘having a go’ (to use an English expression) or criticizing their city is like someone talking about yo’ mama. That ish don’t fly.

Sunshine and Romney shambles aside, there was still a fair bit of residual patriotism from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June and even from the Royal Wedding last year. Each of these events celebrated something very different from one another, but they were all very important in bringing GB together and stirring up a sense of national pride. On top of that, the fabulous and patriotic Opening Ceremony by Danny Boyle reached out to even the coldest of the “Olympic Scrooges” and made them proud to be part of a country with such colorful history and renowned accomplishments. Overall, and I share this opinion with my British colleagues and friends, it was a massive success — there were no major blunders, transportation congestion didn’t turn out to be nearly as bad as everyone expected, GB came in 3rd for medal rankings (which is very impressive considering they only one gold medal the last time I lived in a city with the Olympics, Atlanta 1996; however, and more importantly to them, they beat France) and it was a ton of fun! Concluded with a smorgasbord of British music  that even had the power to revive the Spice Girls, the London 2012 Olympics was a “smashing hit!”

Footnote: I was unable to get tickets to my preferred events; however, the men’s and women’s cycle road race came right past my flat (here’s my video, excuse the wooping: The atmosphere was buzzing and I caught myself getting emotional in the 1.27 seconds it took the cyclists to race by.

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