In 1992, I watched the Barcelona Olympics and for the first time in my life found real enjoyment in sport. And so it has been with every Olympics ever since. Unfortunately with each intervening 4 year period I somehow forget this. The lead up to London 2012 was no exception. Like half the world, I was a tad apathetic and couldn’t for the life of me understand why what was frankly a glorified school sports day had ballooned into a multi-billion pound monster. But then 2 weeks ago Sir Danny Boyle’s gift to Britain and gift from Britain burst onto my TV screen and I swelled with pride. Memories of Barcelona and every Olympics since came flooding back and I remembered…I LIKE the Olympics. Why had I only realised this now? Dang it, why hadn’t I got tickets all those months ago? This wasn’t just any Olympics, this was my home Olympics; this was history and I was missing out.
So, like most of the country, for the past fortnight, I’ve found myself glued to the extraordinary BBC (who have completely outdone themselves) coverage and racing around Hyde Park to catch glimpses of gold medal triathletes. But while all this has been going on, a curious change has taken place within me. Suddenly I’ve found myself screaming at the TV, jumping up from the sofa, shedding real tears and experiencing heart palpitations as finishing lines are approached. For the first time in my life I can honestly say I “get” sport. Aside from tennis and swimming, sport’s never really been my thing. I’ve never been able to get it intellectually and I’ve certainly never been able to get it emotionally. A nation’s obsession with sport has always been baffling. As a gay teenager I found safe haven in the arts; sports belonged to the enemy. On some level, it has been like this ever since. Until now. Now I get it. I get it. Sport really is as important to the world as the arts. Both have the ability to entertain, inspire, elate, provoke, educate and unite. Of course, you probably knew this already, but it’s news to me. How beautiful was the sight of the Olympic Stadium last night?! As Bolt and Rudisha performed miracles, 80,000 spectators went nuts. These 80,000 weren’t solely Jamaican or Kenyan; they were from all over and yet they still wanted to share and honour Bolt’s and Rudisha’s glory. If aliens were watching last night they’d be forgiven for thinking we live in a Utopian society. No doubt the cynics will be quick to point out that atrocities and wars are still taking place in the world at large and that the media has simply chosen to shift its focus for a fortnight. They’d be right. But if this shift of focus can produce even momentary glimpses of Utopia and inspire people to greatness then I say the billions of pounds have been worth it.
Now come on, Tom!!!