How I learned to stop worrying and love the Olympics

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the idea of the Olympics coming to London had me unmoved. I’ve never been particularly interested in sport. Although I have taken up running and cycling in the last few years, it has been in the interests of my own health and fitness.

I dis-like the coverage of sport in the media, which can often overshadow more important stories. And there were quite a few reasons to be sceptical about the way these games were being run. The billions spent on it that could have stopped nurses, policemen, soldiers and teachers being made redundant. The brand police victimising businesses to preserve exclusivity for the official sponsors. The hapless security firm, bailed out at the last minute by the armed forces, who in turn have placed missiles on the roofs of residential tower blocks. The ineffectual restrictions placed on unofficial photographers.

But somehow, I’ve become gripped. The more I’ve seen of it, the more I’ve wanted to see. The news that many of the event’s sponsors are not going to take advantage of offered tax breaks has helped too.

It started with the fantastic opening ceremony. Kenneth Brannagh with sideburns reciting Shakespeare! J. K. Rowling reading J. M. Barrie whilst NHS beds fly through childhood nightmares! The Brookside lesbian kiss! The TARDIS noise! Tim Berners-Lee reminding us that the web is for everyone. And finally, seven young athletes chosen to light the delicate cauldron, a perfect choice given the games’ mission to inspire a generation.

Showing how important a state health system is to the UK by featuring it so prominently was fantastic, hopefully a message that will be heard in the US. And unlike at the Beijing Olympics, when the most photogenic child performer was chosen to mime over the soundtrack of a better, but less presentable performer, this ceremony celebrated children of all abilities.

Since then I’ve watched rowing, canoeing, cycling, swimming, tennis, sailing, shooting, beach volleyball, hockey, hurdling, long jump, running and the various disciplines of the heptathlon and enjoyed them all, especially watching Team GB win three golds in an hour on Saturday night. London, not usually my favourite city, has looked splendid. The organisation has been great overall. I hope that the second week is as exciting as the first!

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