Just over two weeks ago I wrote about Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, how it moved me and made me both suddenly interested in the Olympics and also understand patriotism, in my own funny way at least. For the last 16 days I’ve been glued to the BBC’s coverage, whether on our TV, on my computer at work, or, on several occasions, on the TV and iPad at the same time.
I’ve been as glued to Twitter as the TV, keeping up with the events, the emotions, and the reactions to it all from friends and contacts and people involved. It’s been, frankly, amazing. I never thought I’d be that interested in the Olympics, but I’ve been caught up in it and it’s been wonderful. If anything I feel a little twinge of regret at not being actually present at any of the events or even just at the Olympic Park itself.
I’ve witnessed so many amazing moments, had so many awesome memories of these games, and they’ve all been centered on people. Messy, glorious, flawed, driven, wonderful people. Here is a completely subjective, non-exhaustive list of the people who have made the Olympics awesome.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning – for winning our first gold and, suddenly, shattering the cynicism and air of curmudgeonly disappointment that so often settles over Britain. We thought we were going to be shit at the Olympics when the men’s road race didn’t go the way we expected, and we were settling in to love being shit. They proved that we could win, and, actually, that winning is awesome.
David Rudisha – for running the most forthright and honest and amazing race to break the 800m world record and drag every other athlete in that race along with him, to personal bests, national records, and reflected glory. That one performance seemed to sum up the Olympic spirit, of doing your best and pushing yourself beyond your limits, more perfectly than any other.
The BBC – their coverage has been wonderful, fascinating, moving, and comprehensive, from the programme titles to the iPhone app to the montages and beyond. Particular mentions for Claire Balding, who’s been especially great, the human warmth at the centre of the Olympic furore; Ian Thorpe, who took it upon himself to drive the legacy of the games personally by coaching kids to swim this morning and who we ought to adopt as an ambassador for sport; Michael Johnson, who is as fiercely intelligent as an analyst as he was astonishingly fast as a runner; and Steve Cram and Brendan Foster, who were marvelous in the athletics’ commentary box – when Cram exploded as Mo Farah crossed the line in the 5000m it was amazing, as was Foster’s crazed exclamation that “this is my favourite stadium in the world: every Saturday night I come here and every Saturday night Mo Farah wins a gold medal!”
Mo Farah himself, born in Mogadishu, made in London, was magical – I’ve never seen a face like Mo’s when he crossed the line for a second time.
Galen Rupp, Mo’s training partner; when Rupp stepped up in the penultimate lap of the 5000m and guarded Mo’s shoulder against his rivals, it made my heart swell to see the power of friendship laid bare in front of us.
Gemma Gibbons, for missing her mum.
Katherine Grainger (ably assisted and more by Anna Watkins) for persevering and triumphing in the end.
Tom Daley diving into the pool, whether it was choreographed and spectacular, or off the cuff celebration. I’ve been vocal about finding him annoying in the past; not anymore.
The gamesmakers, for coming from all over the world to help out of nothing more (nothing less!) than extraordinary generosity of spirit.
Everyone I follow on Twitter, for galvanizing every moment and every emotion, and making me feel not alone when, by appearances, I watched large chunks of the action in a room alone with my wife 100 miles away.
Andy Murray, who I’ve kept tabs on for years since I realised we share the same birthday, and who finally stepped up and took charge in a final at Wimbledon.
Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, Laura Trott, Danielle King, Jo Rowsell, Jason Kenny, and the rest of the track cycling team, for being scintillating and ruthless and inspirational. And Chris Hoy’s mum and dad, for reminding me of every proud mum and dad.
Ben Ainsley, for getting angry, and then getting more than even.
Nicola Adams for making me care about boxing for a split second.
The Brownlee brothers, for extraordinary stamina and determination.
Danny Boyle for that awesome opening ceremony, which seemed, in retrospect, to set the spiritual tone for the whole thing.
Usain Bolt, for being astonishing and extraordinary and fast.
Greg Rutherford for overcoming injuries and unexpectedly adding
Charlotte Dujardin for making me care about horses dancing.
Samantha Murray, for rounding things off beautifully.
Every British medal winner has affected and inspired me; to name them all would, amazingly, take too long, because there were so many – 65 medals in all, and counting team members, I think over 100 amazing people have walked away with medals. Many more people behind the scenes need mentioning too. Just amazing.
I’ve done a lot of welling-up over the last fortnight. Everyone has been talking about crying, from athletes to presenters to random people on the internet. Crying is all too easily seen as a signifier of sadness in our culture, but it’s more than that. It isn’t weakness, isn’t about being soft; it’s about empathy and pride and joy in human achievement. Awesome, inspirational, amazing human achievement. Which is what the Olympics have been about. And they’ve been astonishing.