I can be cynical grump when I so choose but ! can’t help feeling a bit of excitement about the Olympics though as they roll into town this week. I almost don’t want to. I know they are expensive and it’s a distraction from the government agenda which is forcing cuts on those who are least able to afford them.
I know that logically, but as a child and as an adult, I’ve always enjoyed ‘remote participation’ in the over-commercialised ‘greatest show on earth’ because despite the organisers, despite the sponsors, there are moments of humanity and hope that dig deeply.
I remember the day in 2005 when it was announced that the Olympics would be held in London. As a native Londoner, I was excited and pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t as cynical as I became because I wasn’t sure what it involved. I will though, forever link that day with the day that follows, the 7th July 2005 when the terrorist bombs exploded in the transport infrastructure in London, killing 52 people as well as the four perpetrators and injuring over 700 people and that doesn’t account for the mental scars the day left on many many more.
The happiness and excitement turned instantly to pain, fear and distress and the two events become almost linked in my mind.
So it took a long time for me to feel comfortable and feel happy about the circus coming to town again. I enjoy spectacles, I enjoy distractions, even commerce-laden ones and I can’t apologise for that. If I’m excited that the world is coming to my city, I only want for her to be able to show herself to her best. To enjoy it and enjoy myself.
It’s not ‘cool’ to be excited and I’m not blind to the poverty, distress and suffering that is happening in the city while she paints herself up and while we aren’t watching because I’m still working and will be every (work) day the games are on (with a one exception as I did grab some tickets).
I went out to see the Olympic Torch as it passes through London. I saw joy. I saw happiness and I saw kids getting really excited.
Is it worth the cost? Is it worth allowing this government to be painted in anything other than the true colours of pain and distress that they are explicitly handing to the nation? Probably not. On balance, I’d rather have a fairer society with income distributed to provide more to all. Is it worth giving Boris his moment in the sun? That hurts too, because I never for a moment think that Boris is a mayor for London – he is a mayor for the parts of London that will be likely to vote for him.
But these aren’t the choices I was given. Am I going to pretend I don’t want the excitement, celebrations and joy which exists around me? No. I’m going to enjoy these few weeks that London is at the heart of the sporting world. I’m going to use the events to build conversations with the people I visit, draw on memories of previous events and celebrations and use the excitement and celebration that is finally beginning to settle in the city. I’m going to use the time to enjoy the other associated celebrations, events and displays taking place. I’m going to enjoy the summer and the city.
I love London and I love the people who share this city with me. I want everyone else to come to know what a great place we are and can be. I tried to be more cynical, I tried to balance the head and the heart, but eventually the excitement came.
Yes, it’s going to be harder to get to work and it’s going to be harder to get home. We don’t have the luxury of ‘working at home’ but we don’t really know what the effect will be on the day to day work life as a social worker in the heart of an Olympic city but I’m sure it’s a theme I’ll come back to before the party is over.
For now, I’m going to try and enjoy it.