Like many London dwellers, I was partially dreading the Olympics. I am not a particularly negative person, but I couldn’t help but think that the noise, the crowds, the attention, all of which would of course be more intense than usual, might break London a little bit.
There are certain things that we British love to complain about – traffic, public transport and the weather – all of which were likely to fail us during the Games. It was fully expected by many that there would be an enormous administration error that would leave our nation embarrassed and red-faced. Having lived in London on and off for the past year, I have seen the lengths to which the government and the mayoral office have gone to ensure the city is looking its best for the thousands of international visitors that were set to grace us with their presence for the Olympics. For the past few months transport has been disrupted, streets have been cleaned, signs and entire stadiums erected and countless security training days have taken place. Even for someone who was not in any way involved in the set up can appreciate the polish that London has been given in preparation.
I was amazed at the opening ceremony, despite international opinions that it was one of the worst in history. I am aware that it is impossible to please everyone with a country specific opening ceremony, especially one such as London’s, which relied so heavily on British history and humour, but I will always contest the opinions of those who have not done their homework in an attempt to appreciate the spectacle on the level enjoyed by most Brits (specifically in reference to one American journalist who criticised Boyle’s use of ‘hundreds of Abraham Lincolns’ to tell the story of the British industrial evolution).
I’m not saying that there haven’t been errors since the Games have begun, and I’m certainly not attempting to jinx the remainder of the 2 week event but, ultimately, I have been rather proud with how London has coped. There are always scandals, mistakes, corrections and difficulties, but I feel that London has kept calm and carried on in true British style.
One of the main and most positive differences between pre-Olympics London and now is the atmosphere between people. It sounds like an obvious statement but the whole ‘feeling’ of London has changed. After catching the tube to and from central London many times at numerous times of the day and night, the stereotype of ‘the Londoner’ seems entirely fair. Everyone has somewhere to be, something to do and doesn’t have the time for this. I say this not to criticise, it is just the truth, and it is true of any big city. What’s remarkable is the speed at which London altered from feeling a little unfriendly, to feeling like a big party.
I know, and have realised, that this is mainly to do with the amount of non-Londoners in London every day for recreational purposes, but from my perspective, it is also noticeable in the local. The spirit has spread to everyone, and the motive to ‘inspire’ is abundantly evident. You get the sense that, at the moment, all Londoners and indeed all Britons rightly feel as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves. There is a sense of unity and patriotism which can be rare, especially in the capital, and a shared joy has been felt far beyond the host city as one of our nation’s best Games ever is realised in our home country.
I can only hope that this atmosphere remains for as long as possible once the Games is over and that good spirits continue to line the streets, but at the very least I will enjoy this celebration while it lasts.