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A Very British Summer

Sean Littlejohn reflects on what has been a very British summer

Looking back it might seem a little cynical to say this, but by the time the opening ceremony rolled around in July, I was already sick of the Olympics. I’m sure I’m not alone on this, but I’m probably one of the few that will openly admit it.

The first thing I noticed (let’s face it, how couldn’t you) was the ugly blue cage around campus. I know that the Royal Holloway campus was being used to house some of the athletes, but it felt like I was walking in to Jurassic Park every time I went to Medicine to watch the football. Not to mention, all my trusty detours and short-cuts were all caged-off.

Then there was the failed Olympic Lane forced upon the Egham bypass. They may as well have painted ‘Super-Fun-Happy-Lane’ on it for all the good it did – in fact, I’m pretty sure it saw more use than it otherwise would have. It’s like telling a kid that he can sit anywhere but the “spinny chair” – he’ll be on that thing quicker than you can say ‘chocolate milk’.

And don’t even get me started on the advertising. You couldn’t flick on the TV without seeing those five rings and crazy graffiti-style logo. The Olympics started creeping in to every conversation (although admittedly, most of what I initially heard was ‘are you going to watch?’). BBC One programmes ranged from ‘Olympic Breakfast’ to ‘Olympic Catch-Up’. Even if it wasn’t your thing, and you wanted to ignore it, it was being rammed down your throat at every opportunity.

And you know what, why shouldn’t it be? It’s a defining moment in British history to be hosting one of the world’s oldest traditions. Ancient Greece used to host these events in worship of their God, Zeus. If people weren’t interested, more fool them. And if Danny Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony – boiling down everything great out of this country to only a few hours – wasn’t enough to convince people that it’s worth watching, then you’re welcome to your Jeremy Kyle and Desperate Housewives.

Of course, we weren’t just watching. We were supporting. There’s a common pride found in cheering on our athletes in their white and blue, and knowing that they’re running not just for themselves, not just for the sponsorship deals, but for their country. Your country. The Olympics gives us those rare moments, where all eyes in the country are on the same thing, and we’re all

mentally holding hands, praying for the same thing. Jessica Ennis and, more notably, Mo Farah spring to mind. The World Cup, Wimbledon, all the ‘biggest’ events don’t even come close. In the age of cheating golfers and over-paid footballers, Olympians are still the most relevant sportsmen around.

So, after arguably the most successful Olympic and Paralympic games of all-time, both for Great Britain and as a spectacle, I’m proud to admit that I was wrong to dismiss the Olympics as early as I did. I’m no patriot, but national pride is something that we don’t see enough of in this day and age, and the Olympics are one of few things that unite us all under a single flag. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another four years before we next take such pride in our heritage.

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