Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The People gave the lion its roar


Now the Olympics are at an end, it is perhaps apt to reflect on what made the Olympics so special. And believe me, they were special. LH had the privilege to go to several events, and I was astounded by the unbelievable atmosphere in the stadiums.

The Olympic stadium is a remarkable stadium with very special acoustic effects and lighting. LH attended the first session of Athletics in the stadium and already there was an amazing atmosphere brewing. People were happy and delighted to be present and to indulge in the ‘Greatest show on Earth’. British athletes got an amazing roar, but the crowd cheered enthusiastically for everyone, British or not. It was no wonder that some foreign athletes thought they were competing on home soil.

LH also was delighted to go to the Beach volleyball at Horse Guards parade. I thought we were going to some seating hurriedly erected on the site which would have seated a few thousand people. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by a complete, full surround stadium seating probably 10,000 people. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, and it was almost as if the crowd were competing as well. I was exhausted by the endless Mexican waves and the jovial Brazilian party atmosphere. When there were gaps in the proceeding at the end of the set, or a time out, the pitch was invaded by scantily clad dancers to spice up the show. Wow, I never knew sport could be so much fun!!

So where did this amazing spirit come from? This was not a spirit brewed from alcohol or drugs, although the effects did leave the participants feeling hoarse and punch drunk. This spirit was a gas which pervaded through the whole Olympic Park, and resulted in a spontaneous eruption of joy and celebration. Other areas of London, like Hyde Park, were also affected where almost every day more than 50,000 people gathered in giant celebration.

It seems almost incredible that the British who are probably best known abroad for their reserved behaviour should have staged what will probably go down in history as the greatest party ever staged on earth. And how weird is it that London should be passing the flag to Rio de Janeiro, which annually hosts the world’s biggest party, having shown the Brazilians how a huge party can be staged in real style?

Much credit for the amazing atmosphere must go to the 70,000 volunteers who came from all over the country, who gave up holidays and jobs and their time to participate in the games. They set the tone for the proceedings with their joyous smiles, their dancing and singing, and their willingness to help.

Politicians would love to obtain credit for the atmosphere at the games, but the credit is not theirs. David Cameron did get around and try and obtain reflected glory. Boris Johnson did a lot to encourage the atmosphere and was very positive from the very first for his city. Lord Coe should get some credit for his meticulous planning and attempts to get the people to participate, but the credit should not go to him either.

In her brilliant biography of Sir Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Longford posed an intriguing question. She asked whether the amazing spirit and determination of the British people to win the Second World War against all odds was due to its leader, Winston Churchill, or the people themselves.  She concluded that it was Winston Churchill whose indomitable spirit gave the roar to the lion. On this occasion and at these Olympics, however, there was no Winston Churchill, and there can be no doubt that it was the people who made the lion roar.   

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