The five things that have impressed me most about the Olympics

the torch relay torch in the foreground, and the olympic rings (out of focus) in the background.Yup. It had to happen. It’s the Olympic post.

I don’t like sport – never have. Too much like hard work and when you don’t know the rules, a tad boring to watch. Or so I thought.

In sixteen short days I have been transformed into an avid fan, watching sports the names of which – let alone the rules – I can only guess.

So what’s happened? God knows. I’m not watching it for the sporting prowess (or even the tight clothing) – all I can do is list the five things that have impressed me most about the Olympics…

1.    That opening ceremony (and actually the whole cultural offer)

Bonkers and British. The fact you can be brilliant, irreverent, self-depreciating and humorous simultaneously. The queen parachuting is the same as the bouncy Stonehenge, the huge torch relay extravaganza and the underwater wheelchair – love it, love it, love it and love being in a country that gets that art is political and not just pretty. (Not the closing ceremony though,  lets just be clear about that).

2.    What it means to be part of GB and to actually feel it

Always felt a bit uncomfortable with the Union Jack and with the idea of ‘nationality’. Not anymore. I feel a pride in this country I’ve genuinely not felt before. I feel part of the country – valid and validated. I’ve even bought a union jack scarf and more surprisingly still almost warmed to the royal family.

3.    The power of winning

I was brought up to believe the aim is not to win or lose but just to play the game, whilst personally being intensely competitive – this has led me to be quite conflicted around ‘winning’ and ‘loosing’. Thanks to the last 16 days I’ve been able to get a new perspective on this. Winning is great. It’s not all there is, but when it’s the result of clean, honest, hard graft it’s brilliant! (This does not apply however to winning Big Brother).

4.    That poem by Carole Ann Duffy and that amazing caldron

Yup – art bits again and I make no apology. If you’ve not read the poem yet, read it. And if you are not crying at the end of it, switch off the telly, radio, computer, phone or whatever and really read it. It says everything. The cauldron – from the moment the petals appeared, Thomas Heatherwick’s creation was legend. Then it lit. Then it articulated. Then it burned bright and now the 204 charred petals travel home with each competing country. Awesome.

5.    Living, breathing diversity – again, and again, and again

From the moment that tosser said that the opening ceremony was ‘multicultural crap’ these Olympics became the diversity games – Jess Ennis being not just the poster girl, but also the living embodiment of the family in the opening ceremony, the fact that a brilliant woman did judo in a skull-cap, the women boxing (hate boxing, love equality) and Mo Farah – a refugee – becoming a national hero. We had a blade runner, sideburns, ginger hair, and astounding medal successes from places such as Jamaica and Uganda. And now finally every national Olympic committee have sent women to the Olympic Games thanks to the wonderful sportswomen of f Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia – one in the eye for de Coubertin who felt that the inclusion of women would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect” at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens 1896.

Of course there is more – Jess Ennis’s face as she crossed the line, the magic fingers of the long jump guy, everything Mo did, everything Bolt did, the cycling, the sailing, the bikes, it just went on and on. And on.There are loads of words being written and I’m just adding to the mountain.

And in 17 days it all starts again with the Paralympics – already a winner as it’s the first year since the ban after 2000 that learning disabled people can compete again. I might not like the Channel Four ‘superhumans’ tag (like the trailer though) but I love their recent poster – simply says ‘thanks for the warm up’.

With my new-found loves of sport, GB and winning I am expecting great things. Bring it on!

Image from andyreedmp, and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

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