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Sarah Ebner


So Proud of London: a Fabulous Olympic Summer

Posted: 11/09/2012 21:37

I loved this summer, even though we didn't go away and the sun wasn't always shining. I loved it as a sports fan and a Londoner. And I'm so glad that now everyone knows how great both those things can be.
I wasn't one of the nay sayers before the Games began. I can still remember the excitement - and disbelief - when it was announced that London had won the right to host the games. I was holding my baby, then just two months old, and I promised him that I would take him to the Olympics in his home city. I was thrilled.
As the years passed and people moaned and groaned, I didn't. I just waited with anticipation and a growing sense of joy. I didn't worry about traffic or the cost of hotel rooms. Didn't everyone realise how lucky we were? This was once in a lifetime stuff (and other clichés).
I only moaned, vociferously and to anyone who would listen, when I didn't get any tickets in the first ballot. I was jealous of those who did and couldn't believe my bad luck. I was a life-long athletics fan. How could the games take place without me there?
The Times head of news and a German website came to the rescue first. My colleague David Taylor, hearing of my plight (actually, he read about it, as I wrote of my woes on my blog, completely ignoring the fact that they had nothing to do with education) emailed me recommending that I logon to a German site called Dertour. Crazed with anger, I did just that. Soon I was checking out with (extremely expensive) tickets for badminton and table tennis. I was soothed.
But not soothed enough. I wanted to go to the athletics, and waited impatiently for a second chance to do so. I was determined to get tickets, not just for me, but for my father, who is also a huge sports fan, and whose pipedream would have been to win gold in an Olympics 1500m. He too hadn't been granted athletics tickets, getting only the football tickets out of those he'd applied for in the first ballot. This, of course, meant he couldn't try again in round two.
We were up at 5.30am for the second chance ballot and did receive athletics tickets. That's when my excitement grew again. I waited eagerly for the Games to come and for people to stop carping. In July we took the children to see the torch, driving to Wembley and watching World Cup winner Gordon Banks hold it aloft. I felt extremely emotional. And the Games had not yet begun.
How can I explain how the rest of the summer made me feel? I think you probably know, so there is little need to talk of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Greg Rutherford, Rebecca Adlington and Nicola Adams. I too loved it all (well, apart from the closing ceremony of the Olympics) from archery to water polo, and was both pleased and amused by friends who suddenly became sports fans. I also revelled in the wonderful atmosphere and felt so very proud of my city.
I felt what I have often thought, that actually, people want to be nice. People like to be friendly and have friendship extended back to them. Just because Londoners don't talk loudly on the Tube doesn't mean we don't appreciate smiles and happiness. I'm so glad that people have now realised this and only wish the goodwill could be harnessed again. I'm not foolish enough to think it will (but I can hope!).
We went back to Wembley again for badminton and then onto Stratford for the athletics. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful venue. And although my now 7-year-old son read a book for some of it (yes, really), he also told he how much he enjoyed watching all the different events and how he couldn't believe he had seen the two fastest men in the world (we saw Messers Bolt and Blake in the early heats of the 200m).
I felt deflated after the Olympics and wasn't expecting the Paralympics to be as gripping. They turned out to be different, but also an extraordinary display of sporting prowess and heroism. They were also a very welcome introduction to new stars such as Johnnie Peacock and Hannah Cockcroft.
The Olympic summer is over, but the sun is still shining, and Andy Murray, gold medal Olympian, is now a grand slam winner. Truly it has been a magnificent few months, the perfect time to stay at home and spend money on tickets, not holidays. In Summer 2012 there was no place I'd rather have been than the city in which I was born.


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