On the evening of July 6th, 2005, I went to the Oval cricket ground in Kennington, south London, to watch my first cricket match. (*) We drank Pimms, and sat in the setting sunlight, and had a cracking time.
The contest over who would get the 2012 Olympics had just come to a head. I had been opposed to London's bid. My thinking was: All that expense, and traffic, and bustle, and hassle who needs it? Certain other bush-league cities which I will refrain from naming out of politeness needed the Olympics, to sort elevate (or attempt to elevate) them to world-class status. But London? Please. I thought the Olympics would demean London, if anything.
The first moment I remember being at all in favour was that same day when Jacques Chirac tried to boost Paris' bid by slagging off British food. Now that it had became a matter of sticking it to the French, I was onboard. The signboard outside the cricket ground lit up as I approached: "London Gets The Games."
The next morning, the bombs went off.
It's very hard to believe seven years have gone by. And I am now still a very late convert in what Boris has referred to as the "conversion of the last Olympo-sceptics". But it's been impossible not to get caught up in the awesomeness as it all kicked off nor to refrain from convulsions of bursting pride in the wonderfulness of London and Britain, and Londoners and Britons. Boris put it all better than I could in a rousing, magisterial op-ed on opening day:
Something weird is happening in our city, my friends. In years to come anthropologists will anatomise the effect on the British people so phlegmatic, so cynical, so generally seen-it-all…
I saw how the contagion of joy can spread. Across the city, one after another, the last Olympo-sceptics are coming down with the bug. The excitement is climbing by the hour and tonight when that lucky mystery individual finally ignites the cauldron in the Olympic park the Geiger counter of Olympo-mania will go zoink off the scale.
This is our moment to sell London, to show it off and, believe me, there are plenty of people who need no persuading that it is the greatest city on earth. And this is the moment, finally, to inspire young people with the message of the Olympics…
For me the Games are a vast and moving pageant of human effort and achievement, the glory of winning, the pathos of losing, and the toil that makes the difference between the two. Our actors in that drama are Team GB, not only the biggest but also the greatest collection of athletes ever fielded by this country. I hope and believe we can do them justice tonight and in the weeks ahead. I know that with luck we can produce the greatest Olympics there has ever been. This is London’s moment.
He had another cracking one yesterday in the Telegraph, called, Here’s 20 Jolly Good Reasons To Feel Cheerful About The Games, and which includes the inimitable opening quotation. (Only Boris can get away with saying stuff like that! Female Olympians as "semi-naked, wet otters?" How does he does it?!)
Saturday we were lucky enough to be able to go down to our local pub and watch the (heartbreaking!) men's cycle road race on TV then, at the exact right moment, dash a block south to watch them blast by on the Fulham Road in Chelsea. Awesome. Here's that.
And then the women the day after! Yorkshirewoman Lizzie Armitstead takes silver! Also heartbreaking and incredibly thrilling! Here's the plus-pounding finish, plus post-race interview. How totally lovely is she?
"It's the most special thing I've ever experienced in my life." <sniff!>
[Whoopsies, that took about 10 seconds for the IOC to jump all over this and block it. Here's the direct link to the video on BBC.]
Oh here's the full video of the amazing Opening Cermonies in case you missed it.
I was with my wonderful friends Ryan, Yu-Kyoung, Paul, Nicole, and Henry, as I recall. I made Paul sit right beside me and explain, in painstakingly child-like terms, every single thing that happened on the pitch. The next day, I found I was no wiser (no wiser than "not at all") about cricket. (It was also, to date, my last cricket match!)