It's weird, I spent the last 7 years bitching and moaning about them. Maybe it had something to do with living in the host borough, but all I heard was how busy it was going to be, how expensive it was going to be, and the all round general nightmare and disruption it would cause for everyone. If I had £1 for every time I said "I'm not going to be here....I'll bugger off to America for a month until it's over!" well....I might've at least paid for the flight to get there.
But when Olympic fever hit, I was really glad I was in London, right in the centre of it all. In fact I was sad to NOT be in the host borough, in earshot and sight of the fireworks during the opening ceremony.
From the day before, being in Stratford and seeing how BUZZED everyone was about the next day, right up until stumbling onto the train home exhausted after the closing ceremony I can honestly say I've been bitten by the Olympic bug!
Taking pictures of the opening ceremony on TV with my phone...uh. Yeah.
It was amazing to see Stratford, Newham, where I spent my teenage years loitering about, dossing on the bus and kissing random dudes, turned into this place that people from all around the globe flocked to. Every nation on the planet were probably represented on those same trains that I take to work every day. Everything was cleaned up and shiny but still the same old East End that is Stratford, with the cinema and the bus routes and weird-ass car park that could be the set of a horror movie! But there was media and celebrities and PEOPLE everywhere - in MY home borough. Where I was born and lived and grew up. That was a pretty surreal feeling!
And now it's all over I'm really sad. I can honestly say I have never seen London so...happy! It's been like a month long party. No, not a party, because there's been no drunken punch ups and angry fights on the way home. More like a month long lazy BBQ in the sun, everyone smiling, having a good time and getting excited together.
I've seen families on trains that would normally be sniping at each other at the end of a long day, being nice! "Thank you for taking us to the Olympics Daddy!" "Thank YOU for behaving so well today" I swear to you I witnessed this - on the tube! ...in LONDON! I think that's a pretty good summary of the atmosphere that has taken us over this summer.
I saw and people watched at Liverpool Street at the height of the Olympic games. To see so many people wearing the flags of their nations, flicking through programmes, wondering how to get to Stratford (Eastbound Central line 3 stops or overground from platforms 15-18 FYI), chatting, laughing, smiling, clapping, dancing....it was inspiring. And that was even before watching records being broken, medals being won and best of all, those who have faced adversity show us just how "Superhuman" they are in the Paralympics.
I believe the sustaining legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic games is how much it has brought our city, our nation and indeed the World (as the games were originally intended) together as one. It's made the whole planet feel a little smaller, a little friendlier and a whole lot more exciting. Let's all try and take that forward shall we? Because I really hope these beams of positivity, the inspiring athletes, the sense of accomplishment from pulling off something that no-one - including us - thought we could do, continue long into the future.
Maybe until the next games when I can say to my kids (or *eep* my grandkids) "I was there in 2012 - lets make 2044 even better!"