The Olympic experience


September 10, 2012

The London Olympics proved to be a wonderful spectacle, and many of us witnessed the best that sport has to offer, either live, or on our TV screens. As some of you know, I was a volunteer 'Gamesmaker', wearing the uniform and doing my best to add something to the event.

My role was as part of the Olympic News service, providing the world’s press with quotes from the athletes as they finished their events. I was based at Wembley Stadium, and saw tears of joy from those who had won a medal, and desperation from those who missed out.

Some of the athletes were so moved that they simply couldn’t speak afterwards, or were unable to control their emotions. I have never been closer to the action, and believe me, the Olympics is the greatest show on earth. It means so much to so many people.

There were several highlights for me. Queen Elizabeth II agreeing to appear with James Bond in the opening ceremony, on the proviso that she chose her dress, and that her two favourite corgis would have a role.

What leadership she brings to her people. The smell of smelting metal, pumped around the Olympic stadium, as the five Olympic rings were manoeuvred into place. Jessica Ennis, the face of the Games, beaming as she showed her gold medal to the photographers. The charisma of Usain St Leo Bolt - what an exhilarating entertainer he is.

I watched in wonder at the speed and professionalism of the journalists and photographers who together get the stories and pictures of the action to us. And I saw the crowds supporting all of the athletes, all colours and creeds, cheering the best performances and offering sympathy to those who didn’t quite make it.

The show has now come to an end, with the Paralympics just finished. Paralympics means Parallel Olympics - an event of parallel status for those with physical or intellectual difficulties. Never have bigger crowds watched their skills.

For the first time, all the countries involved in the Games had both women and men in their teams. Sarah Attar made history by being the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in the Games. The 19 year old who trained in the US wore a headscarf in her event, the 800m.

She finished a lap behind the field, but received a standing ovation from the crowd. Unfortunately, the Saudi press was not complimentary to either her or Wojdan Shaherkhani, the other Saudi female athlete. If you google their names, you will see what I mean.

For me, the Games can be summed up with the words of Samantha Murray, the British athlete who won a silver medal in the Modern Pentathlon. She had watched this event in Beijing in 2008, and was inspired to try.

Her words to the BBC were, “Anyone can do it, don’t let anyone get in your way. I put my heart, mind and soul into it, and I am now an Olympian, with a silver medal.” What a fantastic attitude to take through life.

I loved the way that the Games provided such an escape from normal everyday activity, and how those who succeeded did so because of their absolute dedication to their cause. Many of us have much to learn from such spirit.