Today was a day off. I sat at the table with The Duchess as we lazed over our breakfast. We were meeting a friend in town later, but we had made our way through our morning rituals and had time to kill. My mind went straight to BBC1. I’d pop it on for a few minutes before we head out the door.
And then I remembered. I felt a little wave of disappointment wash over me. The Olympics really are over.
For years I’ve joked about how the Brits were dreading hosting the Olympics. For years I listened to the typically cynical side of those around me say, “We’ll probably really embarrass ourselves.” I’d laugh because, well, that was what I’d expect a British response to be.
That fated Friday over two weeks ago arrived. The Native and I sat in the moments before The Opening Ceremony feeling excited and nervous about what was in store. Would the world really watch and scratch their heads? Would the representation of the British embarrass us? As someone who grew up in America, there were a few small references during the event that were somewhat lost on me, but what was apparent was that even when the world was watching The British would not pretend they were something they were not. The focus wouldn’t be pandering to the world in order to appease the stereotype of what it is to be a part of these isles. Instead the focus would be on its real history and the things that make it great – its beauty, its literary history, its contribution to the modern world, its healthcare system, its causes, its people.
Whether the world understood or not, The Brits didn’t care because it was true. What they saw reminded them to be proud of being British. Openly proud.
And something that I have rarely seen happen in my eight years took place. The curtain of cynicism fell for those two weeks and they threw themselves, unashamedly, into the emotion and the spirit of the Olympics. They wept tears of joy with the likes of Katherine Grainger and Sir Chris Hoy and tears of sorrow for Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. They would turn out in number to support the athletes from across the globe, often erupting in deafening shouts of support. They dropped their responsibilities to make their way across the country just to get a peek on what was taking place, just to be a part of something special.
Something happened to the British in those 16 days. It was an optimism I’ve never seen here. And like those gold medallists, who were high on emotion when the medal was placed around their neck, we cannot hold on to this celebratory feeling we have experienced, but we can be changed by it. So many politicians, media outlets, and people are talking about how the Olympic legacy can continue. It is easy to get lost in the whirlwind of an inspiring event, it is much more difficult to establish a legacy that affects a culture’s way of thinking.
As a foreigner who has grown to feel so much a part of this country, may I make a humble suggestion?
Let the pride you felt for and inspiration you felt in your country lead you to let go of your scepticism every now and then. It is not about becoming another country. It’s about finding your own way to live out the pride you have for your own.
And with that said – I am proud that the British are so set on making the Paralympics just as successful. They are expecting tickets to sell out for the first time ever for the Paralympics and you can understand why. Check out this advert. Talk about inspiring.