Will reality bite next week?
By Larry Ryan
Enough about ourselves and our five Olympic rings of prized metal. It would be rude not to acknowledge our splendid hosts. So where do we stand on Team GB’s success this past fortnight?
Are we, like Morrissey — miserable then and now, heaven knows — appalled at their “blustering jingoism” and “foul patriotism”?
Or could it be that the rather extravagant peals of laughter that greeted Pirlo’s panenka a few long weeks ago have mellowed into something we have rarely managed before; genuine smiles of happiness for our neighbour’s triumphs?
Before any of that, we ought to thank them for the breadth of their coverage which, especially during the first week, complemented RTÉ’s nicely by allowing us to watch live something other than swimming heats.
Sure, there were moments that grated. Cavendish almost soured us to them early with his whingeing about the world’s failure to organise itself in accordance with his plans. At times too, particularly when Gary Lineker loomed large, the entire festival seemed to be regarded as a final eliminator for the main event down the track; BBC Sports Personality Of The Year.
And when word filtered through that a man with Parkinson’s had been arrested for not smiling at the cycling road race, there was a moment when you feared Morrissey might not have imagined the thought police ransacking brains without a warrant.
But mainly, even as the medals piled up and they giddily got to know their new heroes, you could hardly help but warm to them. Some names, like Helen Glover’s and Jade Jones’, they had barely said out loud before. Others were being reshaped before our ears. Jessica became Jess and Rebecca became Becky and Mo was still Mo, but was no longer confused with one of the Slater sisters.
Maybe it was just that one of their other great two-lettered heroes — JT — wasn’t front of house for a change. That always bolsters goodwill.
And knowing us well, as he should, it was clever of Danny Boyle to get us on board from the start by sneaking Noel Mannion into his masterpiece. His choice of sop wouldn’t be mine, but I can accept it would have been that bit more difficult to work in Chippy Brady or Nicky English.
It was a nod that said a little bit of this is yours too. Like when Gabby Logan forgot herself and rolled the welcome mat over some of our more sensitive toes. “Let’s face it, Dublin will never host an Olympics.” She meant it well. Even if the mingling of Union Jacks and tricolours in the ExCeL on Thursday painted the picture better.
So surely we can congratulate them all, as they have certainly done Katie and the others.
Some of them, like Anna Watkins in the women’s double sculls, have collected medals before without shedding relative anonymity, but now their lifelong efforts have been refitted and polished and written into the narrative of a movement.
“From the first day at the training camp; the way the boat just moved. It was like it was moving more than the effort we put in. Without having to explain it to each other, from that day I believed.”
Something of that mysterious force must surely have carried Mo Farah around that incredible final lap of the 10k. For the exhilarating crowd involvement, it might just edge Bolt and Rudisha as the track highlight.
Selfishly, since we share a fence and a lot of their rubbish tends to blow over it, you hope nights like their Super Saturday will leave a mark when the show is over.
That they don’t let the feelgood factor dissolve when X Factor fills the media void next Saturday. As one of their old heroes, Matthew Pinsent, put it: “I do hope after the Games we watch that ’reality’ stuff with a better idea of what winning, talent and drama really are.”
To that end, there was one heartening advert on TV this week. For Now That’s What I Call Running, with LMFAO’s Sexy And I Know It recast as an unlikely jogging anthem.
If athletics and rowing and all the rest became a little sexier after these two weeks, if Anna and Jess and Becky were filling magazine covers instead of reprobates from TOWIE, that would truly be success we could all share.
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