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Postcards from London: Vicarious Victory

Airdate: January 10, 2013

           Many people have asked me what it was like to be in London during the Olympic games.  “Fabulous!” I answer.  But truthfully, I missed most of it.

            It all began with the torch relay, the famous flame travelling all through the UK, handed off at each mile marker by designated runners, to the excited cheers of the crowd.  Here was an event that cost nothing but the time spent waiting for the torch to appear—and somehow I only realized this an hour after it passed less than a mile from where I was living.  There went the chance of a lifetime.

            The opening ceremonies were a little more satisfying—I gathered with a crowd on a fake “beach” with a smattering of sand and lawn chairs behind a music venue called the Roundhouse.  The “big screens” were, well, pretty medium-sized, and we had to crowd together quite close to catch the action.  I still ended up re-watching the whole thing on my computer the next day, as the noise of the crowd had drowned out many of the quieter musical numbers.

            As for the actual games, I didn’t have tickets to any events.  I satisfied myself with periodic television coverage (much like I would’ve done had I been living overseas), and ecstatic Facebook updates from lucky friends who’d scored tickets.  Apparently, the live events were electric.  I can only imagine.

            It was a remarkable year for British athletes who brought home a record number of medals.  People around town also seemed to be more relaxed, kinder somehow, I don’t know, just—happier—during the games.  It was as though we’d all been sprinkled with magical Olympic dust that transformed London into a wonder-filled place.  And I’m really not exaggerating. 

            I was obliged to make a Stateside trip for over three weeks during the time the games were going on, and it nearly killed me to leave the country while the magic was still alive.  It took at least half a week to come down from the high and admit that I’d actually left.  I couldn’t explain my mood.  It’s just that London was, so friendly.  I wanted more.  Of course, now that I was thousands of miles way, a UK friend finally offered an extra event ticket via Facebook.  “Sure,” I thought glumly, “does it also come with airfare?”

            I did manage to return to London during the Paralympic Games, but had no better luck scoring a ticket.  More excited friends’ updates.  More vicarious enjoyment.  If nothing else, I thought, I’ll catch the closing ceremonies on television, which I did—snuggled in the comfort of my own bed.  Which would’ve been quite satisfactory had I not realized too late that fireworks were being exploded all over town, from the Olympic Park to the Southbank at the Thames Festival.  Living near Tower Bridge, the view from my very own roof would have been spectacular.  That is, if I hadn’t been so comfortably tucked in bed.

            The 2012 Olympic Games really were an extraordinary experience, though, and I didn’t miss everything.  I made a special effort to attend the athletes’ victory parade through the city.  Although their faces weren’t easy to recognize, and you couldn’t really see their event signs until after the floats had already passed, still I waved my little flag and cheered my heart out, along with the rest of enchanted London.

           — Wendy Sherer

Photo credit: London 2012 (Torchbearer and London Underground employee John Light carries the Olympic Flame onto an underground train at Wimbledon Station, London.)

Additional photos at right: Wendy Sherer's camera phone.

    • Postcards from London: Vicarious Victory
    • Postcards from London: Vicarious Victory
    • Postcards from London: Vicarious Victory