Andrew McQuillan gets his patriotic hat on
Before London 2012 kicked off with a wizz-bang, there was a creeping sense of almost gleeful pessimism that something terrible would happen; terrorist strikes, the Underground network creaking to a halt, or all out war between the hard-nosed inhabitants of the capital and camera-happy tourists breaking out. A week before the ball started rolling, as I sat on a Central line tube, eye level with a rather “sizable” American gentleman’s crotch which was thrusting into my face with every tilt of the train, I too started subscribing to the Daily Mail school of thought; that this was simply too much fuss.
Then the Team GB medal rush began.
Never before have I seen sport energise people in this country in such a way. Ever since Her Majesty The Queen and Daniel Craig dived into Danny Boyle’s bonanza of all things British, we, the people of this sceptred isle have been reminded of how achingly cool it is to be from this part of the world. Slogans such as “better never stops” are everywhere, while the red, white and blue of Team GB’s suave Adidas kit are impossible to avoid when out for a walk in the city. Even in the Westminster haunts that I am forced to frequent due to my summer job, the barflies in there aren’t tanking gin and tonics to drown their sorrows over Libor or Lords reform, but in tribute to Farah, Ainslie, and Murray.
Our heroes and heroines are perfect antidote to not only the sense of gloom which has pervaded the United Kingdom since the recession, but they have gone against the inane celebrity complex which grips some of my countrymen. Wiggins’ honesty, Grainger’s resolute staunchness, Ennis’s innocent joy, crowned of course, by the majestic mastery of Sir Chris Hoy are all laudable traits that our public should rightfully rejoice in. The cast of The Only Way is Essex or Wayne Rooney this lot ain’t. Yet they all share a common sense of hard work, dedication and above all, the capacity to triumph; things which have put, to sound like an old sentimentalist, the “Great” in Great Britain.
It has been an honour and pleasure to put my back out standing up every time the Union Flag has been hoisted in tandem with the strains of the National Anthem, such a common occurrence it has been.
However, for all the good will, there has to be a serious “legacy” to this. It is a word bandied about with monotonous regularity by LOCOG officials, the Mayor’s office, and not least Hugh Bonneville. A stadium that West Ham and Leyton Orient are going to bicker over, a bigger Westfield than the one in Shepherd’s Bush, and infrastructure in the south-east is not a fitting legacy for the sum parts of the country which have produced our medal winners. Lord Colin Moynihan (former rowing cox, enemy of 1980s football supporters, and the man who played a part in the butchering of British Snowsport) made a very good point; it is all well and good that our private schools have the capabilities (I think I must have gone to the only private school in the country without these mythical “great facilities”) to produce these people, however, it has to be a much more evenly spread out thing. Our Prime Minister and his coalition government must make tangible all the good will that is sloshing around by introducing a root-and-branch reform of community sport facilities and coaching in this country.That is a legitimate and laudable thing to do, befitting of the collective lift that the nation is soaring on at the moment.
Anyway, enough solemnity. Crack out the bunting, wear a smile and cry along with St Andrews’ favourite ever cyclist. Keep cool and carry on Britain, it’s the way to be.