A Very British Olympics: It’s The Taking Part That Counts

OR A Big Sporty Party ‘Round Our House

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to gush a little more about the Olympics. I’ve already said a great deal in the comments of my previous post, but I’d like to take the opportunity to organise my thoughts and move on from just doing blogs about different countries all the time. This post is not particularly funny, per se,1 but I want to record my feelings at this moment so that I can look on them in years to come. You’re welcome to skip it, if you’ve had enough of all that, and you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a proper post going up very soon.

Tower Bridge w/ Olympic Rings - Image via Google

I’m not particularly athletic, and I’m not incredibly competitive either; the product of being a small skinny child. I never took PE lessons too seriously; I’d joke around or make up new sports or provide ‘hilarious’ commentary, and then play football all lunch instead. As far as my teachers were concerned, however, I was so unremarkable that I had two report cards that got my name wrong. And not ‘Kris’ wrong. ‘Thomas’ or ‘James’ wrong.

My relationship with most sport is that of a spectator: I love watching tennis and cricket, but out national sport is football (soccer) and I find it very difficult to get behind a ‘sport’2 that seems to encourage division along lines of where people are from and what colour t-shirt they’ve got on, and that rewards ludicrously overpaid pronks3 with the lifestyle, luxuries and ego of Joffrey from Game of Thrones, but if he had as much sex as the rest of the cast.

I find it too easy to respond with cynicism to people who a lauded to the upper echelons of celebrity purely because they’re good enough to be the public face of a sport-come-business venture. I’ve always responded to effort more than anything else: if someone’s doing something for love rather than money I can get right behind them, whatever it is.4 Amateur level sport, or even just non-mainstream sport is right up my proverbial street (and my literal street in the case of a few events).

It seems to be a very British Olympics. I’ve read a few American blogs on the subject, and (depending on the blogger of course) there’s a real thirst to beat China and prove that the US is the best in the world at sport. I love that we hope Team GB will come fourth in the Medal Table – that’s British values right there. We know exactly how good we are on the world stage, and our dearest wish would be to achieve the honours we feel we deserve, nothing more. We can do cycling5 and sailing and a bit of rowing, and we’re happy with that, thank you very much.

If there’s two things us Brits enjoy it’s Credit Where It’s Due and a Good Underdog Story.6 As a nation, we can get behind anyone who is a talented competitor, or anyone who deserves a good win. We don’t have to have a native attachment to Michael Phelps to enjoy watching him cruise to victory, and Usain Bolt is exhilarating, wherever you’re from. Us Brits will give a hearty cheer for whoever’s at the back of the race, because hey – they deserve it too.

What’s so inspiring is that these values are clearly echoed across the world; athletes who don’t win gold are humble and appreciative of talent, displaying a sportsmanship that appears to be absent from mainstream, moneyed sports like Football (soccer), and I imagine Baseball and American Football are similar. Team GB’s Rebecca Adlington conceded defeat gracefully twice, as she accepted bronzes in the two races she was excpected to win gold in, and just this afternoon I watched Roger Federer give a poignant post-match speech, singing the praises of Andy Murray.

To me, this is exactly what sport is about; it’s why I’m finding the Olympics so enjoyable – I am delighted to find myself able to root for somebody simply because they’re the best at something. That’s what good sport can do – think of all the crises and conflicts going on in the world, and everyone’s put their problems aside for a fortnight for a big party round our house.

If I may quote John Candy’s character in Cool Runnings:

‘…It doesn’t matter tomorrow if they come in first or fiftieth. Those guys have earned the right to walk into that stadium and wave their nation’s flag. That’s the single greatest honor an athlete can ever have. That’s what the Olympics are all about.’

In fact I only have two complaints about the whole shebang: I don’t see why a horse rider should get a medal and the horse should only get a sugar lump, and I’m a bit disappointed that Team GB is not nicknamed the Heebie GBs.

***

On the topic of national pride, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so patriotic as I have done this past week. Last Thursday, I wrote a short post belaying my cynicism at our country’s ability to put on an overzealous display of extravagance. My immediate reaction was evident in the comments, but I thought it was a triumph. It was doubly exciting for me, because thanks to WordPress, I knew I’d be able to share these experiences with people across the world.7

What international readers may not realise is that the Ceremony, the Torch and who would even bring the flame to the stadium was shrouded in mystery until the last minute. Our biting wit kicked in, and many of us, myself included, expected something similarly farcical to what went down later last week8  :

Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of London - Image via Google

Britain is an eccentric little huddle of islands, and to pander to the rest of the world’s expectations would have been a disservice. We instead invited the world to look at us and say ‘they’re an odd bunch of looneys aren’t they?’

My main worry about the ‘Open Cez’ was that it would be over-eager, facile, saccharine and very difficult to stomach, like so many of these ‘Big Shows’ are.9 I needn’t have worried, as it seemed out country’s tongue was firmly in it’s cheek.

From the moment Frank Turner (for my money our greatest unheard-of talent and most genuine singer) stepped out for a little pre-show concert, I knew we’d be fine. We had our green and pleasant land, and we had our dark satanic mills,10 but we also had Bean and the Queen,11 who I feel were not only hilarious, but were absolutely necessary. We pricked the bubble of the Monarchy, and hence the pomp and ceremony of the country, in a way that showed that even on the world stage, we are not afraid to laugh at ourselves, and that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

I stopped worrying what the world might be thinking12 when the forty-foot Voldemort took to the skies. The NHS (and free healthcare for all in general) is a wonderful thing; everyone in the UK passes through it’s doors at least once in their life, no matter what their social or political background.

I loved the celebration of our music and popular culture. Every artist featured is a display of home grown talent, all of it worthy and none of it a product of a TV Talent Show’s machinations. I did wonder whether Sir Tim Berners-Lee sat concealed in that plywood house, looking out at the jubilent tweeting generation and thought ‘Is this what my legacy has begat? “#TeamBreezyLOL”’ but then the house lifted away from him life he was a lobster on a silver platter and he got the eyes of the world on him. That must have been pretty special.

I was a love-letter to Britain, from Britain. And it was marvelous, and Danny Boyle will no doubt be a Sir by this time next year.

I read a great tweet which summed it all up wonderfully, which I’ve promptly forgotten. I think it was said by a bloke called Ian, if that’s any use to you. Basically, Ian said this:

The 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony has reclaimed the word ‘patriotic’. Whilst bigots and the far right would use it to defend indefensible actions and to oppress those of a non-white-native origin, it once again means what it should always meant: love and gratitude for your country and fellow man.

Lovely stuff.

In conclusion, the London 2012 Olympics has rekindled in me a love for sport, greatness, and people the world over that has played second fiddle to cynicism for years. If I may, I’d like to once again quote Cool Runnings’s Sanka Coffie, I am feeling very Olympic today.


1 Humour, like many things, is subjective, and if you’re not enjoying my scribblings then that sentence would be the height of arrogance, and for that I am sorry.

If you would like some sport-based humour, may I direct your attention to the sports section of satirical news show The Day Today. Here you will see the unbeatable Alan Partridge in the character’s first iteration as a failing sports reporter, before he became a failed talk show host and failed radio DJ to boot.

2 This isn’t strictly true; I watch football for the punditry. I don’t mind who wins as long as someone says something stupid. Here’s a few gems from pundit Mark Lawrenson:

‘The longer the game went on, you got the feeling that neither side really wanted to lose.’

‘Call himself a keeper? He couldn’t keep bees!’

– and the joyously irreverent –

‘When I lived in rural Oxfordshire, I was walking home across a field when I stroked a cow. The damn thing butted me in the orchestras.’

3 I’m writing with footballer Christiano Ronaldo in mind. He has a barber’s chair waiting for him at half time to get his hair re-did. There are a lot of bad sportsmen, but Ronaldo’s arrogance is painful and infuriating to behold. He is accused often of playing football for himself rather than the team, and shows what a man thinks of himself when, during the penalty shoot-out if the last European Cup, he purposefully went last so that he could be Portugal’s hero. The scoring went as such that Spain had won before he could even step up, and every football fan in Europe went ‘AAAAAAAAH!’

4 Note: must be morally sound. If you love hitting geese with a carpet beater, and would do it even if nobody would pay you, please don’t mistakenly think you can count on my support.

5 Our champion cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were accused of being arrogant, but as it was put very succinctly by the anchors in the studio, they’ve been proven to be the best athletes in their field time and again, and not as a product of luck either. The phrase used by the commentator was ‘The Gold Medal is his to lose’, which is a spot-on phrase – statistically, Wiggins (in that instance) should be the best claimant for that accolade, and it’s up to him to put on a performance worthy of it. Aren’t words great when they’re used properly?

6 In the depths of my hard drive I have a document called ‘A Great British Underdog Story’, which is an outline for a novel. Aside from the title, there exists only one line of text: ‘It’s a story about an underdog who wins something.’ I look forward to critics praising it’s brevity and simplicity.

7 Should they deign to read this far down.

8 I love that the Major of our Capitol City got stuck on a zipline with two Union Jack flags. He didn’t drop them, and he didn’t call for help either. He’s Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, goddammit, and if he got himself into this mess then by jove he can get himself out of it. And he’s not dropping the Queen’s standard either!

9 If Her Majesty selected the playlist for her Diamond Jubilee this year I’d be surprised and bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

10 Dear the New York Times. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as played by Kenneth Brannagh, is not a Charles Dickens character. He was a real bloke.

11 Which sounds like an 80’s Cop Duo waiting to happen.

12 I know NBC aren’t doing a very good job, and I understand they cut a five minute tribute to the victims of the 7/7 Bombings, a terrorist attack that happened the day after we won the Olympic bid, which was a tactless, thoughtless thing to do. If we, or anyone else, had neglected 9/11 there’d be uproar. Apparently NBC also were quite ignorant of our nation and customs, which was nice of them. That said, NBC’s gaffes did also result in this gem:

Excellent Logo Placement - Image via Twitter

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111 thoughts on “A Very British Olympics: It’s The Taking Part That Counts

  1. I’m sure I would have appreciated the opening ceremonies more if a) NBC weren’t a bunch of idiots; and b) I had a better understanding of a lot of the things referred to in the show. I mean, I have a pretty good working knowledge of British history compared to a lot of Americans, but the vast majority of Americans would never know, for example, that the giant baby head was in tribute to the NHS and the Great Ormond Street Hospital. But I do like the fact that it was a love letter to Britain, from Britain. It’s quite touching, actually.

    • It would be marvellous if every country in the world celebrated everything that was great in their own individual way for the populace, as opposed to putting on a display for the world. There’s a great deal I don’t understand about America, for example, and you’re quite an extroverted nation, but there’s a great deal that unites everyone in your country.

      Imagine if the US were to do a similar display, as if the world wasn’t watching, but invited them to anyway. Imagine a global televised broadcast of Thanksgiving, for example. We don’t really ‘get it’ but we’ll love that you love it! Events like the Olympics prove that harmony is possible on a national and global level if the right positive elements are focussed on.

      • I’m just saying that it would have been nice if I understood the references in the opening ceremonies, that’s all.

        We are an extroverted country as a whole, but I think you’ll find that there are a great many of us who don’t want to be so divisive and would rather not be. My post today actually is about that. It’s about the perception of Americans vs how we really are.

      • Oh my goodness, I’ve just read my comment back and it seems to be very aggressive. I assure you I did not mean it that way at all. America is a fascinating country, truly it is the land of the free, because it welcomes absolutely everyone. I might go back and edit, and try and say some of that a little better. I’m so sorry if offence was caused. I will read your post immediately.

      • Perhaps we Australians should host a Vegemite fest. You have to be forcefed that stuff from infancy to acquire the taste. The rest of the world has certainly failed to get Vegemite. I had a funny incident where a friend left an unmarked container of Vegemite on the sweets table at an American picnic. Kids ate it by the spoonful, dunked their cookies in it thinking it was chocolate sauce. Best laugh I’d had in ages!

      • Ah yes, I have heard tell of this ‘Vegemite’. It’s analogue here is Marmite, although apparently despite being the same food in principle they taste very different. Apparently, if you strike Marmite with the back of a spoon it will turn white, apparently due to the enzymes involved with the yeast process.

        Thanks for visiting, by the way!

    • Morning Madame W! How nice to see people I know on other blogs, and it appears many I know are here, I better check what I’m missing.

      There was so much more that even any British person under 30 wouldn’t have known either on the montage of clips (not sure if they even got broadcast over there).

      • Hi Joe! We didn’t get the clip montage here, thanks to NBC’s cherry picking of what they wanted to air over here. But I suppose I wouldn’t have understood much of that either…

      • Dear Mr Hoover,
        Thank you for visiting my corner of the web, oh esteemed smiley toenail man. You’re quite right that the endorsement of certain bloggers is an accolade to be coveted, and it’s an honour to be hosting blogging royalty such as yourself. Gratuitous fawning over with, hello!

        That montage of recent broadcast culture was a bit intense… I completely missed the short clip of the first homosexual kiss on British television (from Brookside), which in turn was broadcast in horrifically oppressive countries like Saudi Arabia, who are only just letting female athletes compete this year. I’m not normally a fan of subversive messaging, but in this instance, good job Mr Boyle.

      • It almost certainly is a thumb; my nails are, alas, too stumpy to draw a face on properly, so in my despair I projected my hand issues onto those around me. (Not a euphemism.) I presumed, and to presume makes a press out of u and me. I’m sorry.

      • You too? I have stumpy digits (that is not my thumb) I’m often ridiculed for my short fingers. You wanna set up a support group for shortened finger sufferers?

      • I fear I may have been misleading, in that my nails are too short to be be-faced. My fingers are referred to by a friend as my ‘Merlins’ as they are long and spindly, like a wizard or a supervillain or a molester.
        Maybe I could be the nemesis of the Short Finger Support Group?

  2. I watched a eastern European bootleg of the opening that was uploaded to youtube shortly after the opening aired for the rest of the world. While the two commentators unfortunately talked through the entire opening, it still made me want to give Britain a giant hug and tell them I loved them.

    • I’m not sure if it’s available to view in the States, but it’s the most watched show on BBC iPlayer. Our commentators weren’t a lot of use, to be fair, but at least they ‘got’ everything.

      Britain thanks you for the hug. Britain likes hugs. We say we’re all about the handshakes but we really appreciate a good hug. And we love you too.

      • I’ll see if I can look up a proper version to try to watch; I absolutely loved everything I saw.
        Watching it just made me incredibly happy in a very deep sense–I’m not exactly sure if I can explain it, it was just wonderful and fun and meaningful in more than just a “Hey let’s try to out-do China” way.

      • Yeah, China really set the bar in 2008. The British populace knew we had to one-up that in some way, and we were all hoping we wouldn’t try.

        I’m quite looking forward to Rio 2016, thinking about it, because they do one hell of a Carnival!

      • Equally, I’d love it if they go ‘We know what you’re expecting, and we’re not pandering to your whims. Here’s our President nonchalantly lighting the flame with the ashes form his cigar, to the tune of absolute silence.’

        Failing that, turn Christ the Redeemer into a robot and make him light it.

  3. Basically I have been crying every night ever since the Olympics started because of everything you said in your post. My entire face was wet with tears all throughout and after Michael Phelps’ last race. Just seeing the joy on people’s faces after winning gets me every time. Then I realized I would be almost 24 at the next summer Olympics and freaked out about the fact that I’m basically an adult now… I won’t get to see and cry over nearly as many Olympics as I want to since they (well, the best ones–summer) come only every four years.

    • It’s wonderful isn’t it? I was certainly moved by the Opening Ceremony, and when you see someone’s four years of solid grafting pay off it’s a joy to behold.

      Not enough people wear their emotions so openly – I envy you in a way; I’m certainly not as in touch with my feelings as you are, but society expects different things of me. I’d love to be your mate in real life – it sounds a little bit mean to say it, but a friend who burst into tears all the time would make me smile quite a bit.

      Also: 24 is not old, and it’s not enough to have to be a grown up. I know a 25 year old who sticks chocolate fingers up his nose, wore 32 pairs of glasses for a laugh and who made his own pirate ship at work out of boxes and tins.

      In the past, I’ve always enjoyed the Winter Olympics more, but this might be because I, clearly, am a fan of Cool Runnings, and that the theme tune for Ski Sunday is terrific. There’s something enormously entertaining about someone trying to find the fastest way down a hill.

      • Well, since I like making people smile, I suppose I would be ok if in some alternate universe we were real life friends, and I cried, and then you laughed. Sorry for that terrible run-on sentence. I actually went to see Extremely Loud and Incredible Close at the movies a while ago and cried the whole time. I sat down, began crying, and didn’t stop until the movie ended.

        Your friend sounds fun. Now I know that turning 20 won’t automatically make me boring.

        And I usually prefer summer Olympics because I used to do gymnastics (though I was never nearly as good as any olympian) and now I teach gymnastics when I’m home in the summer. So I’ve always been interested in that.

      • Oh it’s no problem. I imagine there would be much hugging, unless you weren’t up for it in which case I would respect those boundaries.

        My friend is one of many that age whom I adore spending time with, purely because they haven’t lost the spark of childhood joy. When I went to University I found that age does not matter; it is solely an attitude thing. Most of my friends are older than me, and we still go to theme parks and buy each other awful £1 presents from eBay and dress up like 80’s rock stars. If you’re hanging out with people you can’t act like a dick around, get new friends. Growing old and growing up are two separate things, and responsibility is not something that cancels out enjoyment – it just makes you learn how to work hard for reward.

        At the risk of turning this into a Gross Portrait of Myself, I’d love to be able to express as honestly as you do. Extremely Loud is on my to-watch list, and one day I’m going to orchestrate a week in which I watch sad things and try and connect with things I’ve been neglecting.

      • I would just like to point out that I think it is extremely cool that you are British, and therefore buy things in pounds and not dollars. I don’t even have a pounds button on my computer.

      • British Pounds Sterling (how cool is the name of our currency?) is indeed a marvellous thing. We opted out of the Euro, which is looking like a smart move, but we’re helping out anyway because we’re gentlemen.

        Did you know that everything that has The Queen’s face on it is legal tender, and can be used as currency in an emergency? Stamps, portraits, commemorative plates, etc.

        It may be an ‘alt’ text button; try pressing alt and then the dollar sign, maybe? Or alt-shift? If you should ever need one, here is one you can copy and paste, just for you. £.

      • I knew I should have been born British and not American. Everything is better British.

        This is what happens when I press alt and the dollar sign: ¢ It looks like the sign for cents? I could be wrong, I’m not British and therefore less intelligent and cultured (That’s a British stereotype I harbor. I know I’m a terrible person for harboring stereotypes). When I become British, I’ll just refer back to this comment every time I need to type the pounds symbol, as buying another Mac with a British keyboard would be entirely too expensive. Then again, becoming British could prove expensive…

      • Not *everything* is better British, but I concede that we excel at a few things. Our equivalent to your Hershey’s, for example, is said to be wildly superior. Unfortunately we are not all as debonaire and classy as you might like. I know you have a preference for bow ties, for example.

        The exchange rate is in my favour, sadly. I regularly pre-order music from the US, and $40 dollars P+P comes to about £18 of late. What parts of British life do you think will be expensive? It really depends on where you want to live.

        What, may I ask, is stopping you from visiting Europe, as I understand you’re quite the Europhile. (I’m not saying this rhetorically either, as I imagine you’re waiting to finish college?)

      • Moving my entire life overseas would be rather expensive. As would paying off the right people to say I’m a natural-born brit.

        As for why I haven’t been to Europe: I was supposed to go to France for a short study abroad trip in the spring, but the trip was cancelled. And I was sad. Very, very sad. Also, as there are 5 people in my family it makes flying extremely expensive. So we don’t really go places.

        But I am planning on doing study abroad in France or England one day if I can find a good program at my school. I want to go somewhere I can speak the language. And eventually I’d love to travel all around Europe and stay in a youth hostel or something. I think that would be fun.

      • Would that be in intention then? To become one of us?

        Sorry to hear about France. I’ve been there a few times and it is a gorgeous country. I intend to travel Europe properly myself some day. I’ve done the youth hosteling business a couple of times, and whilst they tick all the bare minimum boxes they are decorated like Laser Quests. Tea and toast included in the price though!

        I’m not familiar enough with the American education system to understand what you mean about all that; can you select topics within your studying that let you go abroad then?

  4. Hear hear! Patriotism in this country turned in to something dark, something to be denied, something to use as an excuse for violence. It’s nice to be reminded that actually, it’s nothing more than pride in ourselves.

    • Hear hear indeed! You’re right that I’d never dare to call myself a patriot or wave a Union Jack for fear of being branded a BNP supporter or worse. I’d love to see what the Olympics does to the opinion polls.

      Pride is a wonderful thing when it’s done right. It’s had me applauding at every medal ceremony and reflecting every smiling face in the crowd.

  5. is it unamerican of me to like this? perhaps. but as i am already doing a disservice to my country’s athletic ego by lacking all sports-related skillz, i figure that they already know that i have crossed over to the dark side.

    • We’re not the dark side, it rains a bit but it’s not *dark*. We have tea and scones. How can we be the dark side? If it does come down to picking sides, I don’t think you’d be kicked out of the States for not being sporty. I hear it’s quite progressive over there!

      You and I should do a tournament of bad sports. My friend Adam and I play in something called ‘The Crap Football League’ which consists of having a laugh and a kickabout. I bet you could beat me in a ‘running-like-a-girl contest’. You’d get the gold solely on account of your chromosomes.

      • well, having grown up in seattle, I am quite used to and fond of the rain. so let’s try to avoid equating the rain with darkness. (tea and scones are also good.) and besides, i was thinking more along the lines of a metaphorical darkness that only really exists in the brains of the close-minded americans i like to ignore. (we’re still working on the progressive thing.)

        huzzah, unathletic-ness! although i would love to believe that i could beat you in the ‘running-like-a-girl contest’ (note my use of the single — rather than double — quotation marks), my running abilities are so subpar that i would first have to master the art of running like something resembling a human being. if i turn out to be a total failure, i am always up for mocking other people as they run (i have learned through careful observation that 99% of humans are uniquely awkward runners).

      • There should be an event that is open to everyone, in which a gold medal is attached to a motorbike and people can run after it. We can commentate – oh how we’ll laugh! Until someone falls over. Then we’ll stop laughing.

        The single quote marks business is, I understand, largely arbitrary. However, as you have not only picked up on it, but adapted it to your own writing, you must be highly commended. I believe that your punctuation preferences alone may be enough to grant you entry into our Isles. There’s a dark-sided scone with your name on it. There is also cream and jam (jelly) on the scone.

    • Thank you for visiting! I’d like to think Sebastian Coe misheard the sound of opportunity knocking:

      ‘Knock knock.’
      ‘Who’s there?’
      ‘Opportunity. How about calling them the Heebie GB’s?’
      ‘OpportunityhowaboutcallingthemtheHeebieGB’s Who?’
      ‘Oh forget it.’

  6. Pingback: Gonna Be a Quick, Flashy One. « laughinglouise

  7. A skilful demonstration of another aspect of Britishness to be immensely proud of: the humour – a talent for which, you so evidently possess.
    Discovered your post & subsequently the rest of your blog via FP. Congrats (must say it’s been a while since FP has unearthed something special!)
    To follow is a must! I love the way you’ve assembled the blog too – the supporting cast page is hilariously entertaining 🙂

    • Why thank you; my intent is to be funny, and it’s always nice to find I’m not laughing on my own, at myself.
      I’m flattered that you think my scribblings are worthy of such lofty adjectives as ‘special’, it’s an honour to be FP’d, but it’s more satisfying to connect with people. I can only hope that I don’t bitterly disappoint you!

  8. As an ex-pat Brit who’s been having to endure the abysmal NBC coverage in the States, I thought I’d share a tip here for anyone like me who wants to watch Auntie Beeb’s wonderful iPlayer or use other British site that has blocked ‘Johnny Foreigner’ from accessing their precious content from anywhere that’s ‘Just Not British’.
    I just discovered ‘Expat Shield’. I downloaded it from CNet.com at http://download.cnet.com/Expat-Shield/3000-2092_4-75211377.html and, after virus checking it several times, started the install, admittedly with some trepidation…
    Bingo! Within a couple of minutes it simply started working. No fiddling with settings; no fees or registration; no adverts or spyware; nothing controversial.
    I’ve watched quite a few of the BBC’s crystal clear quality Olympic videos on iPlayer since then – blissful. I don’t know any other specific sites to test it on but if the Beeb’s anything to go by Expat Shield should work just fine with them as well. Oh, and it simply toggles on or off when you need it using the icon in the lower taskbar.
    The only downside is that it’s on my computer so I can only watch it on there rather than the big TV but one day I’m hoping that will change when our current TV finally dies and we can justify getting one that has a built in wireless adapter… and videos do ‘buffer’ occasionally, but it’s only for a second or two here and there – I can live with both of these piffling little ‘issues’.
    OK, well I’ll stop wittering on now. Just thought you’d like to know about it in case any of your Anglophile chums ever ask, or you venture overseas yourself and need a fix while you’re away.
    Have a lovely Olympics! :o)

    • Hi Sheila, thanks for stopping by – this is genius, thanks for the link. I’ve had a few conversations with friends overseas who would like to enjoy the smooth, genuine, impartial (well, Brit centric, but still well-intentioned) coverage provided by the Beeb. I hope this helps out a few people.

    • Hello Kay, thanks for visiting! I’m a big tennis fan, and I’ve watched Murray lose finals again and again. It was almost poetic that he should beat his last vanquisher, just four weeks later, on the same court, for the rarest prize in tennis, on home turf, in the British Olympics, an event which happens only every four years and even rarer in Britain.

      That said, Roger Federer was an absolute gentleman, and a great sportsman.

      The Olympics has, I think, transformed Britain, not only culturally, but in terms of national morale. It’s such a great country right now, and London 2012 will be a great legacy!

  9. a) I think you have the best blog title on WordPress.

    b) I completely agree. A fellow Olympics gusher, I am one American who has been cheering for the Brits during this Olympics. Chris Hoy? Jessica Ennis? Mo Farah? Andy Murray (finally!)? Laura Trott? Rebecca Adlington? How could you not root for them?? The BBC coverage has been excellent and I’m so happy I haven’t had to watch NBC. Boris Johnson summed it all up pretty well here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9455037/More-reasons-to-raise-a-cheer-for-Londons-golden-Games.html#

    Great piece! Looking forward to reading more!
    Jess

    • Thank you Jess, and thank you also for linking me in your post. I’ll be reading your blog properly once I’ve waded through all these notifications!

      Thank you for your kind words, particularly point (a). I do worry whether or not people get the pun and/or the reference, so it’s always a relief when someone tells me they do. I spent three months deciding on the title, before I could even do my first post, would you believe.

      Good ol’ BoJo got it spot on, in his own inimitable flappy-haired way. The best thing about (good) sport is that people earn what they deserve. Effort is rewarded. Jess Ennis, as you mentioned could not have worked harder, and to see her, on that podium, in her own country, tears pouring down her face to the tune of the National Anthem was an inspiring sight. Andy as well, winning the gold from Federer, just four weeks after losing the equivalent match at Wimbledon was quite poetic.

      Thanks again for following; I can only hope I don’t disappoint!

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  11. My favorite story about the Olympic spirit is Jesse Owens and Luz Long. Long really demonstrated the true Olympic spirit to Owens, who was facing not only the pressure of performing in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin but racial prejudice as well. He gave Owens some helpful advice and moral support, and helped him win the gold. (look up Luz Long on Wikipedia for the full story)

    Thanks for a great post. I liked the opening ceremonies too, they featured a lot of what I like best about Britain. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    • Thanks for visiting; I tracked down the Wikipedia article, and I think the sentiment still stands, personally. You’re right that it’s a fantastic story of humanity. If Long had made it up to make himself look good, that’d be a different story entirely, but as it was Owens white-lying for a friend, and causing that friend to be remembered for his principles, if not his words, that still speaks volumes about the calibre of the two men.

      Thanks for your kind words too!

    • With so many events to watch I haven’t seen a lot of volleyball, but apparently that’s true. It’s absolutely amazing. I love this country.

      On another note, guess what’s in my head now?

  12. I thought you might appreciate my post about Australian Hurdler Sally Pearson’s gold medal success in the hurdles. Like you, I am not into sport at all but my daughter’s class was following Sally and I was drawn into the slip stream.
    I attended the Sydney 2000 Olympics and it was just awesome. I remember walking around the city and the place was so alive just buzzing with excitement and celebration. Everyone everywhere was so friendly and even strangers who had been catching the same lift for years but had never spoken, started chatting. So many barriers broke down. It was just awesome!!

    • It’s joyous isn’t it? The country grumbled and moaned beforehand submerged in a sea of cynicism, and the minute the first note of the opening ceremony started it all evaporated. I hope it stays this way for some time, because it is excellent!

  13. Never seen a blogger with footnotes! Very impressive….and now that I know anything with the Queen on it is legal tender (!???) I may start paying for stuff of my next trip to Britain with stamps. Just for a laugh, mind…

    I live near NYC (although Canadian) and loved the opening ceremonies with their salute to the working class(es)…how unlikely, how human and how essential. I loved the tribute to the NHS (since Americans are terrified of anything resembling a national govt run health system) and the dark Satanic mills were a trip. I also admit loving “Jerusalem”, one of my favorite hymns. Americans are VERY big on winning stuff, so the notion of being a gracious fourth is unlikely to occur here.

    A drama has even erupted (yes, really) because Gabby Douglas, a 16 yr old American gymnast who is African American has…wait for it….a gold medal!!!! No, sorry….messy hair. Yes, really. She is being criticized for having hair that was not flawlessly cemented into place while she won a gold medal. Only in America can you kick ass, win a gold Olympic medal — and have your hairstyle dissed. Sigh.

    • Thank you, the footnotes are by far the most fun to write; they let me have my cake and eat it too; I can do some of my favourite jokes or asides without breaking up the narrative (too much) and I’m able to write in two ‘voices’ if I need to. It’s a copy/pastable bit of HTML code, if you’re interested. It’s a *fairly* simple bit of code, slightly more so if you want to get them to link back up. if you know anything about the ‘grammar’ of HTML code then you can do amazing things with your blog.

      The Open Cez was criticised by one right-leaning paper and one twatbastard Conservative Politician for being socialist or too left leaning. What they/he forgot is that a country is less about its establishment and more about its people. I really don’t understand what’s wrong with national healthcare; obviously I don’t know any different but it’s a wonderful thing. ‘Sorry we can’t sow your leg back on, you’re 50 cents short.’ Ridiculous.

      I was hoping to point out with the post, that anyone can enjoy watching Michael Phelps paste the competition, and ‘ownership’ of an athlete’s abilities is a little arrogant. What specifically did you do towards his training, Fat Barry, 52, from Minneapolis?

      Sorry, I was being facetious, but the point is that this is humanity at its best. In the same week a man ran faster than any man ever, some geniuses put a robot on Mars. Amen to that. Or rather, Hu-Man to that.

      I watched Gabby’s event, she’s astounding! How awful that there are people superficial enough to care about that sort of thing. If I may extrapolate alarmingly, one of the best events for me to watch was Women’s Football. Soccer is our national sport, and it’s fans are mainly bigoted arseholes, and it was so refreshing to see the women’s team do just as well as the men. These people are athletes; they’re much better than celebrities or pop stars or actresses who need to be held up as paradigms of beauty. They’re women of worth. And so are the men. (They’re men of worth, I mean, not women of worth. That might make some of the medical tests invalid.) Our own Olympic gymnast, Beth Tweddle, has comparatively prominent teeth, and fortunately that’s not an issue. Conversely, our swimmer Rebecca Adlington is repeatedly lambasted for having a large nose. It would appear that you can only be good at something if you’re also good at looking perfect.

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  15. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! You were not wrong when you said WordPress would help you to share your thoughts with the world.

    “A love letter to Britain, from Britain” pretty much sums it up perfectly – the opening ceremony was bonkers and I loved it 🙂 Halfway through (while hiding from the giant baby) I decided that I didn’t know or care what any non-Brits would think of it, because it was so mad it was plain wonderful.

    And as a fellow Brit, it’s nice to see someone so distinctly British on WordPress – hello, sir!

    • Good day to you my lady! Your compliments to mineself do you credit.

      I too was most perturbed by the baby, but I reasoned it was probably a way of saying ‘You don’t have to ‘get’ everything here’ to anyone still trying to catch up. That, or it was a way of ‘trolling’ NBC. Is ‘trolling’ the correct term? I believe that’s what the kids are saying, currently.

      I will peruse your blog a-proper forthwith, but for now I shall follow, lest I lose track of comments. I shall also stop trying so hard to sound clever. See you around, yeah!?

    • Thank you very much! Jack Gleeson is a wonderful Joffrey. He won’t be thanked for it, in fact he’ll probably be spat on in he street, his character is so good, but he’s fantastic. He’s such a capricious turd in the books and it’s great to see him portrayed so villainously.

      Thanks for the comment about the name too – it’s so nice to see when someone gets it.

  16. Good post! I never thought about it that way, but your view seems to be smack-on. Let China and the US fight it out for top spot (Personally, I hope China wins) while us Brits concentrate on finishing anywhere above Australia. Shame about the football, though!

    • Thanks! I think on a medals-per-sqaure-mile/medals-per-population scale we’re winning by a country mile, which is nice. I hope the US win, because if they don’t they’ll moan. The Chinese will moan too, but I don’t speak Mandarin, so it won’t bother me.

      Yeah, shame about the football, who’d have thought we’d go out on penalties!? It was great to see Women’s Football get some publicity too. They’re world class, but by-and-large we don’t care, let alone televise it.

      • Why are the Brits so obsessed with topping Australia? We were glad you guys were doing well (media aside) but it seems many Brits ike seeing us beaten. Is there a reason for that? I am proud and pleased as punch that we are participating having fun and bringing home some medals, do the numbers really mean that much?

      • I have no idea, Kaz, that’s not something I was aware of. I would assume it’s something to do with our nations being comparable: our population-to-athletic-success ratios are equivocal, and we excel in similar fields; sailing in particular. There’s a similar rivalry between the US and China, but there’s is less friendly. They’re the opposite sides of the world to each other too.

        It might be that you’re an English speaking country who’re part of the Commonwealth, and as such we come up against you in sport fixtures more often that some other countries. Plus there’s the fact that you paste us at cricket and rugby.

        For some reason, you’ve been selected as our most comparable rival, which is odd when you consider that the French and Germans are also competing.

        Anyway, no hard feelings, and thanks for visiting!

  17. Watching the Olympics, like the World Cup, I am sometimes torn between National Pride, and simply wanting to see a good show.
    As an ex pat living in Johannesburg one gets to cheer for the South Africans and the Brits,
    but watching & cheering Usain Bolt was an absolute privilege, regardless of his nationality.
    And the tension during the Canadian/USA woman’s soccer was intense. What a goal to clinch a place in the final! Better than most of the men’s games.

    Yes, I think the Brits will be well pleased with fourth place on the medals table. I reckon many nations suffer with this winning at all costs mentality. A spokesman for the SA Olympic Team commented after the woman’s marathon that, the nation wanted medals, not personal bests.
    Sort of lost the plot methinks.
    Great post.

    • Hi Ark, if I may call you Ark, thanks for visiting! I quite agree that on occasions such as this, patriotism can take a back seat and not quibble too much. I imagine it was a reverse situation for you two years ago. It’s interesting how certain nations seem to do well in similar fields – I see South Africa are doing quite well in the water.

      That’s a shame about the SA Spokesman – if your country does well, it’s the individual efforts that make it so. I’m sardonically enjoying the American reaction to Phelps – a fantastic athlete, but do you really mean to tell the world that the entire population had a part in his training? I hear what you’re saying about the women’s football – a sport that never gets a proper look-in. The US/Canadian match was crazy. Such a shame for the Canadians… I was kind of disappointed to see that the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals went to what I might deem to be non-footballing nations, but that’s a prejudice brought on by ignorance, I’m afraid.

      Thank you for having an extensive look around as well – I see you liked the Callous and Brazen Attempt – thanks for that!

      • I know! It’s like one of my children just won a trophy for awesomeness. Except I don’t exactly know how that feels because I’ve never had children. But this is how I imagine it would feel to be a proud mother.

        And in order to keep things simple, I’ll reply to your other comment on this comment thread.

        Now then. Study abroad. One can actually study abroad as an exchange-type student. For example, I could spend a semester taking classes at Oxford provided I took classes my university would accept credits for. Or, I could go on a trip like that planned for France. It was a political science/sociology centered trip with short classes about those topics as they pertain to Europe. And we planned on going to the EU parlament and stay in Strasbourg. Then we had two free days in Paris. This was only to be a week long, but there are longer ones too.

        So really, I could do either one. I could be an exchange student, or I could look at the trips my school offers and just go on one. I would have gotten a class credit for the France trip. That typically happens with any study abroad trip.

        I hope that makes sense.

      • I’m not sure how I feel about you describing our friendship as that of a mother/son one… At least you’re proud of me, I guess…

        (If you want to pass as English, starting your paragraphs with ‘Now then.’ is a great start.) The year abroad is something I understand – a friend of mine did his third year of study in Australia. The part that confuses me is this idea of ‘majoring’ in something. Presumably you can minor in something too. Do you select at intervals in your study what you want to study next, for example? Is this how you might be able to steer your education towards trips abroad?

      • Oh I just have a motherly sort of personality. I make it my goal to be the motherly figure. People like to be loved and taken care of, so that’s what I do. Meaning since I’ll have a kitchen this year I’ll totally be cooking for people all the time.

        I think I’ve started talking like an English person because I’ve started watching more British TV than American TV. Because it’s better. My whole family pretty much does. Plus I think we were just born in the wrong country. Because my last name is Farlow, and there’s totally a sporting goods store in England called Farlow’s. My destiny must have gotten mixed up.

        So y’all (excuse my colloquial language) don’t have majors or minors? In America, when you go to college you pick your major and minor (or a second major in my case) and it’s basically your area of study. With a major, you would get deeper into that area by taking more hours that have to do with journalism, let’s say. A minor is almost the same thing, but less intensive. If French was my minor, I would take some French classes, but not enough to be fluent or to get a job in a “French” field. Typically your major is what you study in order to get the job you want. I majored in journalism to be a journalist (obviously) and I majored in French as well, just because I think being fluent in another language is important.

        So I could go to France for french, or I could study journalism in France as a way of getting another perspective on my journalism education.

        And I pretty much just wrote an essay… I apologize for the length.

      • You must be an awesome friend. I mean, you are on the internet, but you clearly are in real life as well.

        Farlow is a lovely name, and I believe is the name of a fly-fishing equipment store in Pall Mall. As befitting such a regal sounding name, that’s a very expensive area of London. It’s a lovely area, but it’s quite pricey! If your family were from here, (which they probably were at one point) I’d like to think the history of that name might put you in a leafy suburb on London like Richmond Upon Thames, or else be land-owners in Oxfordshire or Kent, in sunny villages with cricket pavilions and band stands and a ‘Best Kept Village’ award.

        What British telly do you watch? I’m honestly struggling to think of many shows that aren’t dreadful… Can I assume you’ve sent he BBC’s latest adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, entitled ‘Sherlock’? I love that show… Downton Abbey is great too, but that is on a far inferior channel, ITV. They produce some absolute drivel, and some downright damaging programming in the form of endless moronic reality shows. Sorry, I’m not a fan. What dort of thing are you into? I might be able to give you some leads. A nice lady named Sheila commented above about ways to circumvent the country block on BBC’s iPlayer, so you should be able to watch plenty of shows (including the Olympics) for free, at their highest quality.

        The way our education system works differs from Uni to Uni, but with most you’ll pick a subject and study it for three years or more. On some courses you can select modules, but they’re only ways of streamlining your study towards a niche. Minoring is not really an option. People might do a joint degree in two subjects, which is the only way a student might get a qualification in both Journalism and French. We also don’t really have fraternities and the like. We have societies for sports and other pastimes which enable people of a similar interest to meet up and get drunk together. All those Frat Pack ‘comedies’ don’t really translate very well, apart from, obviously, that debauched, chronically immature humour that people of a certain age and calibre enjoy.

        We also don’t drink out of plastic red cups like you all apparently do. I went to a party whilst I was at Uni, and someone had imported a stack of American red cups for an American themed party. The rest of the theme was basically cowboys, football players and slutty, slutty cheerleaders, with a few obligatory stars and stripes flags on the wall. It was quite racist.

      • Right now I’m watching Merlin. When I’m done with that I want to watch Sherlock and Dr. Who. I have heard Downtown Abbey is good, so I’ll probably watch that too. My dad likes Keeping Up Appearances…. He has every show memorized…. But keeps watching it…. I’m not sure if I have a specific “genre” of television I enjoy. I just like good stuff. So that should really (not) help you.

        And don’t worry, we have awful reality TV, too. But there are certain ones I enjoy… It’s a guilty pleasure. Most of them I hate though.

        The party you went to sounds like a stereotypical frat party. I’m not greek, so I don’t fall under any of those stereotypes. We even have a song about Red Solo cups. I guess its kind of a big deal to get hammered every weekend. I would rather read a book. Or knit. Or anything, really…

      • Sheffield is an amazing city to live in. I can walk from my house into the city centre in 15 minutes or I can walk in the other direction and be in the countryside in about the same time. Tremendous community spirit as well.

      • I’ve unfortunately never visited for longer than a couple of days, but the atmosphere is genuinely lovely.

        When you stand on platform one at the station, you can see up out of the valley, and there’s a growth of eighties-style council accommodation. On a connecting bridge, visible from anywhere in the city, someone has graffitied ‘I LOVE YOU’. If that doesn’t sum up the city then I don’t know what will.

      • The Skyline is ever evolving. The famous Graffiti ‘Claire Middleton I love you, will you marry me’

        I can say the same about London – only ever spent a few days there.

      • The article I just read described the proposer as ‘Crazy Jason’, so there’s possibly another layer of hidden story.
        Public rejected proposals are awful to watch, and almost always a product of male impulsiveness rather than a collective decision. Perhaps there ought to be a broadcast of the worst ones on February 13th every year, saying equally ‘Be careful.’ and ‘Single? At least you’re not this guy!’

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  19. Nice sentiment here. I was also wondering exactly what the Olympics should stand for and how it should be represented, and decided that the idea they introduced in the cycling sprinting (ie, only one entry per nation) actually had a lot of merit and wondered whether it should be introduced across the board. My one and only blog post so far goes into this in more detail, so i’d be interested to hear your take on it! Cheers, keep it up…

    • Thanks, I read an article about how some of the staunchest Team USA supporters were upset that their best gymnast performed well enough to achieve third place in her team, and wasn’t going through to the final, because only two athletes can be entered per event.

      The comments were certainly very interesting, I’ll post it to your comments, because it’s more relevant to your discussion. Thanks for visiting!

  20. What a great read, well done sir! As an Englishman living in New England, I too have been suffering at the hands of NBC and their ‘coverage’. I have enjoyed listening to commentators telling me that a US athlete was assured of winning a Gold Medal and then watching them fail… I love living in the USA, but biased commentary has no place on TV in my book.

    • Why thank you! It’s a shame that most Americans will never appreciate (a) the Olympics in all their glory and (b) exactly how much NBC have screwed them over. I’m not naive enough to believe that all Americans are as fanatically proud as their anchors are, but I’m not going to pretend that misplaced arrogance isn’t a little bit funny.
      I expect each nations coverage to be them-centric, but whilst the States are genuinely a fantastic nation, their most vocal patriots could do with some humility.

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