Friday, August 10, 2012

Rule Britannia!

Before the games, like most Brits, my Olympic sport was eye-rolling. All the hype, all the tatty Heritage stuff. Old men in old white stockings and gold braid. But then they had me with that first strike of Big Ben at 8:12 in the morning and the TV announcer proclaiming that throughout the land in every church and every hill and dale..the bells would ring...And we were off.

And into no bland international airport kind of opening ceremony but real nurses pushing beds! And dancing with real doctors! Up the National Health! And continuing the poke-a-Republican  theme, there was that black swarm of top-hatted capitalists, (in fact brilliant Brits apparently, building railways and bridges)  but there they were, creeping up on England's Green and Pleasant Land.

Everyone's been commentating on how helpful and friendly the volunteer Brits are everywhere.  Brits do citizenship better than familyship. You seldom see a big Cuban-type family group with serene or grumpy old Gran happily in the middle but all you have to do with most po-faced Brits is to ask the way, or the time and you'll get a smile and the tilt of the head as they consider the question.

Third time a charm- first 1908 in London and then 1948. I remember the Olympics in 1948 - hand me my cane! They were grey and grainy though mostly we listened on the radio. Back then it was when you went to the cinema that you saw the newsreels. I remember the marathon: Emile Zatopek, the grim Cold War name, the exhausted survivors hobbling into the stadium with that strange wobbling on hot coals walk they all have. Gaunt and grey. Still rationing, still bomb damage and many years to go.

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