Olympic fever

Last Thursday, I travelled back to London after a week in the north of England (no phone signal, no 3G, no internet…) along a deserted M1. Never have I seen so little traffic – it was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, a thought that gained further ground as we sped, undettered by other cars, into central London, along a Euston Road that could have appeared in 28 Days Later

It turned out Danny Boyle (director of aforementioned non-zombie, yet zombie-like, film) did have a hand in this bizarre turn of events, but only because of his role in the Olympic opening ceremony. Basically, TfL’s years of warnings had worked – everyone with sense appeared to have left London before the Olympics, their crowds of tourists and their complicated road restrictions, arrived.

I am no Olympic cynic, in fact, I could be described as an Olympic bore. My mind is full of useless bits of information about the games and I’d quite happily sit and watch obscure sports simply to acquire a few more. Thus, it was with enormous excitement that I sat down to watch the opening ceremony on Friday night. Quite frankly, my expectations were exceeded – I spotted one of three friends I knew to be involved in the opening dramatic sequence; I was moved to both tears and laughter; I got to support my home nation; and could cheer wildly for one of my students who had the honour of carrying the United Arab Emirates name sign.

Not sure how it’s possible that I nearly reached the age of 31 without owning a Tongan flag.

Perhaps my experience of the evening is best summed up in tweets:

  • Would you look at that! Rowan’s got a prime seat again. Being ABC really does open doors…
  • In unision me & @mim_monk have exclaimed: “Errr, Maddy Prior?!?”. [Niche musical reference…] [Turned out it wasn’t that niche – others spotted it too.]
  • Hilariously, @mim_monk is now choking on her tagliatelli at the appearance of Rowan Atkinson playing keys.
  • Literally just asked when the Archers would appear. LOVING this!
  • Another niche reference, but it’s just struck me that this is not dissimilar to a London Weekend show…but an awful lot classier. [London Weekend was a massive Methodist youth event for many decades, the highlight of which was a show in the Royal Albert Hall involving young people in formation. There was definitely one that did the internet in a similar way to Boyle’s tribute to Tim Berners-Lee.] 
  • Incidentally, one of the 3 Tongans looks about as Tongan as I do, but has a Tongan name. Curious. Clearly I could qualify! [This is the guy in question. Apparently his mother’s English.]
  • Oh, and we now have a drinking game too. Discover a country you haven’t heard of? Three fingers… Disaster with flame? Finish drink…
  • Right, clearly we win in the ‘who lights the flame in the best way ever’ contest, yes? Beautiful…
Take that cynics! [Incidentally, where was Gary Barlow? I didn’t think we were allowed to have a national occasion without him writing a song for it?] Yes, perhaps Boyle’s contribution was rather nichely British, but isn’t the point to show the world what we’re about? How surprising was it that it included more hymns that your average episode of Songs of Praise? But how wonderful was it that all over the world, 4 billion people were united in watching the same thing. That’s special. 
Zhen in action (she gets to keep the dress but not the sign).
Credit: Reuters.
This month, I am very proud to be both Tongan and a Londoner! 

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