I’ve always had a special affinity for London. Most Drexel students grow up loving or loathing New York, but I’ve always bypassed our neighbor along Route 1 in favor of the Big Smoke across the pond.
So when London, to everyone’s disbelief and Paris’ ire, managed to host the Olympic Games for an unprecedented third time, it wasn’t hard to figure out that I was going to be there. Of course, there were practicalities to be taken care of. Flights to the United Kingdom needed to be booked. Favors for room and board had to be called in (“I will clean everything, and I mean everything, in your house”), and tickets had to be procured by fair or foul means.
I did have a leg up in this regard (being a dual British-American citizen does have its advantages). I applied for the lottery to buy the tickets without any real hope of success, but when the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games emailed me saying that tickets for soccer and basketball would be waiting for me at the box office, I couldn’t be more overjoyed.
My piggy bank soon gorged itself on the scraps I saved working multiple jobs in the service industries. The hours were long and the pay was terrible, but it didn’t matter because the end result was worth every bit of aggravation.
London, I am happy to report, conducted an excellent Olympic Games. In true British fashion, there were countless grumblings, mutterings and prognostications of doom in anticipation of the eyes of the world. Then the bile suddenly ceased after the “barmy” opening ceremonies. Every newspaper in the country stopped trying to imagine what would happen if the Tower Bridge rings fell on someone and really started to showcase the events.
Most, if not all, of the citizens were fully behind their athletes. The pubs were often packed with eclectic characters. Dour barristers, West Indian businessmen, shifty-faced hoodies and wizened old ladies all cheered loudly at the television whenever Britain scooped up another medal. There were nods of appreciation when my American accent was heard, all wishing me personally good luck in our competition against the Chinese.
In everything I’ve read and experienced so far in college, the United States gets seriously dumped on in almost every international setting. It was therefore quite a nice feeling to be proud of my country for a change. I will say, though, that a small country does have its advantages. The U.S. is too large for the average person to follow all the athletes. But in London, just a cursory glace at the papers told me everything I needed to know about every sportsman’s backstory. I began to appreciate the medals more with each paragraph I read.
For example, I went to a basketball game between Britain and Brazil where the first-quarter score ended at a scintillating 6-4. But it didn’t matter because the crowd cheered at almost every play. The audience and my knowledge of the team made this abject display, well, exciting. Even thought the British lost the game, I couldn’t have had a better experience.
I won’t bore you with meaningless tales of world peace through sport and cooperation through athletics. But I won’t forget what a great feeling it was to sing “God Save the Queen” on a train with complete strangers. The amount of good will at these Games was surprisingly contagious, and I know my attitude has been expanded due to its occurrence. Now all the U.S. has to do is keep beating the Chinese, and my life will be complete.