Forget the grumbling about security, travel and sponsors: the games are here and London is coming together. Even the weather is playing along, says DW sports reporter Titus Chalk.
London 2012 has finally arrived!
For the last seven years, it has been some distant dream (indeed a nightmare for some) but now the ancient sporting jamboree has landed on London’s doorstep and, for all the cynicism and scandal, the city is ready to embrace it.
It took me only a matter of moments after arriving here in the British capital to be swept along by it all, even if I thought my whole trip had got off to a false start. Sitting outside a house in Ealing, West London, locked out with all my luggage, didn’t feel particularly Olympic. But helpful neighbours I had never met slung my stuff in their car and we all went and watched the Olympic torch relay trot down Uxbridge Road together in a noisy, glorious, sun-kissed display of what this is all about.
You see, despite the commercial excesses of the modern Olympics, there is something wondrous about its power to unite. The torch-bearer I saw running down the road was a local Sikh man, who zoomed past in seconds, arms raised in triumph, big grey beard fluttering in the wind. Around him, London cheered him on – black, white, Muslim, Sikh, Polish, Jamaican… the best of multi-cultural London. And lining the route, this melting pot – perhaps despite themselves and their expectations of the games – came together, waved (sponsored) flags, chatted, laughed and shared a joke with the bobbies on their motorbikes.
It was the kind of spontaneous connection which a community thrives on and one that can all too often get lost in a city as vast and sometime dehumanising as London. I was thrown together with my new random Irish neighbours – and we got along great.
And while it is a cliché, relentlessly pedalled by sport marketers, that sport “brings people together”, events like the Olympics do just that. Turn to anyone on the London Underground right now, and for once you have something to say to them – and for once they are more than happy to turn to you and give their opinion back, even as they grin and bear the busier carriages and the oppressive heat.
They might not want the Olympics on their doorstep, they might even hate sport, but for the next two weeks, the five-ring circus that has landed in Tower Hamlets has provided a city of eight million people with a reason for dialogue.
That alone is an achievement worth its weight in gold medals.
Author: Titus Chalk / rg