For a time, it seemed like the London Olympics were never going to get off the ground. Before the ceremonial torch was even lighted, most of the pre-Games talk centered around projects falling behind, questionable logo design and the promise of traffic nightmares galore. Even Jon Stewart of The Daily Show —which is carried in the U.K., by the way —got in on the action, mercilessly needling organizers for what he anticipated would be a terrible opening ceremony. Combine all that with ever-present security concerns and you had what appeared to be all the ingredients for a very messy pea soup, rather than the quadrennial showcase of the world’s top athletes that the Olympics always has been.
Most of that worry, of course, came courtesy of the media, which needed to fill the four-year gap between Beijing’s 2008 edition and the games of the 30th Olympiad. But just over two weeks later, we see that the only major snafu at the Summer Games was London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, getting stuck on a zip-wire line 150 feet above ground (that and some empty seats during the first few days of the Games). There was also a wrong flag incident and a falling flag incident but other than that, no other major gaffes.
In other words, the naysayers were wrong, and the sentiment was almost universal: London pulled off a great Olympic fortnight.
In the U.S., tens of millions of viewers watched the London Games on TV, while the BBC reported reaching more than 54 million people online. NBC caught flack, of course, for its tape-delayed coverage —#nbcfail was quite possibly the most sustained Twitter trending topic in a while —and the BBC’s livestream could only be accessed from within the U.K. One way around these obstacles was to hop a flight across the Atlantic and take in the Games in person —which is exactly what my colleague Rebecca Riordan did.Here, she recounts her Olympics experience in the form of an ode —though now that we think about it, a Shakespearean sonnet might have been more appropriate:
- Oh 30th Olympiad, thank you for giving me an excuse to leave the country for a week and squeeze eight big people —no one under 5’9″ allowed, please —into a wee flat in Windsor to cheer on our rowing friends at the Olympics.
- Olympic Games, thank you for letting us dress in head to toe to fingernail stars & stripes and not making us feel even once overly patriotic, especially considering those ubiquitous spandex Union Jack body suits.
- British media, thank you for your obsession with little beach volleyball uniforms and unbounded celebration of the first Team GB gold medal.
- BBC, thank you for your round the clock Olympic coverage and your emotional reporting, especially the two of you that cried. I mean it —you made me cheer for some of those Brits too!
- London underground, thank you for pasting enormous pink signs on your walls to guide me to the Olympic venues and for the free passes that came with my event tickets – sweet!
- Massive Olympic Park, thank you for employing roving beer vendors deployed to distract us from the mile long trek to the Basketball Arena.
- Olympic volunteers, thank you for telling us we were “almost there” 15 minutes before we actually entered the rowing course at Eton Dorney (below), and thank you for your ever-buoyant nature.
- Wenlock, you creepy little mascot, thank you for inspiring lines of people 20 deep who want to take photos with your statue.
- USA House, forget your open bar and fridge of Greek yogurt, but thank YOU for your never-ending wall of desserts: it knows me well.
- And London 2012, thank you most of all for giving our US Women’s eight their well-deserved gold medal. I can now say an Olympic champion came to my wedding.
So to sum up: the Olympics were a great experience, whether you saw them in person or watched them on this side of the pond. (For those of you that still miss the Games, the memes live on—even some McKayla Maroney WOULD be impressed with.)
Alas, Rebecca did leave before the biggest, baddest highlight of the Games: the Spice Girls reunion during the closing ceremonies, which was simply the dog’s bollocks. I mean, Scary, Sporty, Baby, Posh and Ginger, zipping about Olympic Stadium on top of cars, singing ”Wannabe” and ”Spice Up Your Life,” whipping both crowds and viewers into a frenzy?
Top that, Rio.
—Sid Dinsay and Rebecca Riordan