When I moved to London five years ago, people were talking about the Olympics. Never mind that the Games were so far in the future that nobody could even conceive of the year 2012, let alone the fact that some derelict land in east London was going to be the future home of the London 2012 Olympics.
But fast forward five years, and suddenly the Games are upon us. What has felt like a gradual crawl towards the opening ceremony has finally become a full sprint. London is in the homestretch, and tonight we will finally see all of the anticipation come to fruition.
In the run-up to the Olympics, I have been asked and interviewed by everyone from a Nigerian in-flight magazine to Ukraine’s top daily newspaper about how everyday Londoners feel about the upcoming Games. In light of their curiosity, I felt like I should share my thoughts as well.
Keeping in mind the fact that Londoners love nothing more than to complain about the city they love, the first thing that any Londoner will tell you when you ask her or him about the Olympics is how horrible her or his commute is going to be during the Games.
We have had several weeks of massive delays on the tube; a friend even told me that someone she knows at Transport for London (TFL) admitted to her that they were purposely delaying trains to gauge sentiment (are they wondering whether people will be angry, enraged, or murderous?).
But once you get past the gripes about public transport, you’ll find that Londoners don’t have too many bad things to say.
Sure, some will moan about the cost, but as soon as they’re done they will tell you how excited they are to attend the swimming events or how much money they are making renting out their flat for two weeks (never mind that they will be sleeping on a friend’s lumpy sofa the whole time). Many of them even lined the streets yesterday to see the Olympic torch travel through London.
They will also tell you how fun it is that they can’t walk two feet in central London without seeing official London 2012 Olympics track suits or giant pink signs directing pedestrian traffic to various Games venues. Neither can they contain their excitement when they walk by Hyde Park and other venues around the city with giant screens that will show footage of the events to those that weren’t lucky enough to get tickets.
I personally can relate to all of these feelings. I dread the public transport failures, but am excited to see a friend of mine compete for team Great Britain in the rowing finals on August 4th. I also get a little feeling of excitement every time I see someone with an official Olympics uniform, and I have had no shortage of opportunities to participate in fun events and parties in the run-up to the Games.
When it comes down to it, on this day—the opening day of the London 2012 Olympics—the years of slowly-increasing anticipation have finally come to an end and the Games have officially begun. Whether or not Londoners will tell you, we are all a little bit excited.
Just don’t tell anyone, please. Londoners would hate to think people knew we were actually enthusiastic about one of the biggest, most important events in our city’s modern history. We (or some of us, rather) are British after all.