Athens Anthems

Monday, November 29, 2004



Tonight, I popped round to see a couple of friends, one of whom (Rich - the man on the left) had been to Athens in the summer. He showed me his pictures from the games. This one was my favourite. It features Rich and another friend of mine, Mik, singing the national anthem for Kelly Holmes after she received her gold medal for the 800 metres.

The picture was taken by one of three Canadians that Rich and Mik had befriended through the course of the evening. They had flown to Greece from Canada; they were staying in Athens for 36 hours; and then they were flying back home - a long weekend on the other side of the world. They hadn’t come for any event in particular, or to see any Canadian especially – they just wanted to be at the Olympics, no matter how little time they could spend there.

The picture sums up several things that I love about the Olympic Games. In general, I hate flag-waving and anthem bellowing, but, when it is done to salute the magical culmination of a lifetime of hard work, it can make my spine tingle. I ought to send the picture to the organisers of the London 2012 bid – I think it depicts exactly the support that could be expected if we got the Games.

I also enjoyed hearing about Mik and Rich meeting the Canadians. My wife and I went to watch London Wasps win the final of the Zurich Premiership (rugby) at Twickenham two years ago. Wasps scored an early try at the other end of the pitch and, predictably, the crowd rose to its feet. The man (for want of a better word) behind my wife put his hands on her shoulders and shoved her back down into her seat whilst shouting “If you stay sitting down, we can all see!”

Needless to say, we weren’t entirely delighted. I politely explained that until he had managed to spread his mysterious gospel of sedentary rugby watching to the other 74,999 people in the ground, he’d be as well to just stand up when everyone else did. I might have called him a name too. There’s an outside chance I may have sworn. One thing I definitely did do was spend the rest of the first half standing up at every opportunity and getting ready to lay him out if he said anything about it. I can’t remember any of the rugby.

So it’s nice to know that at the Olympics the people you meet in the crowd are nice folk who’ll spend a medal ceremony looking at you through the lens of your camera instead of at the action if you ask them to.

It’s also nice to know that they’ll travel halfway around the world to spend a few hours basking in the glow of the Games. The more I hear from all of my friends who were there; the more I wish I had gone too, and the more I resolve to go and set up that savings account for my trip to Beijing.

2 comments:

SwissToni said...

one of those men got married on saturday - he wasn't wearing that hat, and amazingly he had been persuaded to have his haircut beforehand.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Hill!

(Athens was great - Beijing is a must. London would be great, but frankly I will go to New York, Paris, Madrid or wherever when push comes to shove. It is a disgrace that Britain has never been awarded the games - we have only stepped in for other people at the last minute)

John said...

That snippet of info and the subsequent congratualtions to Mr and Mrs Mik were slated for the original article, but somehow didn't make it in there. Time was creeping on and my eyelids were creeping lower by the time I posted last night.

Many (belated) congratualtions to the man (and woman) Hill! And many congratulations to the man Scat for making it to the wedding at all - when he left my house unable to speak in the wee small hours of Saturday morning, I thought it might be touch and go.