"Nice day... probably rain."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I was in London last Thursday to meet the guy from the publishing house who had expressed an interest in what I’m doing. Needless to say, other events that day took over somewhat from both the exciting news of London getting the 2012 games and of me meeting a publisher. Simon Barnes in the Times put it well:

“Sport requires a certain innocence. Without innocence, the glorious inconsequentialities of sport could not exist. We demand that people take part in sport as if it were a life-and-death matter, and yet all of us, participants and audience both, know that it is all most frightfully silly. It’s only that without the assumption of seriousness, it wouldn’t be any fun.”

And it’s hard to be serious about silly things when there are serious things going on all around you. Most Londoners set off to work euphoric on Thursday morning after the events in Singapore on Wednesday – in Britain, hope and joy are things that we tend to be reluctant to let ourselves indulge in, but Thursday morning felt good. The games are coming to London; it felt like the world had given us a vote of confidence. Not even the most miserable stereotype of a Briton would have dared suggest the extreme to which we could be whisked in less than 24 hours.

Statue John directed me to a blog he had read with a first-hand account of one of the bombs going off on a Tube train. Stuck in a carriage rapidly filling up with smoke the writer observes:

Once again, calm-down-guy managed to get everyone to do just that. Silence decended on the carriage apart from people choking and coughing, then someone near me quipped, “Well, at least we got the Olympics!”

There’s always one. And yet, at the same time, I understand that urge – the need to normalise it all with a joke – even if the joke betrays your most fervent wish to turn the clock back five minutes to when you were talking about sport and not staring your own death in the face.

I was going to blog about my whole day – about the meeting with Chrysalis; about waiting in the Hilton for the buses to start up again; about the woman sat near me telling her friend how she had hailed the number 30 bus but the driver hadn’t stopped because she had a pram; about finally getting back to Oxford and going for drinks with the Plants cricket team in the evening and seeing again that look of excitement and interest that certain types of people get when they hear about my challenge for the first time; about Stevo the Kiwi drinking enough lemon beer to suggest that he could try and do all the events from the winter Olympics so that between us we’d have the full set; about leaving my keys in the office and having to sleep in Neil’s living room – but in the end, it was hard to see that any of it mattered.

Simon Barnes finished his article, and I’ll finish this post, with something quite apposite:

”Sport is, above all, a celebration of being alive. Those people who willingly and frivolously turn it into a festival of being dead are bastards. Their eagerness to spoil the world’s innocent frivolities spells out the eternal truth about terrorism. It is this: terrorism is not about achieving things; terrorism is an end in itself.”