But for all the pomp and grandeur of it, for all the “wow” moments, and for all the chuckles caused by the skits including James Bond and the Queen and the one with Mr. Bean, the thing that moved me the most was the message of the entire event.
I have to admit something before we go any further: I’m not a huge sports fan, in fact I positively avoid it at times. I used to dread school sports sessions, a dread that developed into a real aversion for all things “competitive”. Hypermobility means that many sports cause me pain, and not only physical: I cannot count the times I have fallen flat on my face because my knee or ankle has”popped” out of place, causing huge amounts of embarrasment. And the chronic pain from Endometriosis means my stamina is usually pretty low. So keeping up with the rest of the class was hard enough, there was never a chance I’d be able to aspire to the feats of the Olympic competitors!
So it was only really a sense of pride in the fact my own country is hosting the Games this year that made me turn on the television to watch the Opening Ceremony last night. But that pride led to a real u-turn in the way I viewed the Olympics.
I suddenly realised that it didn’t matter that most of us will never reach the level of these athletes. What mattered was determination, passion and a sense of purpose. Every single one of those competing in the games will be hoping for gold, only a few of them will actually achieve that, but for one night they were all winners. They had all made it, through years of dedicated training, to the place they had dreamed of being. And that is pretty amazing, don’t you think?
But more than that the thing which touched me the most was the emphasis put on the works of others. The hours of time the volunteers had all put in to making the Opening Ceremony so special. They aren’t Olympic athletes, but they were instrumental in the Olympics last night. And the inclusion of the workers who had built the Olympic Village was a truly thoughtful touch.
The showcase of the NHS and Great Ormond Street Hospital was incredible. Having a husband who works long, hard hours for very little pay and even less appreciation made me truly appreciate that part of the ceremony. For all the times we complain about waiting times or the state of the NHS, we are incredibly privileged to have this service in our country. And the service would not exist without the people on the front line, caring for and treating those of us in need. They will never reach the fame and glory of the Olympic athletes, but for one night they were proudly showcased alongside famous faces.
And then there were the people who were chosen to carry the Olympic flag. They had all achieved great things in their life for others. They had the same dedication, passion and sense of purpose as the athletes themselves and had achieved some of the most amazing things. To hear their names and see their faces was a joy and made me cry perhaps harder than I had through the entire evening.
You may wonder why I was so emotional, but it really is simple: I was inspired by all those who put everything they have into whatever they do, no matter what the reward. Though the Olympics are all about awarding the best of the best, none of those people would be there without years of dedicated training, never 100% sure that their dreams would come true. And that is a real lesson I take to heart.
I have major wobbles sometimes about the things I do. My passion is for giving a voice for those who do not have one. Having spent a large part of my life dealing with the difficulty of chronic conditions that affect almost every part of my life but which are unseen and totally misunderstood, I have often felt I had no voice. And I know I am not alone in feeling this way. And this is why I write and talk about Endo, HG and other things once in a while. They may not be on the same scale as campaigning for equal rights, poverty or an end to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, but for the people who live with them they are just as important.
I get frustrated sometimes, when my passion for this clashes with my passions for family and friends. Little Man is the most important person in my life, and though I love spending every moment I can with him, other projects that lie in my heart can sometimes feel like a sword hanging over my head. I feel guilty for not having the time for them, and sometimes for not even wanting to spend the time on them. And sometimes I wonder whether I have done the right thing in taking such things on board…
But then I see the incredible achievements of all those included in the Opening Ceremony and realise that a passion is worth fighting for, no matter how long it takes and how much effort it requires. I may never be “the best” but it is still worth trying.
Which leads me to my favourite part of the ceremony: the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. I cannot tell you how much I cried when Steve Redgrave passed on the flame to the next generation of athletes. In that moment “Inspire a Generation” became far more than a slogan: it was a reality! And I remembered why we all do the things we do day in and day out. We do it for our children. We do it for our children’s children. We do it so that those who follow have a better life, just as the generation before us did for us.
And that is worth a few tears, don’t you think?