I wish I'd been a good sport

By Tracy-Ann Oberman, September 10, 2012

From the moment it was announced that London had won the fight with Paris to be the host of the 2012 Games, my heart sank. As Lord Coe (my new crush since his closing speech at the Games) announced, "this is the most fantastic opportunity to do everything we ever dreamed of in British sport", I rolled my eyes.

How was this going to work? I remembered Dome-gate. The shambolic fiasco that commemorated New Year's Eve 1999. London welcomed the new century with a wheel that wouldn't work and a bridge that was unsafe to walk over. I stood for two hours at North Greenwich tube with hundreds of grumpy party invitees, waiting to go through the body scanners that "had a glitch", to partake, finally, in the damp squid that was "The Millennium Dome Experience". The most exciting thing that happened to me that night was narrowly missing being introduced to Tony Blair because I'd popped to the loo.

If London couldn't cope with the arrival of the Year 2000, how on earth was it going to handle housing 500,000 tourists and 70,000 athletes and officials. Would any of the stadiums be built on time? How were grumpy Londoners going to put up with the disruptions to the hellish commute? Not to mention the worrying prospect of a terrorist attack.

Mr O called me a terrible cynic as he applied for every event. Not for me, I insisted, it's going to be a disaster, And besides, Jews and sports are a big no. Instead I booked tickets to the Costa Del Sol for the entire summer.

How I have lived to regret my cynicism. I've returned from five boiling weeks in Spain with not one whit of a suntan. I spent the entire time glued to the television. My London heart has burst with pride a million times over. From the first moments of Danny Boyle's brilliant, intelligent, audacious, funny, opening ceremony, my cynicism evaporated.

When the Jarrow marchers came on, I was sobbing and I was a wreck by the time the torch was lit by Olympians old and new. I cried for every medal we won and narrowly lost, for the generosity and love that emanated from London and its residents. They were throwing the best Olympic party ever known and changing the landscape of the nation. We now have real heroes as role models for our youngsters. Britain really does have talent, I sobbed, as boxer Nicola Adams held her gold medal in wonder. I wasn't there and I'm bitterly sorry for it.

My tears have continued to flow at the awesome Paralympics. But I'm comforting myself with the fact that I had a tiny part in the awareness of it. I played Else Guttmann, wife of Jewish neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttman, in the recent BBC film The Best of Men.

On fleeing Germany after Kristallnacht, Guttman challenged medical thinking in the treatment of spinal injuries by insisting that patients move, exercise and furthermore compete in sports.

He was the father of the Paralympic Games at Stoke Mandeville. "Hitler's gift to this country," is how he is described.

Jews and sports. Inextricably linked, it seems.

Last updated: 12:46pm, September 10 2012