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United in our golden nation

November 24, 2016 23:22

I've spent the past two weeks baffling my husband. We've just been through our first Olympics together and I've revealed a side he hasn't witnessed before as I've never really had much interest in sport.

Admittedly my inherited predisposition towards Manchester United has been exacerbated recently (I never thought I could find a more passionate Red than my father. But I did. And, reader, I married him). But, that aside, my attitude towards any big sporting deal can be succinctly summed up as… meh. It's never been my thing.

So he was understandably surprised by an obsession with the Olympics that saw me compulsively watch gymnastics, squeal at the diving and have actual palpitations during the cycling. We even watched the fencing, although most of the time I was checking every white good in the house to find out what on earth what was making that beeping noise. I insisted on watching the highlights even if I'd watched most of that day's action live and set the alarm for stupid o'clock in the morning to catch the important races. I realised I had nearly broken him when I wanted to watch Usain Bolt win his treble treble at 2.30am. He protested: "But we haven't slept in two weeks!"

My husband wasn't in my life in 2012 when I was wandering around London, marvelling at its beauty as the city took its moment to shine in the world's spotlight. I remember that summer as a truly magical time, when the whole nation looked at its capital with a sense of pride, as opposed to the disdain of more recent times. I also remember my beloved flatmate, who was thankfully just as obsessed as me, getting up off the couch while we were watching and attempting to pick the couch up. "Just want to see if I've potentially missed my calling in weightlifting," she explained. "Very good," I replied, "as you were."

But I didn't just catch the Olympics bug four years ago. I remember watching a lot of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. I recall vividly being 11 years old, sitting on the blue suede pouf in my old living room watching the boxing and thinking to myself: "what on earth am I watching this for?" I've always had a penchant for opening ceremonies, too. They have, at times, even moved me to tears. Especially if they involved drums. I love a good drum, me.

I'd love to have a festival we could all celebrate

But it wasn't until this summer, when my husband, justifiably, called me a lunatic, that I actually contemplated why I love the Olympics so much. I realised that it is all about how unifying it is. It doesn't matter if you're the type to think that the fencing beep is the end of your dishwasher cycle, we all just want our team to do well.

It's something that everyone, from my grandma to my colleagues to my mother-in-law to the man running our corner shop can take pride in. We are all on one team. And, as a Jew, I value moments like these.

I feel very much integrated into British society but there are certain occasions, like Christmas, when it seems the whole country is gearing up for a special celebration in which I never really participate. That's my choice and a part of my Jewish identity, in which I take great pride. But I've always been envious of the way Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. And not just because I suspect I would really enjoy yams.

I would love this country to have a festival which everyone could celebrate, irrespective of religious belief, so everyone comes together. I like it when Britain feels like one big community, and I've enjoyed it more this summer when it has, for most of it, felt like anything but. I know a few people in lycra and giant thighs can't heal the divisions within this country with one superhuman lap of a velodrome. But when we all raise our arms and cheer in unison as they cross that finish line, we can all rejoice as one, even if it's just for one brief moment. And that moment is golden.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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