Turns out I was wrong.
For months I’ve been telling my friends and family back in the States that Olympic Fever had not taken hold here yet because we were waiting until after the Queen’s Jubilee; once we got that out of the way, then we could concentrate on going ape shite over the Olympics. The Queen’s Jubilee is the first weekend in June, but that’s just one of the focal points. It’s a year-long event; the June date is simply a day set aside to give us all the opportunity to string bunting, hold tea parties in honor of Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne and enjoy a four-day weekend during a time when the weather is (hopefully) agreeable.
But it’s not what we’ve been waiting for; apparently, we’ve been waiting for the torch.
The Olympic Touch—fresh from its inauguration ceremony in Athens where it was lit by Vestal virgins or something (I wasn’t paying attention)—arrived in Cornwall a few days ago and the nation broke out in the tell-tale sweats, shivers, jaundiced eyes and dry, hacking cough that signifies a full-on case of Olympic Fever. Or an impending summer cold.
The torch is currently wending its way around the south west drawing an astounding amount of attention. Tens of thousands of people are lining the route to watch it—and its entourage—trot past. I had the privilege of seeing the Olympic torch some years back, and I don’t recall anything like this. What I recall is my mom, me and a neighbor or two standing by the side of 9H on a crisp, clear morning to watch a young man jog down the road carrying, by golly, a torch. He huffed past us, his breath billowing in the frigid air, followed by a single car. Then we walked back home for a hot drink.
I realize it’s foolish to compare these two events. First of all, it was the Winter Olympics, which not as many people give a toss about, and the route—where it passed by my home—was in a very, very rural area (think cows and children with eyes suspiciously close together). But mostly, it was 1980, and the world wasn’t quite as full of self-important jackwipes who feel it is their duty to make a statement by throwing a pail of cold water—or worse—over the torch. The modern world is full of amazing achievements, but dickwits taking advantage of cheap travel and the ready availability of noxious substances to further some twisted political agenda is not one of them.
And so, these days, the torch travels surrounded by a security detail, a bevy of support vehicles, back-up flames (and maybe a few back-up virgins in case of a real emergency), the national press and around 50,000 on-lookers, making me wonder if anyone turning out to see the torch actually gets to see it at all. It must, I suspect, be like going to see the Liberty Bell, or the Mona Lisa: an event shared—shoulder to shoulder—with thousands of others, with the object of your attention some ways away and perhaps somewhere in the center of that frenetic throng lumbering along the highway.
That’s what I imagine, anyway, and in a couple of weeks I’m going to get the opportunity to find out. On the 17th of July, the torch will pass by my office at 7:30 in the morning. Initially I assumed, since I don’t get to work until 8 AM, that I would miss the whole event. Seeing the crowds on TV, however, has made me wonder if I will ever get to work that day, as the bus has to travel down that very same road. So my intention now is to take a train to the office, arrive early so I can watch the procession, and then go to work.
The Torch, and entourage.
That’s the plan, anyway. Perhaps I can get a picture of the cluster of security men as the torch makes its way along the London Road. At the very least I’ll get to spend an hour or two in the company of thousands of fellow Olympic enthusiasts (by that time, we will all be Olympic enthusiasts).
And all you jackwipes out there, please find something else to do that morning, okay.