Olympic flame burns brighter than ever

On the eve of the London 2012 opening ceremony Jo Tilley catches the spirit of the Olympic Games in her home city.

by
    Olympic flame burns brighter than ever
    Thousands have come out on the streets to welcome the torch on its 70-day journey around Great Britain [GALLO/GETTY]

    “What are we doing here?”

    It was a question one woman asked her friend while waiting for a glimpse of the Olympic flame on Friday.

    The residents of Putney had gathered together on the banks of the Thames to watch the flame meander its way down London’s famous river before reaching its final destination - the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

    During the flame’s 70-day journey around Great Britain, it is a question likely to have been asked a number of times. 

    But, fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be a question that has stopped the British public going the extra distance to welcome the flame and Olympic Games.

    Thousands of people have woken early, braved the crowds or taken sick days from work to see a flame pass their house, local pub or through the park where they take their children to play.

    We have all seen flames before – they are yellow, flicker and don’t like rain. But this flame is different.

    It arrives with a positivity and atmosphere that is contagious, and has played a major role in lifting the spirits of the Great British people before the biggest sporting spectacle in the world kicks-off.

    The London 2012 Games officially get underway in East London tonight where 60,000 people will watch the action inside the Olympic Stadium and over a billion globally on television.

    The action hasn’t even begun and yet the sense of occasion in London is palpable.

    On my morning run, I was cheered down the road by a crowd of Norwegians waving flags with gusto at me like I was an Olympic hero. There are more people on the streets but more smiles, giggles, ‘excuse me’s’ and ‘I am sorries’ than ever before.

    There seems to be a joy attached to being the centre of the world. The world is watching and we are ready.

    Hope

    "The Olympic flame also represents something that is harder to eloquently describe, but one thing that sprints to mind is hope. Whether they hail from our nation or not, we will be living vicariously through these athletes, and it is going to be one rollercoaster of a ride "

    The Olympic flame also represents something that is harder to eloquently describe, but one thing that springs to mind is hope.

    Whether they hail from our nation or not, we will be living vicariously through these athletes, and it is going to be one rollercoaster of a ride. 

    You do not have to be a sport lover to appreciate the hard-work, motivation and single mindedness that has driven these people to achieving the most unlikely of goals.

    Over the next two weeks, we are going to live it with them. And from their victories, we can take comfort.

    If these athletes can fulfil their ambitions at the highest level of international sport, then one day maybe we can achieve our own (even if we do have to make the gold medal ourselves).

    Brands such as Adidas, McDonalds and Coca Cola have become synonymous with London 2012 but at the heart of our passion for the Olympics are the athletes themselves. 

    There is a purity in the event that branding, marketing and consumerism cannot tarnish completely. 

    No, the buzz on the street is not solely down to the amounts of Coca Cola we are drinking.

    It is pure excitement for sport and living.

    So... isn’t it about time to let the Games begin?


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