I am the Face of the London 2012 Olympics, and the world is coming to see me. At least, that’s what Sebastian Coe told me. And he should know. After all, he’s organizing the Games.
The world’s journey to visit me began on 6 July 2005, when International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge announced ‘The Games of the XXX Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of ….’
I knew in my head that the next word would be “Paris”, but hoped with all my heart that he would say “London”. Kimberly and I sat on the sofa, barely breathing, leaning in towards the television set and willing him to say it…London. London. London.
And, after an agonisingly long pause, he did. The reaction in my sitting room, Trafalgar Square and all over the city was one of unbridled joy, enthusiasm and excitement. Car horns honked, total strangers hugged, and the march towards 2012 began. The greatest games in the world were coming, and they were coming to our city. I could hardly wait.
I have loved the Olympics for as long as I can remember. There’s just something remarkable about the world’s best, testing themselves against each other, competing for their families, their teammates and their countries. Something about knowing that all those long, hard, lonely hours of training comes down to the next few minutes. Something about the sheer beauty of these amazing people, athletes at the height of their physical powers.
Oh, ok, I also love the pageantry, the flags and the national anthems. I inevitably cry whenever the Olympic flame is lit, and when it is put out. I get caught up in the human dramas and the arcane rules. I believe for a few weeks that all the world’s battles can be fought on a track or in a pool.
In short, I totally buy into it. The Olympics and everything it stands for.
Which explains why, when the call went out for Olympic volunteers, I downloaded the form the second it was available and had it filled out and returned before most people were out of bed.
And then I waited.
And I watched.
And I noticed a few things that could have dented my enthusiasm.
The logo, which it has to be said is downright bizarre, even to people who have never heard the rude joke about Lisa Simpson.
from London 2012 website
And the ticket sales, which have been shambolic, bordering on the scandalous. I knew my dream of attending the Opening Ceremony was a long shot, but I really thought I would get tickets to something in the Olympic Park, especially since I was willing to commit thousands of pounds to the endeavour. Not to mention all those hours I spent sitting at my computer trying to press the ‘Buy’ button before either the site crashed or the tickets became unavailable. But, no, sadly not. Corporate entertainment and an extremely dodgy lottery system put paid to that. I am sure, however, that I will love seeing the Albanian v Gambian women’s football teams play at Wembley.
And the sponsors, McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Cadbury’s, none of whom really fit the mission statement about using the 2012 Olympics to get the nation’s children and young people more interested in sports and a healthy life style.
But, these are minor points and I would not let them stand between me and the Games. And so, despite some misgivings, I was delighted to accept my appointment as Protocol Team Leader, whatever that is, and to be officially declared a Games Maker.
And, as such, I am The Face of the Games.
I took my face, and the rest of me, to the first training session yesterday, where Seb Coe told us that we had been chosen because we all had “a special gift”, although he failed to mention just what that was. And Britain’s Olympic champion triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards, congratulated us for being part of ‘the greatest event to take place in our lifetimes’. And the country’s most famous cross-dressing comedian cum multiple marathon runner, Eddie Izzard, urged us to get fit because we were not only the Face of the Games, we were also the Bum of the Games and we didn’t want the rest of the world to think that we were a ‘bit chubby’.
And then, we moved on to the highlight of the day. The London 2012 Games Makers Uniform was revealed.
Apparently the purple in the tunic represents Britain’s royal traditions. The red symbolises our double decker buses. The gold buttons on the sleeves are reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s band, while the epaulets have something to do with….I have no idea what exactly but I think the Grenadier Guards come into it somewhere. The beige trousers were described as ‘comfortable’, which tells you everything you need to know about them. And the footwear was ‘totally unique and would never be seen anywhere else, ever’. I could easily believe it.
London 2012 unveils Games Makers and Technical Officials uniforms (from website)
I sat there for a while, stunned. As, judging from the nervous, high-pitched, slightly hysterical laughter coming from various pockets around the arena, were many of my fellow Games Makers. Seriously, beige trousers with a purple and red tunic? Trainers made out of recycled tires or cardboard or breakfast cereals or something equally odd? Sgt Pepper buttons and double decker red cuffs? Epaulets?
And that’s when it hit me. Just what this ‘special gift’ was.
Apparently, we were all gifted with an ability to wear this totally ridiculous, absolutely hideous, completely appalling uniform. With pride.
I know I am.
Because, despite the logo and the ticketing and the inappropriate sponsors and the disastrous uniform, I am proud to be part of the London 2012 Olympics. I truly believe that the Olympic movement represents mankind at its very best. United in a willingness to put aside our differences, do our best and celebrate what we as people are able to accomplish.
And so, I will wear my Games Maker uniform, with pride.
Although, I may just take the precaution of covering all the mirrors in the house first. After all, page 6 of my manual tells me to ‘look out for potential problems and find solutions to them before they arise’.
Especially with those shoes.
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley, Games Maker)