Ten years ago, London 2012 began. It was the culmination of a dream, and now a dream is all that it has become. Enraptured from an early age by the idea of the Olympic Games, of its people, its contests and its principles, I had so wanted to see one of the Games. Then, when it came to my country I so wanted it to be the best that it could be. And it was. From preparatory events, to the opening ceremony, from the Olympic Games to the Paralympics, it was sublime.
Many now recall it for the ingenuity and optimism of the opening ceremony, so adroitly imagined and engineered by director Danny Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Indeed that was a creative marvel, but for me the phenomenon that best encapsulated the idea of the Games was the short-lived complete online video archive. For a few months, until the licence agreements ran out, seemingly every piece of broadcast (and some unbroadcast) footage of the 2012 Olympic Games (less so for the Paralympics), was available online via BBC Sport and the European Broadcasting Union’s Eurovision Sports Live sites. Watching the Games at the time had given one a sense of their always happening, as multiple channels shown different sports at any hour, so it was as if the Games were running forever, and their spirit of uplift with it. The post-Games online archive seemed to perpetuate this, the unbroken dream.
And then the licences ran out, and the screens went dark.
Of course, they had to go dark. The time was coming when we would stop watching, because it was time to dream of other things. We can only ever tolerate so such of the past, because there is only ever so much of the past that we need. Our attention must be on the present and the future. So it was the London 2012 moved from anticipated, to the marvellous, time-stopping thing that was happening all around you, to a sense of loss, then of nostalgia, and then curiosity.
Curiosity is where I think we are now. I look back of the images, the hundred of photographs that I took, the screengrab memento I made of the opening ceremony broadcast, and what strikes me now is the oddity of it all. How odd the graphic design. How odd the messages and slogans. How odd the flag-waving. How odd the crowds. How odd the passion created by seeing people run after one another in circles, or pass up and down a pool of water, or throw objects across a stretch of grass. How odd the enthusiasm of the commentators. How odd the obsession with records. How odd the belief in the importance of it all. How odd that time has slipped away.
After curiosity, what comes next? History, I guess.
These are the past posts that I have written about London 2012:
- 29 July 2012 – Pandaemonium and the Isles of Wonder – on the imaginative thinking behind the opening ceremony of London 2012
- 22 September 2012 – At the Games – the experience of attending the Games
- 3 November 2012 – The building of Pandaemonium – thoughts on the Humphrey Jennings book that inspired the opening ceremony
- 30 December 2012 – Reliving the Games – the post-Games video archive
- 6 June 2013 – Olympic View – looking back on the Games, a year later
- 5 August 2013 – I remember # 5 (London 2012 special) – snapshot memories
- 24 July 2016 – Olympic dreams – looking back on London 2012 on the eve of the 2016 Games
- 1 August 2018 – This is for everyone – introducing my Flickr project to publish a screengrab for every shot of the opening ceremony broadcast
- 7 August 2021 – Remembrance of Games past – memories of the Olympics from 1968 onwards