From Cynic to Champion: An Olympic Journey

One Olympic refusenik's journey from cynic to patriotic fan...


Yes, the Olympics are here! And ELLE Features Director Alice Wignall is finally ready to celebrate.

July 6 2005: London wins the 2012 Olympic Games. People didn’t say ‘Whatevs’ then, but if we had done, that’s what I would have said.

July 6 2005 – May 2012 (approx): I go through several stages of feelings towards the Olympics. First: disbelief. ‘Right, so they’re going to build an enormous sports complex in the middle of a bit of disused land in east London are they? And a transport system to cart around 1 million extra visitors a day? Ha ha ha, yeah, OK. If you say so.’ Second: anger. ‘What are those mascots supposed to look like? Why is the official font so spiky? This is embarrassing.’ Finally, acceptance. I no longer actively scowled when I saw the countdown clock in Trafalgar Square. I just ignored it.


July 26 2012: I got up an hour earlier than usual to go and watch the Olympic torch passing near my house. I was over-excited just seeing the crowds, got a lump in my throat as the lame corporate-sponsored cheerleaders went past and obviously cried when the flame itself was carried by (how could I ever have thought that that wonderful golden beacon was tacky?).

July 29 2012: As I write, a helicopter has been hovering in the sky outside the office for half an hour. Yes, it’s loud. But it’s for the Olympics, so I don’t care! Hang around, absurdly noisy helicopter, you’re totally welcome.


How did I – and it can’t just be me – learn to love the Olympics? Was it when I crossed Regent Street and saw the rows and rows and rows of flags hanging all the way down the road and thought, ‘The whole world really is coming here’?

Was it hearing the stories of some of the athletes competing – I couldn’t help it, it was osmosis – and realising just what was at stake for so many people. Was it the Jubilee that showed it’s actually more fun to stop moaning and get involved instead? Or was it when the roadworks cleared, the Opening Ceremony rehearsals started, and people began to arrive, waving their (I can’t help it, still weird looking) mascots with delight?

It’s like having an enormous party, where everyone’s delighted to be invited. ‘This is so great!’ they beam at you. ‘Er, is it?’ you say, looking around at your every-day surroundings and realising that, yes, they can be pretty special.

So join us in the love-fest for the Olympics. The sun might not shine, we might not win many medals, but people’s dreams will come true, and for a few weeks London and the UK are where everyone in the world is looking. That’s got to be worth celebrating.

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