For a little over two years, about ten years ago, I worked in a sports memorabilia store in Melbourne’s CBD. It was a part time gig to keep me flush through the latter years of high school, and as the only requirements for the job were to not be socially inept and to have a staggeringly large knowledge about Aussie Rules football, I was in heaven.
We had a little television in the corner where we would show the DVD ‘Heart of the Game’ on repeat. People would often pause their Saturday shopping for ten minutes or so to watch a bit of the 4-hour long extravaganza, and when I finished my time at the store, I knew almost all of the words.
One scene has stuck with me more than any; Melbourne player Garry Lyon describing what it was like the first time he took his seat as a spectator at the MCG.
Lyon described it beautifully; I used to always get goosebumps when it got to that part. He spoke of the sheer size of the stadium, the roar of the crowd and that special feeling you get when you tell yourself, “I’m here, at this moment in history, which has a likelihood of actually becoming history.”
For me, however, I didn’t have that moment. I just couldn’t quite relate. I’d been going to the footy regularly since my days as a toddler, so I can’t remember my first match. What’s more, I’ve always been out of kilter when it comes to being wowed by crowds and stadiums. I’m used to a packed MCG. When fifty thousand people turn out to watch my team, it’s seen as a poor crowd.
So perhaps I’d been saving this chance to be wowed all of my life, without realising. So, when I got to my seat at the athletics at London 2012; London’s Olympic Stadium, I wasn’t at all prepared for how I would feel.
Just like when I visited Olympia, I felt the tears prick my eyes. I sniffed, swallowed and tried to hide it but it was no use.
“What… are you crying?!” was Paul’s bemused response.
I could go on about the events we saw, the fantastic atmosphere and the support for Team GB. But that’s a little bit old news. Instead, this is a response to everyone who doesn’t understand why I love the Olympics, and sport more generally, so much.
The 2012 Olympic Stadium had its detractors, but I’m not one of them. Of course it was no Bird’s Nest, but a great stadium has the ability to make the viewer feel as if everything on the pitch is taking place for them and them only. London’s did that. After visiting so many Olympic sites, watching so much of its coverage and reading so many associated books, it felt like the athletes were putting on a personal show just for me. All of these Olympic wanderings of mine converged at that point in time.
I don’t know what it is, but the Olympics does this for me. I can be a tough nut to crack, but simply sitting in a stadium along with eighty thousand others was enough for me to finally be wowed.