SPORTS has a tendency to unite people, especially when they are cheering for the same side. These Olympics, due to the incomparable sportsmanship of the British, which has also rubbed off onto other nations, one feels as if new worldwide friendships have been formed. Rivalry between countries seems less fierce.
The evening session of August 8, my fourth day at the athletics Olympic Stadium, confirmed this for me. As I walked around the Olympic Park, many were pausing to take pictures of other people in their homecountry's colours and 'costumes'! And inside the stadium itself, as athletes competed in the women's long jump final, women's 200m final, men's 200m semifinal, and men's 110m hurdles final, the cheers and support for every single Olympian, even if not their own countryman, was quite remarkable.
Perhaps it helped that the weather has been awesome, or that spectators were attending with their BFFs. Going through the Park I met two Jamaicans, Hyacinth Douglas and Sharon Williams-Walker, who grew up in Morant Bay, St Thomas, together. A Corrections Officer in Atlanta, USA, Ms Douglas has been planning this trip with her friend, who works in IT in Toronto, Canada, for four years.
Of course they wanted to holiday together, but it was the Olympics which brought them to London. “It feels closest to home,” Sharon told me.
“And we had to go to the Olympics at least once in life,” added Hyacinth, with utter glee.
I also came across three best mates from Manchester, England: Fish Doctor (yes, this job does exist) Adrian Williams, deputy head of a primary school Phil Trohear, and Sales Manager Darren Riva. The trio was dressed in suits made from material patterned with lots of little GB flags. Not usually athletics fans, London's Olympics was not about to escape their attention; and to be honest, their suits did not escape the attention of everyone around. These boys were there to have fun, and everything had exceeded their expectations.
“It has been out of this world here,” Phil pointed out.
“It shows that we, the British, can actually do things,” a laughing Darren added.
“And it has most certainly lifted the nation's spirits,” confirmed Adrian.
Settled inside the stadium, closer to the track than I've been so far, there was an intimacy between patrons that brought laughter to the crowd around. Had we all been attending the Olympics all week, so now knew the 'ropes'? Or could it have been the Dutch crew, on a corporate jaunt with Ernst & Young, who told non-stop jokes and swapped bright orange hats for Jamaica 50 sunglasses? Thanks have to go out to finance guru Akkie Lansberg, from Amsterdam, her best friend of 21 years, Leontien van Moorsel, from Rotterdam, and their colleagues, who brought the party to the Games in full fashion. And the bonus? Who would have thought that van Moorsel turned out to be one of the most successful Dutch Olympians of all time. She has four gold, one silver and one bronze Olympic medal to her name. Van Moorsel retired from professional cycling after the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but she insisted that, “it is amazing to be here”. It certainly was.