When it was announced that London would be hosting the 30th Olympiad many people said it couldn’t be done. The venues wouldn’t be built. It would cost far too much. Too many people would come, tubes would be crammed,London would come to a standstill. Or no one would come. I mean who really wants to watch dancing horses and people jumping over sticks?
However, it appears to have gone eerily quiet in Cynic City over the last couple of weeks.
And it’s no wonder; the Olympics have been an astounding success. The most British of opening ceremonies, more than 30 world records broken which means people are running faster, jumping higher and throwing further than ever before. And, after 28 gold medals, even good old Boris dangling like a muppet (sorry, puppet) on a wire couldn’t dampen British spirits. The phrase ‘we bossed it’ would be a hilarious understatement.
As we always knew they would, Usain Bolt, Jess Ennis and Mo Farah will claim the headlines.
But I’m not in the game of simply listing superstars.
The Olympics has been about so much more than world records and gold medals. I want to bring to your attention some of its unsung heroes.
If you didn’t know before you certainly will now; us Brits, we love to queue. The unwritten rule of the Olympic Park was quite clear: find a queue and join it. And good-humoured volunteers made the queuing much more interesting. Climbing up the stairs towards the Olympic Stadium (yes, I got a golden ticket!) one purple-clad volunteer joked: “Sorry chaps, the escalator’s not working right now!.” We all knew that he’d told that joke at least 500 times that day but he told it with a smile on his face. Thank you kindly Mr Plum, you are my unsung hero numéro un.
Britain is a country often mocked for its ridiculous health and safety laws (Goggles for conker fights and sponge balls required for schoolyard football). Yet it doesn’t seem so silly when we realise that this is the first Olympics ever to have no one die during the construction of the stadiums and Olympic park. The first ever! That is surely worth no end of gold medals. For this reason, my second unsung heroes of London 2012 are the men and women responsible for the construction of our cracking Olympic venues.
But my overall unsung heroes of the Olympics are the American duo CL Sandquist and Joseph Shivers. ‘Who?’ I hear you ask. Sprinters? Rowers? Boxers? Fencers? Actually, none of the above. Sandquist and Shivers (or S and S as they have never been known) are actually chemists who invented a synthetic fibre now well known for its exceptional elasticity. Yes, Lycra. Oh so much Lycra. We have seen more Lycra (or Spandex for our non-British friends) over the last three weeks than a whole year spent watching Billy Elliot at theWest End. Yes, it has led to some cringe-worthy moments when (sat with your grandparents) a badly timed camera shot left very little to the imagination. But all in all this Olympics has been a raving success for all in Lycra.
The aim of Lycra is to minimise drag, the less extra baggage the faster you can run. It’s the same principle that leads swimmers to shave from their head to their toes. It’s a far cry from the baggy shorts and floppy jumpers worn by 19th century Olympians. The only way any athlete could wear less would be to head back to 776 BCGreece in nothing but a smile (and no one wants to see that!).
The writer of the book of Hebrews urges us to follow a similar principle in our lives. He writes: “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Like athletes we go better when not dragged down, and the Bible constantly challenges us to get rid of anything that stops us living lives that both make God known and get the best out of us. More often than not it is the sin in our lives that holds us back, our selfishness or greed, our jealousy, pride and idolatry.
These things are like hairs on a swimmer’s back. We must shave them off or suffer the consequences. But it’s not blind legalism, as if living a good life will ever be good enough. It needed a perfect man to die a horrific death to put us truly right with God. Yet even after all that, we hold ourselves back by continuing to live ‘me-centred’ lives. So, donne the Lycra and get back on track.