Two or three or four beers in to Symo’s New Year’s Eve Extraganza and my thoughts turn to the last twelve months. I am still a spectacularly poor human being, but thanks to the outstanding experiences this year has foisted upon me, my life has been further enriched.

My two favourite things this year have been the onset of proud uncle-hood and my country. They thought it couldn’t be done, they poured scorn upon its credentials but we did it.
We smashed it. The Olympic and Paralympic Games of London 2012.

I am always immensely proud of being English and British but not everyone is. I hope the events of our summer will change this perception. We showed that nobody does it better. What follows is a personal account of my two favourite things of 2012, one with reason to fondly remember, the other to hope for the best for our future.

Earnestly, 2012. Thank you.

2013? No pressure….

Dear Alfie,
Well you just about got to the party, and like the best Wissons at the best parties, you won’t remember a thing about it. You were born a month shy of the greatest event to hit these shores for over seventy, maybe 150, years. Like your mother you were born in an Olympic year. Like your father, your birth year will always be synonymous with British sporting excellence. For him, the party he never got to was Botham’s Ashes. Then it was all about one man. Now it’s all about one team. Team GB. And one city. London.
You’ll learn us Brits are a funny ol’ lot. There was more resigned trepidation than fevered expectation leading up to the start of London 2012. Thankfully, the events of the next six weeks saw ‘daring to dream’ replacing ‘doing ourselves down’ as the nation’s default disposition. Danny Boyle’s wonderful Opening Ceremony helped set this mood. I slept through this, however in readiness for my first Games Maker shift at Lord’s Cricket Ground for the Archery event the next day.
I am proud to write that I was part of London 2012. And I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. And the trousers, trainers, jacket, cap, socks, brolly, flask, watch, even the man-bag. All dutifully put by for you to appreciate- or profit from- when you’re older. And if you like purple, red and beige, you’ll definitely appreciate it.
Ah, appreciation. It gladdens the soul, emboldens the heart. At the end of my last shift, as I funnelled my way behind my team of fellow Games Makers for a congratulatory demobbing and closing ceremony of our own I noticed we were being applauded by some of the spectators. Emboldened and gladdened, I sought out one of their number. A charming English rose, Laura, who looked every inch the Royal Box dweller in summer dress and Ascot hat. ‘I just think you’re all so brilliant’ she gushed. ‘This is amazing.’
In between the nervy beginnings and that triumphant finish was four days of utter bliss. My role at the Olympics was in the Printed Results Distribution team. I had to get the results of the matches out to the people who needed to know. In effect it was a minor role in the grand scheme of things. But in my mind I was at the centre of the action as I walked, mooched and slalomed my way among and around the thousands of fans within the magisterial surrounds of the Home of Cricket. I was helping deliver this epic footnote to Great Britain’s recent history along with those important documents clasped tightly in my excited hands.
Walking smartly along the corridors of power(in this instance the home of Judges and Technical Officials) in the Grand Stand or climbing to the best seat in the house, the top of the Pavilion roof to the media’s base, to the athletes’ area at the back of the Nursery Ground, I roamed Lord’s like it was a personal fiefdom. That I spent one of my lunch breaks giving an interview on the hallowed turf to the host broadcaster television crew reinforced this view. But the fact of the matter is everyone looked as I did. That ten foot high tall walk, those wide smiles, the tangible feeling you were part of something very special indeed.
Those treasured tinnies and words of congratulation in the Coronation Garden was the end of my London 2012 experience, so I thought. My line manager had other ideas.
So thanks then to Omar Ahmed, a prince among men, I find myself zipping along the banks of the Thames in the DLR against the cool August dawn. Past the rejuvenated East End, through those Tube Stations referencing the past of this proud city; East India Dock, Prince Regent, George V then the steadfast industries, present for hundreds of years, will remain here to see Empire evolve into legacy. It’s my first Paralympic Games shift at The Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich and I’ve no idea what to expect from my next involvement in London 2012.
Pulling, changing faces, rotating the boss; so many new phrases, so little time. Unlike my outsider’s role at Lords I’m away from the public and in among the athletes. I’m stationed on the Practice Range, attending to stray arrows and even more stray media types. Being among the Paralympians is a fascinating experience. According to my colleagues in the FOP team (It stands for Field of Play. There was I thinking I was going to be lounging around all day in a big shirt reciting Keats.) the atmosphere is more chilled out than it was at Lord’s and so this proves to be the case as Games Maker and Paralympian happily coexist.
I get to be on nodding terms with these wonderful athletes and I chart their progress from afar as the competition hots up. One of the archers is taken to the hearts of the London crowd in particular. Matt Stutzman, an armless archer from the USA, captivates audiences with his unique style and charming personality and finishes with a silver medal in the Compound Open Final. The strains of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’ reverberate evocatively around the arena at the end of the medals ceremony and with a lump in my throat I know my time at London 2012 is coming to an end.
The memories will live on however. What a summer it was dear nephew. Never mind all that rainfall from May to July you’ll doubtless be told about, 2012 was a golden summer; Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Laura Trott, Sarah Storey, David Weir, Joe Strummer, Ben Ainslie, Ellie Simmonds, Victoria Pendleton, Sebastian Coe, Greg Rutherford are but a few who are proof of that.
Here’s to your future. Here’s to our future.

Much love,

Uncle H x

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