The week has passed athletically, for athletes at least.
Winners won, losers lost, and no matter how much a nation jumped and shouted, Mo Farah couldn’t haul himself over the line in front of the others just one more time. To many, that final silver will be a blemish on his long record of unremitting gold. Not to me. As with Usain Bolt, victory would only have sparked cries of ‘Why is he retiring? Why not just one more?’ Perfection would have been too perfect. We need to know our heroes are fallible.
Before the race I’d treated my family to one of those gnomic utterances I’m prone to.
‘He’s not going to do it.’
It was a canny bit of reverse reverse reverse reverse psychology, designed to work its magic in the usual way, and as each slow lap passed, the commentators became more and more certain that the opposition were ‘playing into Mo’s hands’ and that I’d be proved wrong. To be fair to them, ten gold medals worth of evidence pointed to the likelihood of Mo doing it again.
But he’s 34 and tired, and other people are entitled to win.
The slow burn of a long distance race can make for unbearable tension, but that’s nothing to watching a British relay squad carry a baton round a track. The stressful associations of this event stem from childhood trauma – ‘Pascoe’s dropped the baton!’ – and the expectation is now that there will at some stage in what we are repeatedly assured is a ‘very technical event’ be some kind of British disaster. We watched that final almost in silence, save for a muttered ‘Just get it round’ every ten seconds or so, and then a bit of shouting at the end when it became clear, about a metre from the line, that there was no way we could stuff it up from there.
Shouting at athletes is a bit of a recurring theme in our lives. We did a lot of it the last time Britain’s men won a sprint relay gold. On that occasion we were in the stadium, so at least our hollering had no effect on the neighbours. We hardly saw a thing, of course, but shouted our heads off anyway.
We got even shoutier earlier that week when we saw Kelly Holmes win the first of her two gold medals. The evidence is below.
Now before you get all, you know, ‘What the hell is that?’, I feel I should spring to my own defence. I feel quite strongly that where this footage fails in actually recording the event in question, it more than compensates for that failing in capturing the atmosphere, recording what it was like to be in the stadium on that historic occasion. I would mistrust anyone who had the presence of mind to hold a camera still and in silence at such an exciting moment. Enjoy, if that’s the word.