London’s high performance summer is about to begin.
A Henman Hill mood is rolling out across the capital – surprise at having got this far and anxiety about what happens next.
Thankfully the weather has stepped in. It is damp and dreadful – an oppression of rain – a familiar blanket for a public keeping its chin up and disregarding all logistical odds.
This is what Londoners understand – creating miracles from a soggy island that each summer tries to convince itself a British tennis player will make it through to the Wimbledon finals.
The heroically water-resistant Olympic flame is still flickering around the UK, closing in slowly on a London braced for the world’s spotlight.
London looks sleek. It has polished and tidied its mix of metal and glass, and grand old architecture along the Thames. It is ready to impress the hundreds of thousands of visitors, athletes and officials who are about to arrive.
This is the third time the Games have come to the capital. They were here in 1908, relocated from an Italy still paying for the damage caused by Mount Vesuvius’ 1906 eruption, and they were here again after the Second World War in 1948.
The 1908 Games were important for the marathon as London had to lengthen the race to ensure that the runners, who started in Windsor, would finish in front of the royal box in the White City Stadium. The resulting 26.2 miles became the official marathon distance. This year’s Olympic route (http://www.london2012.com/documents/general/london-2012-marathon-route-map.pdf) is very different to that covered by the legendary Phidippides and the long-distance runners of Ancient Greece but it too will demand extremes of pace and endurance.
The 2012 Olympians, at least the majority, have now been named. They are the physical greats tasked with ‘inspiring a generation’. Behind them stand the thousands dealing with the fiscal demands of the Games. They all have just three more nerve-shredding weeks to wait before the countdown clock can tick off its final seconds.
Is it too much to deal with – performance at such heights and for so many? Possibly not for the athletes and organisers who have been acclimatising slowly over the past year but it might be for the spectators.
Stern warnings from Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, are everywhere. The problem is that not enough of us have practised taking him seriously and it is difficult to imagine the consequences of not doing so.
Is it too late for us to have some form of mental reinforcement? Should we be focused more intently on our own unpredictable disciplines? Should there be elite teams to urge us on in our conquest of the M25 ‘citius (swifter)’; in our courage on the underground ‘altius (higher)’; and in our determination in the cross-discipline challenge of bladder control ‘fortius (stronger)’?
We might not be running from the plains of Marathon to Athens but just getting to a stadium will call on the Olympian in all of us.