There is nothing that can truly illustrate the illuminating effect that the Olympics and Paralympics bathed London in. For almost five electrifying weeks my hometown became a global centre for change, triumph and hope. My daily journey to work on the (not too packed) DLR was reinvigorated by the endless issues of The Metro detailing the amazing achievements that had occurred the night before. It became entirely acceptable to smile warmly at each other rather than gaze awkwardly into overhead adverts, it was OK to peer over your neighbours shoulder to share the experience and sometimes people actually spoke to each other!
For the people that had not been able to get tickets, the atmosphere seeped out of the stadium, oozing out of the Olympic venues right into the core of the city. From the thousands of parties and gatherings to the endless advertising, it was a momentous occasion that warmed the hardest of hearts.
For me, previous Olympics were nothing more then glorified sports days at school. Watching the athletes in previous games limber up made me shudder with the memory of trudging to Wheegal Road running track to humiliate myself. I had the confidence and motivation of a sloth and provided the teachers and pupils alike with a good laugh every time I attempted to participate. To my naïve mind, sport was just a way of making the more egotistical students feel special. And yes I ate up every last morsel of those words almost ten years later when the Olympics finally arrived in my back garden. As someone that naturally detested any type of physical competition (confidence issues) and hated making definite commitments (lazy issues) the idea of watching people that had mastered those ethics left me tinged me with the tiniest bit of envy.
I quickly realised that as a perfectly able bodied young woman, I spend hardly anytime appreciating my health and body. I go to the gym a few times a week at best and only an hour at a time. Other then a few hours playing Zumba on my Wii I’ve spent summer gorging on junk and wallowing in front of the TV. I’m ashamed that people that have come so close to losing there lives are capable of rising above their disability and achieving the unbelievable whilst I do nothing!
In such a short amount of time, the effects of the phenomenal Paralympics will reverberate through the UK for years to come. I don’t pity people with disabilities but feel inspired by them. I don’t just see an unfortunate accident or birth defect, but perseverance and endurance. Young children will now link amputees with athletes and truly see them as superhuman. They are like regular people, simply enhanced. The Paralympic athletes are even more incredible the Olympians in some ways; they’ve developed an unbreakable psychology to overcome the limitations of their bodies. The Paralympics promoted equality in a way that nothing else could. In a daring move, Channel 4 aired comedies such as ‘I am spasticus’ that showed that humour and disability can work together without being cruel or hurtful. If we can make jokes about tragedies, they lose their power to hurt and control us.
The athlete’s parade today was a beautiful moment for British sporting history. The unity and happiness seen coursing through the streets ended an amazing summer for this legendary city. We don’t put real people on pedestals enough, so to see a celebration of actual achievement was a welcome break from the usual talentless celebrities that we exult. I found the event tinged with sadness, as I realised we would probably never see something as unifying and glorious ever again. We’ve had the royal wedding, the diamond jubilee and the Olympics to be proud of. Now how do we top that?