11 takes ahead of Rio 2016

William Volcov/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images

Having had a lengthy hiatus from writing about the Olympics (reasons: many!), I found myself swept up as the days and hours ticked to the start of Rio 2016.

Having committed a lot of time, words and plenty other stuff over on my long-time blog on Tumblr (and do feel free to revisit the London 2012 section should you fancy a slice of nostalgia), I figured I’d give the brave, newish world of Medium a try for a few musings on the 31st Olympiad.

I can’t quite believe it’s been four years since London. In fact, it was this very day in 2012 Usain Bolt won the men’s 100m final at what is now the London Stadium (please) — and yet, here we are. And having lived through and breathed the hosting of a games in your own backyard, observing it from afar as someone else takes the mantle is a weirdly gratifying experience.

Anyway. Listicles are still just about the right side of passé, right?

1. Whatever the Portuguese is for ‘Keep calm and carry on’, sing it with me…

So some of the athletes’ rooms are unfinished, and venues are being worked on right to the very last second. History tells us time and again that it will be alright on the night.

2. Cariocas: enjoy it!

I had a similar sentiment ahead of the London Olympics — for 6 years and 11 months, large sectors of… us couldn’t resist punching ourselves in the face and indulging in some perverse sense of self-schadenfreude. And then the Games came. And went. That two weeks breezed by quicker than a juiced Russian — more so that anyone would care to admit. And just like that the journey was over. What may have felt like an incredibly arduous slog in Rio must be celebrated now. The hard part is over. It’s up to the athletes, as it always should be, to make it a success.

3. Zika, schemka…

When Grant Wahl posts something like this on Twitter — you get the sense the Zika ‘crisis’ may make a lot of people (looking at you, male golfers) look very foolish, very quickly.

4. Please make the cauldron special again

I loved Thomas Heatherwick’s design of the London 2012 cauldron. It’s beautiful. But as both an attendee of the Opening Ceremony then, and many events thereafter at the Olympic Stadium (that’s better) I hated the fact the cauldron was hidden away. And I didn’t love the way it was lit within the ceremonies. I hope Rio will take a leaf from Beijing or Barcelona (my personal favourite) and ensure the Olympic Flame is there for all of Rio de Janeiro to see. Everyone loves the shot below — how much better would it be with the lit cauldron in full view..?

Getty Images/Chris McGrath

5. Brexit Britain needs Mo

Mohamed Muktar Jama ‘Mo’ Farah. A black, British-raised Muslim. Double Olympic champion. Bonafide hero of London 2012. As much as I (like everyone) love Jess, Tom, Andy, Wiggo and many others — Britain, post-Brexit, needs Mo to win desperately. Paradoxically, seeing a great British Muslim represent the flag, and the country — with a gold medal around his neck — in the times we’re in now is not so different to seeing Khizr and Ghazala Khan stand up in the face of Donald Trump’s bigotry in the US. #FlyMo

6. Brazil needs winners beyond football

Brazil are not the first country to stage an Olympics where football (soccer) is the national pastime. If the touch paper for Rio 2016 is to be lit, success has to come away from the beautiful game. Maybe beach volleyball on Copacabana will capture the nation’s eyeballs. The ‘L’ word (that’s legacy) for these games would be seeing the yellow, blue and green celebrated in sports for something outside of the Maracana.

7. How good are the 2012 Tweeps?

Being a proud one myself, I can’t let it pass that the #2012Tweeps are still going strong, five years on from being born — helping so many people across the world attend some of the greatest sports and cultural events out there. I know a large delegation will be present in Rio, and I salute them. Bloody legends.

8. If I was to bet a cheeky tenner on something…

I’d sniff out the odds on Team GB winning gold, silver and bronze in the men’s Golf tournament. Unlike our Irish and American counterparts, we’re all business with a very strong group that knows how to win. But please, gamble responsibly…

9. The Question…

Who will be the Brazilian Emeli Sandé? And will Sergio Mendes sing ‘Hey Jude’? Tune in tonight!

10. Cariocas: go see stuff!

Olympics (and Paralympics) are once-in-lifetime deals. All the chatter suggests there are lots of tickets available locally. Take advantage, go see stuff. It makes all the difference, even if it’s free. The events, the mix of visitors, attention — it’s truly like nothing else.

11. The Olympics are still the greatest show on Earth

After the London Games, I was fortunate to relocate and live/work in the US. I got to have my fill of American sports, and then return home and enjoy world class events like the Rugby World Cup, and Wimbledon. But truthfully, nothing compares to the Olympics. When you see professional sports (and their mouthpieces) sneer, it’s because they know the Olympics has a reach and impact they can only dream of. It’s the only truly global sporting event. And, in what’s been (let’s be honest) a terrible year, the Rio Games allows us a chance to escape — if only briefly — and enjoy the spirit of competition and participation. Of friendship and collaboration. Of nature and modernity. Of differences and the celebration therein.

The SuperBowl, the Premier League, The Ashes, the World Cup, and others… None of them can do this.

Força Rio.

Força Team GB..!

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