So the Olympics have been and gone. Weren't they been amazing? I've lost count of the number of friends who have been sucked in to the unexpectedly infectious delight of seldom-seen sports like handball, and the mysterious-sounding-but-super-exciting Omnium. But for me, the best part of London 2012 wasn't necessarily the sport. These are a few of my favourite (Olympic) things:
1) Victoria Pendleton's story
Behind the stupendous success of track cycling's golden girl is the most amazing love story. Basically, she fell in love with her coach, which is a huge no-no, and their relationship caused both of them no end of difficulties. Over on Twitter, the brilliant Rowan Coleman described it as "Romeo and Juliet, with bikes", which sums it up perfectly.
In interviews, Victoria came across as a girl-next-door type, and I engaged with her much more than I might have done otherwise. As a result, I really felt her highs (winning Gold in the Keirin) and lows (relegation for a minuscule technical transgression in the women's team sprint). I don't mind admitting to an enormous girl-crush on her and wish her every success in her retirement.
2) The Games Makers
We went to watch the rowing at Eton Dorney, and were lucky enough to see Team GB's first gold medal of London 2012, but apart from the amazing performances of our rowers, two things really stood out. The first was the people who had volunteered to help with the games - the Games Makers. They lined our route into the rowing venue and were cheerful, informative and utterly awesome. They really did help to make our games experience special.
The second stand-out part of our visit was...
3) The Armed Forces
They were handling the security at Eton Dorney and were brilliant in every way. I know they were drafted in at the last minute to cover failures by the private company contracted to support the games but I think it's been an excellent PR exercise for our armed forces. They usually operate at a distance from the public, doing a necessary but veiled job for the country, and their presence at the Olympic venues has brought them closer to us. I loved seeing their efficiency first hand and being able to chat and joke with them. The fact that they made a huge fuss of my baby helped :)
4) Mo Farah and Usain Bolt
And hasn't Mo Farah got the loveliest smile? Sigh...
I think this is the first time I've ever experienced a sense of joyousness while watching a sporting event. It began with the Opening Ceremony and expanded right the way through the games. Was it because all the athletes were striving towards one common goal, and we, as spectators, were feeling that through them? I haven't a clue but I want to bottle it.
6) Andy Murray beating Roger Federer
At last! Maybe Andy was just waiting for the biggest stage ever to seize his moment. Or maybe the crowd spurred him on. Whatever the reason, it was a sweet sight.
7) Catherine Grainger
I felt as though I'd been on a journey with Catherine over the course of the last few Olympics. In Beijing, she was so clearly devastated by her silver medal that I really wanted her to bring home a gold this time. When John Inverdale asked Sir Steve Redgrave who he wanted most to win, he didn't hesitate in saying Catherine's name. In fact, he said the whole of Team GB wanted it for her. They got their wish.
This Olympic games will be known as the one where women owned the stage. For the first time, every country had a female competitor, including some who had struggled even to be allowed to compete. And they were AMAZING. Every single one of them.
9) Opening Ceremony
I admit that I had low expectations for the opening ceremony. But right from the very start, I was gripped. When they celebrated the richness of children's literature, I could have kissed Danny Boyle right on the lips. Of course, once you knew that Frank Cottrell-Boyce was involved, it all made sense. But somehow, the whole ceremony perfectly encapsulated the essence of our island nation. Let's not talk about Macca at the end, though.
10) Oscar Pistorius
I knew I wanted to try and get tickets for the Paralympics long before I saw Oscar Pistorius (AKA Bladerunner) speeding past able-bodied athletes in the 400 metre sprint heats. It's the first time anyone has competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic games and I hope it's a sign of things to come. At the very least, bring on the Paralympics! I need another fix of joyousness...
So how about you? What were your stand out Olympic moments?