A night in July that lifted the Olympic spirit

Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony
Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony
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The world is going to hell in a handcart. Terror attacks on the Cote d’Azur, coups in Turkey, a tangerine in a toupee has won the Republican nomination for President of the USA.

Where can we turn for solace? For some affirmation of the idea that humans aren’t all bad, that we can rise above the gutter and look at our fellow men and women and think ‘actually, they’re not that bad after all’?

You might point to Rio in just under two weeks’ time. On Friday, August 5, the games of the 31st Olympiad will begin.

At least, it will if the Olympics actually make it to the starting line. Just a quick glance at recent news reports show Russian threats of court cases to get their banned athletes reinstated, police arresting suspected IS terrorists, doomsayers claiming venues aren’t finished, not to mention golfers withdrawing from the Olympic pitch and putt because of fears about the Zika virus.

However, as One Night in 2012 (BBC1, Sunday, 10.30pm) showed, the London Olympics were plagued by similar problems. Not a mosquito-borne virus, maybe, but fears of terror threats and unfinished stadiums, certainly.

In fact, as the programme pointed out, there was a fear that, thanks to the 2008 financial crisis and the impact of austerity, the opening ceremony for the London 2012 games might consist of Boris Johnson playing whiff-whaff.

Fortunately, Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle, and more importantly, thousands of volunteers, helped set the tone for an incredible few weeks, which seemed to lift the spirits of the nation.

The documentary revealed the incredible work that went in to the opening ceremony, from the sky-diving Queen to the logistics of removing hundreds of yards of green carpet from a stadium floor. By the end, as in that night in July almost exactly four years ago, your spirits were lifted and your faith in people’s willingness to muck in, get involved and do the right thing was, pretty much, restored.

Yes, the programme concentrated rather too much on the people at the top, but clearly, the occasion still resonated with the ordinary men, women and children who took part, and it was their voice which shone through.

Let’s hope Rio 2016 can provide us with more magical memories, Heaven knows, we need them.