It has come…The final morning of the 2012 London Olympics.
Before London’s laborers start taking down the pink Olympic direction signs and the pedestrian barricades, before clean up crews start sweeping up the streets and Tube stations, I had an opportunity to sit down over dinner with locals to see what the average suburban Londoner thought about their city’s Games.
I had the pleasure of dining in the kitchen of Paul Neumann with his friends in the quiet North London neighborhood of Finchley. While their collected children played outside and munched pizza, we kicked around the Olympics over a bottle of wine and a bit of chicken curry – with cheesecake for pudding.
With the final day of competition and the eagerly awaited Closing Ceremonies looming, the entirety of the 2012 Games dominated conversation.
Neumann, a father of two, admitted he didn’t have great passion for the Olympics before they started, but he got caught up in the action.
“I had friends nagging me to go to the London Olympic events,” Neumann said. “But, since I have season tickets for the Tottenham Hotspurs (soccer team), I thought I was more or less ‘sported’ out. Why would I want to drive all the way out to Stratford, fight the crowds and all of that?”
“But, once I saw the opening ceremonies on TV, I thought they were spectacular. Now, I realize I would’ve loved to see some of it live. Then I was very much into it. I’ve watched events I never would’ve thought I’d like. Women’s Synchronized Diving. Cycling. Rowing. I watched all of it.”
Sue Shefras, the director of Blue Ribbon Events, believes the success of the London Olympics will lead to more enthusiasm for all sports through Great Britain.
“I can see it in my own children who are so excited and are watching as much of the Olympics as they possibly can,” Shefras said. “I think you’re going to see that excitement continue – not just through the Paralympics, but for a long time here in London.
Melet Markos, a young accountant working in Central London, was more impressed by the energy that pervaded the city during the Olympiad.
“The energy has been amazing because it’s been a really positive atmosphere all over the city,” Markos said. “That call it ‘Olympic Fever?’ OK. I caught it. The whole event has been organized really well. I work in Westminster and commute through the South Bank, and I didn’t see the Olympics having effect on anything. Not the people. Not the traffic.”
Charlie Ioannou – the chef responsible for our curry – couldn’t offer a single negative word about the London Games. But he did pick a single word of praise.
When asked how the Olympics all came together for him, he offered: “Spankingly.”
While the official 2012 London catchphrase was “Inspire a Generation,” I’m left to wonder as I sit preparing to cover the Closing Ceremonies live later today if we couldn’t have just used “Spankingly” instead. Why not? After all, the verdict is already clear here in London.
Rio 2016? You’ve got your work cut out for you to beat these last two weeks.