In praise of Great Britain and London 2012

Great Britain: our country. Our greatest team.

Tonight marks the end of the greatest show on earth, the London 2012 Olympics. (Roll on the Paralympics!) It’s been a triumph for Great Britain as both host and the third most successful team.

I’ve loved the fact we’ve competed as Great Britain. I wrote during the Beijing Olympics how Great Britain is a far more resonant title for our country than United Kingdom. It’s small wonder that Churchill immortalised Britain in describing our battle for survival in 1940 as the Battle of Britain. He was proud to describe himself as Great Britain’s prime minister. ‘United Kingdom’ carries no such emotional weight. It simply refers to our country’s constitutional status. No one would die in a ditch for the ‘Youkay’. (Britain’s national anthem leaves me equally cold, given it’s all about the head of state not the country. I remain unmoved by the song even after 29 plays…)

(PS: Before anyone comments, I do know the difference between Great Britain and the UK. Perhaps some loyalists in Northern Ireland feel aggrieved that the media never use the Olympic team’s full title of ‘Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.)

Witnessing history: Team GB win London 2012 Olympics opener in Cardiff


Above: Cardiff gets the 2012 Olympics underway

I never thought I’d witness the start of an Olympic Games in my hometown, Cardiff. But that’s exactly what I saw today as Team GB’s women’s football team beat New Zealand 1-0 in the London 2012 opener at Cardiff’s Millennium stadium.

The atmosphere was special as Cardiff welcomed the world – something it’s used to doing as the home of Welsh rugby. It was lovely to experience a genuine enthusiasm for the Games from the many families in the stadium. And the Millennium team did a wonderful job, despite the mad rules imposed on them, such as not allowing us to take bottles of water in on a scorchingly hot day. (The Olympics Gestapo have a lot to answer for. Presumably they were also responsible for the appalling queues for drinks as half the bars weren’t open, which meant many missed the GB goal, as they were still queuing for half time drinks 15 minutes after the break.)

The game was a great advert for women’s football. The action was fast and furious. And it was magical to see the first score of the 2012 Games – for Great Britain.

We’re back tomorrow evening to see Brazil’s men taking on New Zealand.

Below: four year old Owen sleeps through the action.



Above: welcome to Cardiff