I will never forget the moment on 6 July 2005 that London was awarded the 2012 Olympics. I was in a taxi, on my way to catch a train from Brighton station. The driver had his radio on, and I asked him to turn it up, even though I wasn’t particularly interested.
Like everyone, I was wearily braced for the inevitable, which was that the man was going to say “Paris”. Once it was official that the 2012 Games would be in Paris, we’d all say, “Well, that’s a shame, but we did our best, and on the plus side, think of all the lovely money we’ll save.”
And then, just as the taxi started to speed downhill, the man on the radio said, “London!” and I felt a great wave of euphoria. It was honestly one of the biggest emotional surprises of my life – that London being awarded the Olympics would make me so excited and happy. At the station I took it upon myself to spread the joyful word. “We’ve got the Olympics,” I told people in the ticket queue. “We’ve got the Olympics,” I told the man in the booking office. “We’ve got the Olympics,” I informed the automatic barrier.
All of which, I must say, makes it all the more bizarre that, seven years later, with the Olympics starting, I find that I can’t work up any enthusiasm for them whatsoever. Are you aware of this tragic lack of enthusiasm in yourself or others? Do you worry that this makes you essentially a joyless, cynical, even bitter person? Do you worry it makes you French? Is it possible, as the countdown to the Opening Ceremony ticks the few remaining days away, that you will continue to feel so strangely unmoved by it all? Is the terrible 2012 logo at the root of your feelings of indifference? Are you happy to believe that the satirical Twenty Twelve is a real documentary? Are you, in short, beyond hope?
Well, just take a minute to answer the questions below, and maybe you will find some clarity.
The 12 questions have been specially devised by a team of psychological profilers (honestly, there are loads of us here) to determine where you really stand in terms of Olympics apathy, and whether you are a lost cause. Answer a, b, c or d on each question, tot up the answers and refer to the results panel at the end for an astoundingly insightful analysis of your chances of a fulfilling Olympics 2012!
1. Who is the lady to the left…
(a) Denise Lewis.
(b) Don’t know, but she has a nice face.
(c) That’s Jessica Ennis, the 26-yearold multi-eventing athlete who won silver at this year’s world indoor championships.
(d) Why should I know this? Who really cares?
2. The sailing events will be held where?
(b) Portugal would be nice.
(c) Weymouth. It’s quite a well-known fact that the sailing will be in Weymouth.
(d) Wherever they take place you can be damn sure I’ll be somewhere else.
3. Where were the first Olympics of the modern era held?
(b) Are you sure? It might have been Earls Court.
(c) It was Athens, for heaven’s sake.
(d) I do know they were in Athens, because that’s common knowledge, but that doesn’t mean I’m remotely interested in London 2012.
4. How will you be spending the Olympics?
(a) I’ll watch what I can. The trouble is that they’re always on in the middle of the night.
(b) Do I need to decide yet? When does it start?
(c) Watching the Games! Watching the Games!
(d) I’ve booked myself into a retreat for high-minded Olympics refuseniks, where we’ll turn our backs on the obscene waste of money, and knit blankets for the homeless from reclaimed audio tape.
5. In the modern pentathlon, which sport completes this list: shooting, running, riding, fencing and ..?
(b) Is this a trick question? Aren’t there only four events in a pentathlon?
(c) I want to kill myself. It’s swimming.
(d) You see? Why would anyone in the real world need to be able to shoot, run, ride, fence and swim better than anyone else can shoot, run, ride, fence and swim? This is exactly the sort of contrived nonsense that makes people like me say, “Pah!” to the Olympics. Thus, I say again, “Pah!”
6. Who designed the Team GB clothing?
(a) Graham Norton.
(b) Isn’t athletics clothing always the same? Isn’t it always basically pants? They can’t run around in frocks and trousers, can they?
(c) Stella McCartney designed the Team GB kit. It was quite a big story!
(d) I think it would be much more interesting if they had to run round in everyday clothing. Well done for the suggestion, (b)!
(b) Oh, cheers.
(d) Yeah, I like it.
7. Could you please stop talking among yourselves? This is a serious quiz and you’re ruining it.
(a) Oh, lighten up. It’s only a quiz.
(b) I’m really sorry. I’m doing my best.
(c) I’d be perfectly happy for this charade to stop. These people clearly know nothing about the Olympics.
(d) As if we should!
8. What are the names of the London 2012 mascots? (clue: as you can see to the left there are two of them, and they are named after British towns)
(a) Keynsham and Malmesbury.
(b) London and east London? I don’t understand the question.
(c) Wenlock and Mandeville. I already have three of each.
(d) Have you seen these wretched mascots? Just look at them!
9. All right. Just four more. How many gold medals did Steve Redgrave win?
(b) Can I please not do this one? Could you just ask (c)? He seems to know everything.
(c) The answer is five.
(d) (sarcastic) Ugh, how fascinating.
10. What will the Olympic park be renamed after the Games?
(b) You mean they’ve thought that far ahead?
(c) The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(d) Coca-Colaville, I shouldn’t wonder.
11. Is it news to you that this time the Olympic Games will NOT take place in the middle of the night, because London is situated in our own time zone?
(a) Oh. Can I change the answer I gave to number four?
(b) I don’t understand why they’re usually in the middle of the night.
(c) No, this is not news to me. Please make this stop.
(d) Ha! What difference does it make?
12. What do you really think of the London 2012 logo?
(a) It’s terrible.
(c) I hate it.
(d) I agree.
I promised an in-depth analysis of your answers…
Mostly As You are deeply stupid. On the plus side, however, I do admire your confidence.
Mostly Bs You truly live in a world of your own. How often do you interact with other people face to face? Maybe there are social clubs you could join.
Mostly Cs You are much too excited about the Olympics already, and need to calm down.
Mostly Ds There is something familiar about your mean-spirited responses. Did I go out with you in the 1980s?
The good news is that this entire quiz has been irrelevant which is a good job, as I came out as Mostly Bs and I’m going to be filing little reports from the Olympics for the Today programme on Radio 4. The point is, enjoying the Olympics is not about knowing who won the bantamweight boxing at Seoul in 1988 (Kennedy McKinney, USA). It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t pick Chris Hoy out of a line-up of people dressed up like bananas. All the pressure on us to get excited about the Olympics has been counter-productive for a simple, commonsense reason: you can’t get people worked up until they are ready, especially by feeding them facts. According to all the sociological studies that I’ve just made up, the average person gets properly interested in big sports events just 12 hours before they actually start! With big, national, home-territory events held in Britain, the average ETP (excitement trigger point) is even less, because we British people:
(a) over-think things until all we can see is the potential for disaster
(b) can’t help dwelling on the fact that it’s been raining solidly since April
(c) enjoy taking a perverse, killjoy, hostile position to anything aimed at the general population, purely for the sake of appearing superior.
What I know will happen is that on the first day of the Games I will re-experience my wonderful taxi moment of July 2005. I will remember how I felt when that man said, “The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing that the Games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of London.” And I’ll also remember that watching the Olympics is a touchingly innocent activity – as innocent as it gets. You just watch people of the highest possible fitness and talent competing against each other, the pressure driving them to feats of brilliance.
Now the time has come, I know I will be overwhelmed by the London Olympics. I think we all will be. And this from someone who genuinely doesn’t see why you need a special kit designer, when the athletes run round in pants.
Lynne Truss reports from the Olympics for Today on Radio 4