There were stories of gloom every morning on the radio; people wanting to curb this and that, spectators being banned from taking all sorts of things into the Olympic Park and an army of people being sent out to patrol the cities of Britain and check whether anyone was misusing the Olympic brand. Or, seemingly more importantly, stepping on the toes of the huge corporations who’d sponsored parts of the games.
All of that changed from the Wednesday before the games began. Mrs Button took the afternoon off to travel down to London with a special ticket for the last rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. One of those times when knowing someone who knows someone comes in ever so handy.
And she sent me a text, way after bedtime, telling me that it was all so exciting that I’d have been unable to cope with the emotion of being there.
It turned out that she wasn’t the only one. Twitter was going bonkers with Danny Boyle’s #savethesurprise hashtag. I get a lot of my news via Twitter these days, and it astounded me that the people who’d seen the rehearsals all really were saving the surprise.
Two days later, I was awake ’till way after midnight and utterly mesmerised by the whole thing. I’m still a little unsure of how bizarre it might have seemed to the rest of the world, but it was a fabulous celebration of Britishness.
I squealed a little when the Shipping Forecast spluttered across the opening. I didn’t really stop gasping with pride and pleasure until Paul McCartney came on to his own spluttering soundtrack and closed the show.
I’ve never been so excited about anything sporty. And it’s been wonderful to share in the excitement online. I can’t imagine it would have been anything like as great if we’d done it without twitter and facebook. But I’ve been on the edge of my seat at sports I’d never watched before, and I’ve cried along with the stories from the athletes and all of their support teams.
We needed this, I think.
I know all countries have times when things feel pretty grim, but we’d been feeling grimmer than I can remember for a pretty long time.
The momentum that had started with the Jubilee and the first of the torch runs has reached its perfect crescendo.
I’m not sporty. Not at all. I once scored a rounder, and I once managed to turn a single cartwheel. Both of them utter flukes, but both elating enough to help me know what a whisper of victory might feel like.
I know it’s the sport that counts, but it’s been so many other things too. The Royal Mail painting postboxes gold in our gold medalists’ home towns. The police officers striking poses to match winners. Athletes’ wives and partners talking about the sacrifices they’ve made for years for the sake of their loved one having a few moments to shine.
It’s been great because we’ve all been able to get on board with it. Those are the moments that have made the Olympics. And those are the moments that have made us proud to be British.
Photos are Creative Commons licenced and from The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s flickr stream.