The Olympics is all about being in the right place at the right time, and at 1.34pm in London, on the last day of the 30th Olympic Games yesterday, a man dressed in black brought both of those together with two simple words: “Beer, sir?”
“F***, yeah.” Yes, most decidedly yes. It was hot in London yesterday, reaching a high of 26 deg C at one point. The sweat was pouring off me. Well, it was dripping. Okay, so there may have been a bead or two, and it may have been because a fat Kenyan had been leaning on top of me as I stood in the mixed zone interviewing Stephen Mokoka, using my shoulder as a microphone stand and my back to rest his podgy little stomach upon. Perhaps it was an ancient Maasai ritual, perhaps the next thing he would do, would be to bring me a gourd of cow’s blood and declare that we were married. Nah, he was too fat to be a Maasai.
The man in black, however, was skinny, and like all of the other people who have served me in cafés and bars at these Games, he was not from London. He wasn’t even from Britain. Poland, I think. But he had beers on ice for sale and I had cash. They weren’t cheap, at £4 each, that’s over R52. So I ordered two. I needed rehydration and I needed something to take the edge off what is the bitter-sweet day of the Olympics.
The final day of the Olympics is weird. Happiness at the end of what is the toughest event in sports journalism to cover. Happiness at going home to a loved one who has distracted you with messages such as, “are you going to knock me up before Rio?”
Happiness at the thought of paying less than R50 for a beer. Bitterness? Well, it’s over. The best Olympics of the modern era is done and we have to go home. It feels like it’s just begun, and then, there was a pop concert for a closing ceremony and it was all gone.
And. Nothing. You never get used to the emptiness the day after the Olympics. For 16 days it consumes you, spins you around and discombobulates your brain as you struggle to make sense of it.
Any sort of structure you thought you had built up disappears. Suddenly your time is your own and not regulated by a million deadlines, kick-off times, medal ceremonies and the opening of the media bar.
You miss the Olympics. I spoke to Andrew Longmore, a writer for the Sunday Times, and told him that I wished that the Olympics was another week. He knew what I meant. It has been a wonderful celebration of all that is good, and sometimes, bad, about sport. The Olympics have become enjoyable again.
They are no longer a pissing contest. Athens wanted the 2004 Games for national pride after they were denied the opportunity to host in 1996. They rushed it, and they botched it, and they are still paying the cost.
Beijing put on the most expensive public relations programme in history as the regime attempted to portray themselves as quite nice people really, all the while monitoring and blocking the internet that was used by the media. No Olympic Truce there, then. London has been the best of the three I have attended.
These were the friendly Games of a people in love with them. These were the fairytale Games of Mo Farah. These were the rock n roll Games of Usain Bolt. These were my Games, and I’ll miss them.