London’s ‘Golden Hour’ – a very British story

Flight booked, bags packed, expectations high.

London is my second home. I lived there through the Thatcher years. Those were formative times; anti-apartheid marches, campaigns for nuclear disarmament, IRA bombings, homelessness, riots and strikes. Those were my ‘Iron Lady’ impressions. Fun things included punk music, campaign for ‘real ale’, cricket, the ‘whisky mile’, and mostly just being ‘there’. Well, after a 20 year absence, I was ‘there’ again.

For me the Olympics couldn’t have got off to a better start. At Eton Dorney, the rowing venue, NZ (land of my birth) won gold in the double skulls. (American sports enthusiasts expect gold. We smaller nations really treasure our victories.  Gold tastes especially good.)

On Saturday morning Aug 4th the very excellent British newspapers described the possibility of a ‘golden hour’ at track and field that night. Three gold medal possibilities were on offer. If you know anything about the British and sport you would know that they can sportingly self-destruct in many different ways; Wimbledon, World Cup soccer and most other famous events (they did recently win the Tour de France for the first time in 99 years. Go Wiggo).

The London Olympic stadium was the excellent venue for the ‘golden hour’. Outside, there were a multiplicity of ridiculously easy ways to part with your money; souvenirs, food concessions etc. Inside, eighty thousand knowledgeable pundits were living a potential golden dream.

In track and field, events like long jump can take a while because they can be interrupted by many other events, like the Heptathlon 800 meters. Only a few, including my most erudite mate Brian, saw Rutherford (UK) do his best jump in the long jump. The rest of us were distracted.  Jess Ennis won the final event of her heptathlon, the 800 metres, in the style of a true champion. She was already so far ahead in the overall standings that she could have cantered. Instead she sprinted to win. Greg Rutherford’s long jump wasn’t bettered and both became instant darlings (especially Jess). So, two golds won.

Next the 10,000 metres. Mo Farah’s story started as a 7 year old refugee from Somalia. He was spotted as a potential runner and subsequently coached and nurtured. He’s now thoroughly British.

As you can appreciate, 25 laps of the track can take some time. Mo stayed close, drifted, then regrouped. Towards the end he sprinted, was caught, then sprinted again.

Eighty thousand spectators, plus the British TV commentary team (including legend Michael Johnson of the Atlanta games golden shoes spectacle) went berko. I’ve never in my life experienced such single-minded group hysteria, passion, motivation and noise. 80 thousand vocal chords in concert for Mo.  He celebrated his win with a dance now nicknamed the Mobot.

The British had their trifecta; Jess, Greg and Mo (Ennis, Rutherford and Farah). Names mostly unfamiliar to Americans, but household names to Brits and other anglophiles (I even had a text from buddies in NZ who were watching).

Later, I grasped the heads of Brian’s two teenage kid’s and said ‘remember this night’. It wasn’t necessary.

Thanks for the tickets Brian.