On Monday I will be at Greenwich Park to watch the cross-country day of the eventing competition in the London 2012 Olympics and I am so excited about it that I feel sick. Seriously. It's worse (or better?) than that feeling of anticipation and joy that you get on Christmas Eve. I am having to actively stop myself thinking about it because I just want to go ARRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHH extremely loudly every time that I do.
Here's the thing. I love sport, even though I don't take part in anything other than swimming with any great regularity. I volunteer with British Eventing and that's about as close to competition as I'll ever get. But watching sport is brilliant. I will watch almost anything (not golf. It is the most tedious and pointless thing ever and especially the Ryder Cup with all those annoying Yanks bellowing "GET IN THE HOLE!") and this is only heightened during the Olympics when I become truly sports obsessed and plan all my time around what's on the tv. Yes, I am that crazy person who books time off work just to make sure that I can watch certain events. I devour excessive amounts of sports that just don't get much, if any, tv coverage the rest of the year and I love it. I've watched things that I won't ever forget.
I remember Atlanta in 1996 and having a sleepover at my friend Ruth's house. A houseful of 12 and 13 year old girls who, when we weren't busy drinking ridiculous amounts of coke or putting toothpaste in each others' hair (yeah, I don't know why we did that), were absolutely hooked on watching the gymnastics. A small amount of drooling over Alexei Nemov as he won multiple medals may have taken place...
I remember the rowing commentary from so many Olympics - that "Just!" for the four in Athens or "Go boys. Go boys!" for the eight in Sydney or the whole world going mad when Steve Redgrave won his fifth gold medal.
I remember this face:
I remember staying up all night for Sydney in 2000 watching something with very little British involvement that I didn't even understand the rules of (judo or something like that), desperately trying to stay awake so that I wouldn't miss Audley Harrison's gold medal fight. And I don't even like boxing.
I remember holding my breath as the stadium lit up with flashbulbs when Cathy Freeman sprung up out of the blocks at the start of the 400m final.
I remember sitting there utterly gobsmacked at how bad some of the riding was in the modern pentathlon at Bejing - one of the very few times I will ever think "I really could do better than that" about any type of top-level sporting event.
I remember those moments that truly define Olympic spirit. Not just the world records and the gold medals and the superhuman performances. Although I was young at the time of the Barcelona games and not even that interested in sport back then, I do remember Derek Redmond's semi-final race very vividly and it still makes me cry to watch it now. Ditto Kerri Strug battling on through injury to win team gold in the gymnastics in Atlanta. Even things like Eric the Eel struggling his way up the pool sum up exactly what it's all about.
The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
So this year, although I'll no doubt watch an enormous amount of tv coverage and sit through some iconic commentary, it won't be the main way I remember these Olympics. I'm going to remember it because I'm going to be there. Watching my sport, in my country, cheering on my heroes. I cannot wait.