Monday, 13 August 2012

A highlight to be cherished - Omi

So it s all over now!!

I'm sitting in a coffee shop on Monday 13th August, the day after the closing ceremony, which was fantastic and on the same scale as the Opening Ceremony. I could have tried to sneak in but i was rather sceptical and so watched it on TV and i had to turn it off after the flame went. What a powerful symbol, especially for a girl who loves her fantasy novels.

i want to write up on one of the most powerful things that happened to me during the Games. 

The night Usain Bolt won the 100 meters, i was lucky enough to be at the stadium, helping out the other purple people there to usher and welcome spectators, trying to be useful, since i had no true justification in being there but my pass allowed it. It was an amazing night at the stadium, topped only by the Super Saturday, in terms of atmosphere and nerve wrecking athletics. I came out of there with the rest of the 80000 spectactors with the familiar grin on my face and a lightness to my step, utterly exhausted emotionally.

I stepped into the Jubilee line and was lucky enough to find a seat across from a grandmother, mother and daughter. They asked me in a strong South African English accent if i was working for the Olympics. I answered yes, naturally and explained that we were all volunteers and that i was at the stadium that evening. They said they were too, and i naturally fell into the "Wasn't Bolt amazing?". And then came the nicest reply ever : "yes, but we were here for Oskie". ...Oscar Pistorius, the first disabled athlete to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics and whose feat at the 400m was eclipsed that evening by the bolting star of the 100m. It turned out that the lady was Oscar's Aunt and the 89 year white haired smiling and full of light elderly woman was his grandmother. They had come especially from South Africa to see the Olympics and had been so far really impressed by British hospitality. I felt truly humbled and honored to meet this family and felt the tears come up and well over. Just thinking of it now makes me sniffle.( told you it was an emotional evening). Omi, the grandma and Dawn the daughter saw it of course and were touched by it and they had tears come up too. It sounds trite and little ridiculous but it was really one of those moments when you feel a surge of love and weird bonding to strangers. Omi came over to sit next to me and proceeded to explain she was going to write to the Queen to say thanks..all this in broken English, as her first language is Afrikaans but, hey, it was perfect. Having 7 children of her own, she brought up her grandson Oscar when his mother passed away when he was 14, so this little old lady, who holds your hand when she speaks and looks at you with warm and strong eyes although she trembles, was instrumental in bringing that athlete to life. 

It gets better. 

Not for me, but for them and the Olympic Spirit.

I left them that evening at Waterloo, where they alighted too, but were moving slower than me, and i just couldn't face any more of this crying as i felt a little overwhelmed and self conscious.

The next evening, in the train this time, i happen upon them again! One of life's great coincidences. They had had an amazing day and evening again ( even though Oscar didn't get through to the finals, who cares, he's opened up a world of possibilities and forced people to rethink what being an athlete really is...answer still pending) and proceeded to tell me what had happened to them the evening before when i left them.

At Waterloo they realised that the next train to Walton on Thames that night was 1h30 later because it was late and few trains were running, so they sat down to wait. A lady from the station, Anna O'Connor, came up to them after a while and asked them where they were going. She then proceeded to go and speak to one of the train drivers who was leaving in the next 10 minutes and promptly came back to them saying that the train was going to make an extra non planned stop on its journey to let them off at Walton on Thames so they didn t have to wait in the station....which is exactly what happened. How amazing is that? All this without knowing who Omi and Dawn and her daughter were. 

British Hospitality, amazing individual or Olympic Spirit, i'm not quite sure, but Omi is writing to the Queen to thank her for her amazing stay in London and the people in this city. 

Keeping that memory close to my heart. 

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