Although it says at the top that this is a music blog, I haven’t come here today to talk about music. Well, I have, but only in a tangential way. The capital city has been caught up in Olympic fever over the last week. As someone who grew up watching a shitload of athletics with my grandad, the weekend’s events were perhaps some of the most remarkable of my sport watching life. And Saturday night, a truly golden night for British athletics in particular, was all the more enjoyable because of where I was when it happened.
And, no, I wasn’t at in the Olympic Stadium. Or even the Olympic Park. No, I was sitting on Blackheath, with a whole load of other people, including Jo, her cousin Paul and his girlfriend, Nicci, in front of a massive screen. We arrived having made the short walk up hill from Greenwich having watched Seth McFarlane’s hilarious Ted in the afternoon. Seen it yet? No? Go and see it as soon as you can, it’s brilliant. I’d never been to Blackheath before, but Paul plays in a band called Inverted Overlook and they had a twenty minute set in a tent on the heath. I’m not sure, now, what the day was in aid of, but we thought we’d go and show some support. When we got there, a band called Edit/Select were just about to start. Being the kind of person who is sniffy about anything unfamiliar, I was dubious. But they were really good, they sounded a lot like Bloc Party and a bit like Joy Division.
And then, Inverted Overlook took the stage. More balls out rocky than the previous band, with two guitarists, one of whom was Paul, a singer who- in the first song sounded a bit like Kurt Cobain- and a heavy sound that went a bit Chilli Peppers without being as annoying later on. Jo and I had been to watch Paul, a laconic (bored?) presence in his previous band Urban Prophecies, before. Here he was, looking a bit like a rock star in the making. Far out.
Then, it was out onto the grass of Blackheath to watch some history being made. The poster girl for London 2012, Jessica Ennis had delivered a brilliant first day in the Heptathlon. The question, in the morning, had been whether she could keep it up. She’d laid such doubts to waste (much as she would her opponents) with a strong long jump performance. By the time she had sent her javelin 47.49 metres long, the commentators were calling her the “Olympic Champion elect”. Basically, she just had to get round the track in the final 800m race and Olympic glory was hers. Ours is a country where we’re so used to things going wrong, but there had seemed to be an inner calmness to Ennis, no doubts in her mind, just confidence. And, with the nation looking on, she wasn’t content to cruise through the 800. No, she went out to win it. And with Blackheath, and the rest of the country, cheering her on win it she did just that. Going out hard, she was initially caught, before turning on the afterburners around the final bend to sprint away. The look on her face as she crossed the line having destroyed her competitors, for a moment, reminded me of Tony Adams in 1998.
Just minutes later, Greg Rutherford’s jump of 8.31m in the long jump landed him a gold medal. It would be harsh to say it felt like a sideshow, because it certainly wasn’t. But he was caught between the poster girls and boys of this Olympics. Me? I just wanted to see Mo Farah bring it home. And bring it, he most certainly did. I ran a 10k race in London earlier this year and I was practically on my hands and knees by the time I finished it. Of course it’s easier for an elite athlete, I get that. Still, to be able to sprint 400m in 53 seconds after half an hour’s running takes some guts. Nonetheless, he did it. People were on their feet, screaming him and clapping him round- as if he could hear us a few miles south of the Olympic Stadium. As he entered the home straight tearing away from his competitors, the result became a formality. What. A. Run. What a cheer, what a moment to share with everyone. A moment to remember forever. I would have enjoyed watching the run at home, obviously, but the Heath really enhanced what was one of the greatest hours in British sport’s history. The communal jubilation was a refreshing change from watching hundreds of beered up dickheads in England shirts. For once, I was proud to be British.
Footage of the BBC analysts, Denise Lewis, Colin Jackson and the American Michael Johnson cheering Mo home (even as American Galen Rupp briefly threatened to catch his training partner) probably quite accurately reflected scenes on front of big screens across the nation. How Denise Lewis didn’t fall off her platforms, I have no idea, but you can watch it here: