Maybe it will arrive today, in a glorious explosion, I mused. As I went through security and had my bag searched by a very young man in army uniform, I started to look out for my Britishness, my sense of national pride which had so far eluded me.
Now, I have loved the Olympics: I haven’t been so addicted that I have had an exclusive relationship over the last two weeks, but I have definitely been dating. But, despite this relationship, I haven’t felt part of the British ‘Group Hug’.
I have watched in awe as these Olympians have performed. I have been inspired and impressed by their dedication, hard work and what they can get their bodies to do. And yes, I will also admit to enjoying some shallow hotty totty moments, as lycra donned muscles have flexed on the screen in front of me.
But I haven’t really cared who has won each event, or how many gold medals Team GB received, or been bathing in British pride. It’s not that I feel embarrassed to be British – it’s more a neutral feeling. As I watched my Twitter timeline amass with ‘Go Team GB’ tweets, I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I feeling the British love? For me, I just felt like I was watching an amazing event, with some amazing people, doing amazing things. All very, well, amazing – but which country they were from did not feel important to me.
Yes, I did find myself rooting for Mo Farah, but I think it’s just because there was so much coverage of him – and he’s so likeable – that I wanted him to do well. And I did fall in love with Jessica Ennis, but again as the poster girl of these Olympics, I became familiar with her story (and swooned at that body). But I also got excited watching Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, because their stories were also prominent. As someone who is not a huge sports fan, I was easily led by wherever the BBC took me.
But would going to the Olympic Park change everything? Would I suddenly feel the need to wrap myself in a Union Jack?
As we mooched round the park, I definitely felt excited to be part of this special event, but it was the kind of feeling I get when we travel and we see something beautiful or historical or interesting; I still felt like I was on the outside.
We watched Lord Coe filming an interview, surrounded by security, police on gorgeous horses, and people like us trying to see what was going on; it felt exciting to see the man of the hour, but again the Britishness did not come.
Then we stepped into the stadium, I thought this is it, it’s got to come now. I was certainly feeling something. The atmosphere powerfully greeted us: 80,000 people excited about being there, chatting away to their friends and family, happy, laughing, talking to strangers – all about to be part of something magical.
And then I knew what I was feeling: I was ready for my group hug – but not a British one, a human one. I was feeling some sort of wonderful humanness.
There was a Dutch group next to me, a Japanese family behind me, an American couple to my left, and a French, and Canadian family a couple of rows back. And everyone was in it together: here to celebrate the best athletes in the world.
Being part of an 80,000 strong cheering, screaming and whooping fest was just so much fun. Seeing Mo win the 5000 metres with the crowd ‘roaring’ him home was exhilarating. And as for seeing the fastest man in the world break a world record, in the 4×100 meter relay (and we really could see Bolt as he ran on our side of the stadium) was something I am still replaying in my mind (and yes, I may have done the odd Bolt pose here and there).
So, one’s Britishness may not have arrived – but one did have a jolly good time!