It has been a massive couple of days here in London, kicking off with a black tie function hosted by the Governor General to announce the flag bearer at Banqueting House. It was spine tingling watching Nick Willis walk in with the traditional korowai on, the Maori cloak all NZ Olympic flag bearers wear; I felt very proud as a fellow track and field athlete! It was an amazing function with food from chef Peter Gordon and Neil Finn performing live.
The next day the excitement was building as the torch made its way through central London to the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. I was very lucky to be given a ticket to the Ceremony, what many call "The Greatest Show on Earth"! Having never been to an Opening Ceremony before (I did not march in the 08 ceremony in Beijing) it was certainly an incredible experience. Highlights for me were James Bond and the Queen parachuting in, Rowan Atkinson doing his Mr Bean act, seeing live sheep and ducks eating grass on the in-field, Sir Paul McCartney singing "Hey Jude", the lighting of the flame and of course the NZ Team marching into the stadium lead out by Nick.
As I sat there I reflected on how lucky I was to be sitting there watching, and even though it really hurts to not be at the Olympics as an athlete, to be here at all is a privilege and something most people don't get to experience in their lifetimes. For me its my third Olympic experience, having also spectated in Athens and competed in Beijing. What really struck me last night was the excitement and passion of the public and how the Olympics really moves people. It's something you feel not just at the Opening Ceremony, but on the streets, in the train station and down at Kiwi House where the NZ Supporters are gathering. I think I noticed this so much more having been a competing athlete and now seeing the Olympics from the other side of the fence so to speak! As an athlete at the Olympics you live in a protective bubble, you are surrounded by security, have your own bus lanes, your own village and you are treated like rock stars! But to sit in a crowd of 80,000 people you get a different perspective on what the Olympics is all about and as an athlete I am so lucky to be able to experience that.
IOC President Jacques Rogge's speech really resonated with me: "I congratulate all of the athletes who have earned a place at these Games. And to the athletes, I offer this thought: Your talent, your dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians. That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals. Reject doping. Respect you opponents. Remember that you are all role models. If you do that, you will inspire a generation".