Sunday, 3 June 2012

Olympians for an hour

Two days before a wet Jubilee weekend the Olympic Torch came to Crewe.

I went over with my daughters and some of their friends to see it set off on the Cheshire section of its journey. The platform at Alsager station was full, fuller than I'd ever seen it before and the London-Midland carriages so packed that the conductor hadn't the time to collect all the fares.

John Williams the poet was there, with his wife and son, there were people I recognised from the Co-op or generally from round town (or 'the village' as it still likes to call itself).

We stayed at the station end at Crewe, as my youngest daughter had to get back to school and we needed to dash so as not to be too late. We lined the pavements and waited.

Eventually, with a dull throb of police motorcycle engines, the first of the sponsored corporate vans hove into view. All balloons and fixed and cheesy grins. Banks and financial services with buses and lorries decked out like carnival floats, models and dancers waving from the tops and sides. 'You can tweet us all day long,' they said. As if we would.

More helpful was the hand-written sign held up in one of the windscreens. 'Olympic Torch, six minutes behind.'

As the corporate jollities rumbled on, a cause for genuine mirth. A bloke came running from the main station car-park, dragging his luggage behind him, tie flailing, clearly late for a train. With the pavement lined with spectators he had no option but to run down the middle of the road.

'I'm late!' he kept calling, White Rabbit fashion as the crowds applauded. 'I'm late for my train!'

Out there, alone and exposed in the middle of the road, he did the decent thing, the British thing. He turned his plight into a joke. He began to wave and acknowledge the applause, to act as if he were part of the procession itself. Good on him, well done that man. You can keep your corporate clap-trap and ra-ra-ra, what he did that day made me proud to be British. We are all Olympians now.

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