London Pride (With a Touch of South African)

2012-08-06 17:20

Performances by South Africa’s sportsmen and women at the Olympics and on the cricket pitch have, as have those by team Great Britain, put their respective countries’ much-publicised problems on the backburner of the daily news oven. Sport has the happy knack of uniting nations like little else unless you are on the winning side at the end of a war.

For South Africans political shenanigans and crime; for the UK economic near-catastrophe and ongoing concerns over the collapsing Euro have all been put into perspective by something far more important, something capable of eliciting screams of joy, scenes of high emotion and downright national pride. That little something being world class sporting competitions,

We were lucky enough to be in London last Wednesday and Thursday. Not, you understand, to attend Olympic events (we should have been so lucky) but on other business. However, we consider ourselves so lucky just to have been in the capital at this time, to experience the vibe, the hair-raising feel-good atmosphere, the astounding cheerfulness of Londoners and, by goodness, the work ethic of those incredible volunteers. They’re everywhere those thousands of lilac and khaki outfitted men and women, girls and boys who have given their time and their all in the name of British pride.

Stop to look at the departure board at Waterloo station or stare completely confused at Tube maps while trying to figure out where your Jubilee Line connection meets that of the required Northern Line before branching off to the surface for a trip to Tower Bridge on the London Docks Light Railway and as sure as onions are onions somebody will tap you on the shoulder with a, “can I help you”? They sure can, the friendly faces with seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of everything Olympic and their handing out of free ice creams at mainline stations.

But here’s the thing… as an expat South African it was fantastic to see our country’s flag flying proudly at said railway and tube stations, along the streets and even on one fantastic occasion, from the mast of a luxury Cape Town registered yacht at St Katherine’s Dock. Heavens, we even heard Afrikaans spoken on an “over ground” train and soon got talking to two more SA expats of seven years’ standing who couldn’t hide their pride in their country and its achievements here. Sure, at the time of writing, two gold medals in the swimming might not seem like much but I fantasized the celebrations going on in SA from Messinato the Cape, from Durban to Mahikeng to points further west.

And oh, how we missed that!

For myself, my loyalties are very easily divided. As a 23-year Rhodesian/Zimbabwean veteran, a South African of 27-years and Sots born I cheer for Britain when neither of my beloved African countries is involved. Then I shout for Zimbabwe unless South Africais involved. But then I shout for South Africa unless, I don’t know, work it out. It then comes to an even more difficult decision in the evening when Channel Five shows the highlights of the day’s play between the Proteas andEngland. Not difficult as in who to support, that goes without saying, but really difficult to choose between something excitingly Olympian which might clash. Talk about channel hopping – I’ve worn out three remotes in the past 10 days and there’s still another five to go.

Today I received my own gold medal for dedicated viewing and a silver from my wife for a huge flurry of housekeeping which had been somewhat disrupted by all of the above. I expect a bronze tomorrow for “visiting the supermarket under pressure” tonight. We’ll have words if I come home to find another two Brit cycling golds on the board with only a snippet on the news at midnight for me to drool over.

But I digress, as always.

It was mainly South African pride I wanted to write about. Medals are fantastic but competing is everything and just to see the green and gold at the various sites and the multi coloured flag flying in the English breeze (or sagging in the English rain) is more than enough for those of us who, six-thousand miles away, join you in cheering on our team.

Must go now, Jason Kenny just won Team GBs sixth cycling gold at the Velodrome. Would you mind if I become a Brit again for about the next 10-minutes or so?

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