Missing out


David Whitley is heading abroad for the Olympics – but thinks that’s not necessarily a bad thing

For most of the Olympics, I’ll be in Germany. It’s not a deliberate attempt to avoid the Olympics, just the way the dates happened to fall. I’m neither rejoicing in the fact that I’ll be out of the country nor gutted about missing out. Realistically, I’d be missing out anyway as I don’t live in London. And where the World Cup or European Championships covers a whole country, with fans travelling between cities to support their chosen heroes, the Olympics is essentially focused on one city. Brazil will be far more fun in 2014 for the World Cup than it will be for the 2016 Olympics. 


Being there for the big event is a curious thing. I’ve never been to a World Cup or European Championships, but the atmosphere – particularly in Germany back in 2006 – has always looked tremendous. I love the idea of fan zones and people from all over the world converging to enjoy and celebrate together across city centres.


The closest I can compare it to is the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008. I went with my brother to Belgrade to watch the final, and it was an electric atmosphere. Different nationalities wanted to mix, attempt to communicate, laugh at each others’ costumes and exchange flags. It felt fantastic (and not just because I was drunk). It was simultaneously everybody’s party and nobody’s party.


On the flip side, there was Madrid in 2010. I was there when Spain won the World Cup Final, and everyone says “that must have been wonderful” when I tell them. It was, in a way, but only as an observer. Watching the scenes in the streets as people clambered over fountains and sang until the sun came up was special, but it wasn’t my party. As much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t really share the joy. I was the outsider looking on.


And that’s one thing to consider if you decide to visit somewhere in order to catch a big event. You may be able to throw yourself into it, you may have a great time, but sometimes you will discover that you’re not really a part of what’s going on. If you’re happy as a fascinated bystander, that isn’t a problem. If you’re the sort of person that likes to feel special and the centre of the universe, that once in a lifetime experience may end up being a crushing disappointment. The world has many parties; not all of them are yours.


Photo courtesy of I Couldn't Give a Fuck About the London 2012 Olympics