Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Remembering the Olympics

The Rio 2016 Olympics finished on Sunday. There is a four-year wait until the next edition in Tokyo.

I know what four years is like now, taken one day at a time, as the images on my mental calendar cover every day back to the London 2012 Olympics - and beyond.

I don't remember everything about the 2012 Olympics, but several key events are recorded in the memory tags for days during that period.

The opening ceremony took place on 27 July 2012. We watched it at gathering in a church, after the "All the Bells" ringing across the UK that morning. Much of the ceremony is memorable enough not to be specifically coded in my memory tag. The Queen and James Bond. Mr Bean. The Olympic Flame. The Olympic Rings in flames above the stadium.

We were in the UK to see some of the events. On 29 July 2012, Brazil beat Belarus 3-1 in the men's football. The team included Neymar, a star already, but qualifying under the under-23 rule nonetheless. Neymar scored the winning penalty in the shootout in the final against Germany on 20 August 2016 (revenge for the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup in 2014, coded in my memory tag for Tuesday 8 July 2014).

We had a few days holiday in Scotland after Brazil's game in 2012 and my memory tags capture the people and places visited on that trip. The Olympics is background with no key events recorded on my mental calendar until 5 August 2012. We were driving to our next destination listening to commentary of Andy Murray in the tennis final at Wimbledon. We arrived in time to watch the end of the match, which he won, and then go on to play in the mixed doubles final, which he and his partner lost.

The men's single final this time around was also on Sunday - 14 August 2016. Murray won again. Memorably, the BBC interviewer congratulated him on being the first person to win a second gold medal in tennis and, to his credit and acclaim, he responded that Venus and Serena Williams had already won four gold medals each. His victory is included in the image on my mental calendar.

Back to 2012. We went to Hyde Park to watch the Olympics on big screens on 8 August and returned for the women's open-water swimming the following morning. In Rio, this took place off Copacabana on 15 August, memorable because the Brazilian swimmer, Poliana, dragged from the Serpentine with hypothermia in 2012, won Bronze after a French swimmer two places before her was disqualified for obstruction.

That day in 2012, we also went to watch volleyball at Earls Court and the women's football final at Wembley (USA v Japan, 2 - 1). The defeat of the Brazilian women's team on 16 August 2016 to Sweden is in my memory tag for that day.

Super Saturday in 2012, when three Golds were won by Team GB, took place on 4 August 2012, but I had to look that up, because it was not in my memory tag. We were actually travelling that day to Glasgow on our return south. The details of that journey and the hotel where we stayed are pinned to my calendar and have been refreshed in a fraction of a second when I have run through these date in periodic reviews. But in those reviews, I've never recalled it was Super Saturday as well. Stopping to think now, my memory of watching the wins of Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah, is distinctly vague.

But I remember the emotion and pride afterwards the British population had in the GB athletes - and in itself for celebrating their victory so enthusiastically. Even the right-wing, xenophobic tabloid The Sun was full of praise and repeated a joke doing the rounds on Twitter: "A Muslim, a mixed race lass & a ginger bloke walk into a bar. And everyone gets them a drink." Usually minorities would be the target of the punchline - now the punchline was they were accepted as heroes in modern Britain.

Of course, my calendar since then has the vote to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016, following xenophobic scaremongering and followed by a rise in hate crimes against minorities.

All the same, the three GB athletes deserved a drink once more with Super Saturday mark 2, on 13 August 2016, taking Bronze (Rutherford - long jump), Silver (Ennis-Hill - heptathlon) and Gold (Farah - 10,000 metres). I was there to see it in person this time, as we visited Rio to follow the Olympics. Elaine Thompson took Gold in the women's 100 m in the same session and Thiago Bras, who went on to win men's pole vault, qualified for the final. Most of our tickets were for cheaper qualifying rounds, but we gladly paid for the tickets to see history being made on this day.

Mo Farah also won the 5,000 metres in London 2012. I don't have it in a memory tag, but this time I do remember watching the race, particularly the commentator saying it was slow. I've checked and it was on 11 August 2012, so I've now added into my image for that day, which reminded me of a bike ride.

Is it cheating to modify an image so long after the event?

Seeing as I make the rules, no.

I avoid making false memories, creating an image for something that must have happened, but for which I have no memory. In this case, I remember the event, but didn't recall the date. Sticking a pin in it is allowed. I've decided.

It also provides a symmetry to remembering Rio 2016. My image for Saturday 20 August 2016 includes Mo Farah winning the 5,000 metres for the second time. In both cases, this was a week on from his 10,000 metres win. Patterns like this help me.

The remainder of the London Olympics pass in the background. My memory tags are about other trips and visits or work I was doing. That is, until 22 August 2012 and the closing ceremony. My tag is cycling to where we are staying, knowing it is on that evening. The ceremony itself is not in my image as my conventional memory serves up details of it.

I followed Rio 2016 more closely and spent more days attending events and this is reflected in the memory tags.

Now I have two Olympic Games in this period of remembering every day that passes. Four years to Tokyo. I will be filling the days until then.

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