LONDON — As an American living in London during the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, I’ve felt torn for some time now. On the one hand, I knew I’d be rooting for Team USA. But as a permanent resident here, I also found myself the Brits would come together to pull off something
truly spectacular that would impress even the Americans.
Mitt Romney’s gaffe-tastic visit certainly helped unite this complex, multi-cultural country in record time. (My prize for best Romney diss goes to former White House economist Austan Goolsbee, who tweeted “Romney in Gdansk: Lech, thanks for being here. And hey – how about that shipyard there? Is that a rusting pile of crap or what?”)
But it was more than just #romneyshambles that’s pulled this famously standoffish island nation together over the last few days. Personally, I still have no idea what Danny Boyle was after with that opening night extravaganza.
I only drank two Coronas but am I right that there were two countdowns instead of one? And who was that dude strumming the guitar? I know one thing: I’ll never be able to look at Kenneth Branagh with a straight face again.
Still, I’ve been hugely impressed by the effort that’s gone into making this event both efficient and fun. Though the Brits aren’t exactly known for their cheerfulness, I heard more calls of “Have a nice day!” while strolling through the Olympic Park Saturday than at any time since I canceled my Verizon contract upon moving here six years ago.
I also dare any city to top the seven-minute journey from London St. Pancras to Stratford on the Javelin train. Door-to-door, I was on the Olympic grounds in less than an hour from my Northwest London home.
Still, it must be said that despite the pride I felt in the Union Jack on my journey into the Olympic park, as soon as I stepped inside the basketball arena to watch the USA Women’s team play Croatia, the stars-and-stripes side of my identity came roaring back with a vengeance.
What a team of talented women. Just seeing them come out onto the court – the deserving beneficiaries of Title IX – made me swell with pride. I’m not normally a terribly patriotic person, but I belted out the national anthem with so much enthusiasm that my eight year-old daughter actually asked me to quiet down.
Croatia gave the Americans a run for their money for the first three quarters of the game, but in the final quarter Team USA surged ahead, demonstrating all the things that our country’s athletes do best: speed,
power, agility and, above all, determination.
It was a great reminder of the drive and enthusiasm that is so quintessentially American and that I’ve lost touch with after living abroad all these years.
And in the end, all my worry was for naught. Turns out, I can live here in London and be proud of the complicated, cosmopolitan, courageous city I call home, while at the same time cheering on my never-say-die compatriots like the best of them. Take that, Mitt Romney.