Olympic Storyteller – latest challenge


The latest challenge for the BT Olympic Storytellers was to pin down what puts the Great in Great Britain and to describe our greatest team for 2012.

My piece was commended….so just off the podium this time!

Basketball arena, snug amongst new planting

London 2012…the Greatest British team ever seen

In 1948 post war Europe was reeling. Cities were devastated, people were homeless, food was short and the future dark. Against this backdrop London hosted the Austerity Games of the XIV Olympiad in a spirit of hope, harmony and regeneration. Four thousand athletes from fifty nine nations took part, each bringing their own food, providing their own kit. No accommodation was built – barracks and colleges housed the participants. Medals were won, reputations made, records broken. Also in this year, the idea of war veterans competing in sports as part of their rehabilitation was born in Stoke Mandeville. Britain was leading the way forward out of war.

In 2012 Europe and much of the world is in the grip of dire financial turmoil. Every pound, every euro has to stretch further than before. Against this backdrop, London again plays host to the Olympic Games, only this time, austerity will not cut it with a world of spectators used to spectacle beyond anything they can dream of themselves. Britain has risen to the challenge. An Olympic village, park, venues, medical centre, all have risen from a toxic wasteland…in a very British way.

The Great in Britain is epitomised at this, the XXX Olympiad, by standards of sustainability, regeneration, re-usability, inclusion and legacy as never seen before in Olympic provision. Fourteen thousand athletes from two hundred and fifty seven countries will be welcomed to London. And what is more, the largest ever field of Paralympians will compete in the greatest Paralympic Games ever staged – a fitting nod to the Stoke Mandeville initiative of 1948.

As a poet, my job is to say a lot in very few words, I could not put the two ideas that for me to sum up the greatest GB team into one poem. The greatest team is not just 900 athletes, their diversity, power, strength in depth or claim to world records and Olympic recognition, but also those who dreamed of and made real the Olympic Park, holding true to incredible standards of sustainability, how to measure and achieve it, with no compromise on the final product.

As is so often the case, out of necessity and difficulty, the British have led the way to innovation, discovery and achievement of the highest standard and set the stage upon which our 900 can show their greatness. And so I give you two poems (and give credit to Tennyson for inspiration for The 900):

The Park

All is shadowed in the night-hushed landscape.

Rejuvenated rivers slip, serene, old ways rediscovered;

barges rest, empty now, last load transported;

beauty, duty, usefulness reinstated.

Soil breathes deep, refreshed,

every earthen clump cleaned, energised.

Meadow flowers, slumber, heads nodding;

strong from Lea’s watery nurture.

Fox and owl watch over newly found abundance.

Succulent roofs fade back into planned obscurity;

pumps and filters hum their renewing song.

Insects, frogs, toads burrow deep

into galvanised gabion crevices;

safe in damp and darkness.

Curious night-time footsteps prowl,

drawn along unaccustomed pathways, over

recycled plank bridges to the island.

The 900

In the dark of a summer night

on a reclaimed East End island

light bursts into the sky –

volley, thunder, storm delights

spectators, nation, world.

Then all is hushed as

into the glow of the torch

parade the 900.

Nurtured from grass roots,

as is the park around them,

sustained by self belief

each athlete is ready,

the team is forged.

Balanced, bold they advance

and in this moment –

in this perfect moment –

all is well, hope is high.

Britain shows its very best.

Nothing won, nothing lost,

all to gain, team and nation united,

we honour the 900,

the charge they made

from dreamer to Olympian.

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About SallyJ

I am a writer and a poet.
This entry was posted in BT Olympic Storyteller, free verse, inspiration, London 2012, natural world, Olympics, poet, poetry, poets, writer, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Olympic Storyteller – latest challenge

  1. suej says:

    Brilliant! The Park succinctly describes the reclamation of the land, and I love the ring of “galvanised Gabon crevices”. In the 900, the point of the perfect moment is well made. Well done you!

  2. SallyJ says:

    Thank you Sue, especially for your patience throughout the doubts about this one!

  3. I love both of these poems, yet do believe the first one (The Park) is my favorite. Your words truly paint a beautiful picture.

    • SallyJ says:

      Thank you for commenting. I have a soft spot for the inspiration for ‘The Park’, mostly because this is what we will inherit once the razzamatazz is but a memory.

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