Olympics: Why these are dark days for a cynic

A sea of Team GB's union flags greet competitors at a London Olympic equestrian event.

Story highlights

  • Peter Wilkinson: Good will descended on this once curmudgeonly isle
  • "I was quite hopeful that something would go marvelously wrong in the British tradition."
  • Commentators opined on page after page that Britain had entered a new era, he said

What has happened to my country? This last fortnight has made me feel like a foreigner in my own home as a collective wave of happy-clappy good will descended on this once curmudgeonly isle. Where has our natural suspicion of organized fun gone, our disdain for overt displays of emotion, our celebration of hapless failures.

It's easier for my fellow cynics, most of whom probably fled these shores long before the official sponsors parked their corporate juggernauts on our lawns and the athletes arrived for the glorified sports day known as the Olympic Games. But I had to remain in London to help with CNN's coverage of the spectacle, and boy was it tough seemingly being in a minority of one.

The singer Morrissey reliably poured his usual words of scorn on the parade, criticizing the "blustering jingoism." He added: "Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism?"

But while I secretly sympathized with him, I bet he didn't have to run the gauntlet of thousands of smiling flag-waving enthusiasts on London's public transport system every day of the Games.

Peter Wilkinson

It was bad enough in 1997, following the death of Princess Diana, when a similar wave of hysteria overtook Britain. Then, complete strangers cried together and hugged each other in the street, as they mourned a pampered princess whom they had never met. Commentators opined on page after page that Britain had entered a new era in which adults were able to discuss the hitherto taboo issue of emotions in public. Many of us hoped they were wrong. But this time it's far, far worse.

Not only are we all supposed to rejoice that £9 billion of taxpayers' money has been spent tarting up part of east London that I have never visited and now have even less reason to go there, we must all celebrate and cry uncontrollably when sports men and women win events that I have never even heard of. Coxless fours? Taekwondo? Handball? I wouldn't have minded if there were real sports in the Olympics -- crazy golf, kite-flying, staring contests to name just three of my favorites -- but many of the events that really took place are just crazy.

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Before the Games, I was quite hopeful that something would go marvelously wrong in the British tradition. We'd got the dates wrong, and it's actually taking place next year. The swimming pool would spring a leak. The medals hadn't been made.

But oh no, everything went to plan -- IT DIDN'T EVEN RAIN -- and suddenly we're a "nation at ease with itself."

But before you board your flight home and hail Britain's flawless organization skills, spare a thought for curmudgeons like me. And now you've had your fun, please make sure you clear up all your mess, and turn out the lights. The show's over! Normal service can resume.