Thought for the Day - Anna Magnusson - 11/08/2012
Being here in Edinburgh on the opening day of the International Book Festival feels like the perfect place to celebrate words and stories. Especially as we’re about to turn the last page of the Olympic blockbuster which has had more thrills and spills and tears and triumphs than any bestseller.
You know the way you inhabit a novel when it grips your imagination? Your mind is full of its scenes and characters. My Olympics story conjures up a horse dancing to music. Two brothers in black collapsing into each other’s arms at the finish of the Triathlon. How utterly beautiful the rowers were at Eton Dorney when I was there a week ago. Standing beside the glittering water, they looked as tall as giraffes on their long, pale legs.
And that extraordinarily moving moment, two weeks ago at the opening ceremony, when the torch was passed to the new generation, those young, committed men and women, who carried it around the stadium together, a symbolic re-birth of hope in dark times. Perhaps.
Like so many scenes from these Olympics, it was inspiring. And deeply emotional. And that’s where words have often failed. In the midst of all the joy and heartache and tears, words have been overcome by feeling. I’ve lost count of the number of times the question has been asked of jubilant or crushed athletes: ‘Describe your emotions at this moment’. And so often the answer is: ‘It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe it.’ The moment, the present, is too immediate, too charged with joy or pain. Like the believer trying to put into words the reality of religious experience, or the mystery of faith – it’s somehow too elusive to capture, too deeply felt to express.
As with our Olympians, words come later; and then the stories of dedication and sacrifice and desire are written. The witnesses and believers come forward. And we listen to parents like Carol Hoy who played a far greater part in the story than they would ever admit. ‘I was proud of him when he won the egg and spoon race when he was a wee boy as well,’ she said about Chris, ‘so I’m just a boring mum that loves her kids.’ And so the unbelievable becomes the inspirational.
If love, courage and sacrifice are at the heart of the best stories, that’s a different kind of an Olympic legacy; because the stories will be re-told and passed on, and they will inspire. We’ll remember them, and be changed by them – because that’s what the greatest stories do.