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Once In A Lifetime

My official entry in the 1000 words final.


One world, one nation, and millions of consumers all consuming the same thing.

Welcome to the Olympics 2012, the adopted sister of junk food, banking and chemical corporations. An alliance of huge brands with a market so perfectly homogenized, their only real concerns are protecting their precious monopolies and logos.

You'd be thought mad to object so nobody bothers much, at least not in a way that makes any real difference. The sponsors have little time for critics or amateur ideals, they've bought what they wanted and tucked it all safely away behind an electrified fence.

For seven years the London Olympics have been promoted as a once in a lifetime event and something not to be missed. Well maybe they will be, if you're lucky or privileged enough to find yourself sitting in one of those over-priced seats.

I've just seen the torch passing by and that's as close as I'll ever get to this summer's sporting spectacular. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit at this bar, sip my Bacardi with its official sponsor's cola, and carry on moaning about the injustice and arrogance of the Olympic machine.

Moaning is what we English do best, ask any Aussie or Kiwi if you don't believe me. Or you could ask my sister, seeing as she's my unfortunate victim, the one person audience for my particular rant.

"It's all got out of hand," I tell her. "It's all so much bollocks."

"It's only a fizzy drink, Steffanie. I didn't realise it would upset you so much."

"That's my point," I reply. "It's just a stupid drink. Don't you get it?"

Of course she gets it but what can she do? It's not her fault the modern Olympics are in awe of corporations offering nothing more profound than sugared water and burgers. It's all a huge scam, it's outrageous that junk food executives get to grab the best seats... it's simply not fair.

"It was fun seeing the torch though, wasn't it?" asks my sister.

She's still holding one of the two little flags she brought along for us to wave as the torch bearer passed by. There's no stopping her enthusiasm, it's infectious and I'm going to have to admit that maybe I'm wrong, the Olympics isn't all nonsense and seeing the torch was more than just fun - in fact it was an experience way beyond anything I'd ever expected, so simple and so honest.

There was nothing flash about the torch and nothing to be gained from witnessing it, except for the thrill of being at one with thousands of people all happy and excited. Seven thousand miles the torch has travelled, up and down the country on a journey that eventually took it right past my front door... well almost. You can't ignore something like that, however much you might want to.

"I'm sorry, babe," I tell her. "I'm just being a miserable cow."

"That's OK," she replies. "I know you love it really."

I do and what happened to me? How come I ended up siding with all the cynical dissenters, complaining about every small detail? I've no excuse, I was a runner myself in my college days. I'll always remember competing in cross country regattas, those races were a challenge to us girls, they were something good and had nothing whatsoever to do with politics or sponsors. We ran because we loved it, pushing ourselves to the limit and making friendships along the way that would last a whole lifetime. That's the real beauty of sport, it connects people whatever their race, religion or language.

My sister's still waving her little flag back and forth, she has a sparkle in her eyes like a small child on Christmas Day. She can't fool me, I know her too well and she's quite obviously up to something.

"Would you like to go and see the Olympics?" she asks me.

"You know I would. I'd love to but you can't get tickets."

"Can't you?"

I don't really know for sure. All I do know is what the cynics have been saying, that buying tickets is a nightmare and it's not even worth trying. I've a sudden feeling somebody sitting close to me has ignored all the negative publicity and...

"You haven't?" I ask her.

"I thought I'd treat my little sister, I thought we could..."

"What? What have you got?"

"I couldn't get athletics..." she says, dragging her exciting revelation out, teasing me as she pretends to search through her bag. It's exactly like Christmas Day, she's such a big kid at heart.

"So I got two of these," she says and hands me a magical, mystery envelope to open.

Now I'm teasing myself, holding two tickets for the once in a lifetime sporting spectacular. But tickets to see what exactly? They could be for almost anything, gymnastics, swimming or possibly rowing. I don't care what they're for, I want to go and see...

"Oh wow. You're a star," I tell her. "I love you so much."

"Should be good, eh?" she asks.

"Good? These are the hottest tickets in town!"

"I don't know about that," she says.

"Are you kidding? I can't believe you got hold of these."

"I've booked a hotel for two nights," she tells me. "I thought we'd make a little holiday of it. We might be able to get other tickets while we're there."

Brilliant. Even the most cynical of voices would envy our tickets, although I doubt if they would ever admit it. They can carry on moaning if they must, but my sister and I won't be hearing their endless complaints.

The critics will all be drowned out by music, chanting and cheerleaders dancing in the sand on London's Horse Guards Parade. We'll be cheering too, in amongst the crowd watching the bikini girls playing in the crazy Beach Volleyball event.

The London Olympics, they're finally here and for only once in our lifetime, an experience too good to be missed. A whole world will bear witness to new sporting legends and dramas unfolding, as years of sacrifice and endeavour end in tears of gold or despair.

Yet still some viewers won't be satisfied, but what more can they possibly demand?

steffanie xxx

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