I freely admit it. I blubbed during the opening ceremonies, and during the closing ones. I was dewy-eyed on Super Saturday, and cheered the rowers on with tears. I yelled and stamped for Team GB at Goalball, even though we hadn’t a chance, and thanked the squaddie who checked me at security. The Games hit me right between the eyes, and I cried.
Why? When I can sing Land of Hope and Glory without a sniffle, and I avoid Royal weddings like malware, why did I start to well up at the Queen greeting James Bond?
Partly, I suspect, it was a peculiarly British patriotism. I was watching that bit in France, and there was at that stage something of ‘only in Britain’ about it. The French would have produced, had they won the bid, a glistening, flawless, stainless steel perfection of an opening ceremony. But who could they have had leaping from a helicopter? Jonny Halliday? And anyway, they didn’t win the bid. We did. That ridiculous Orbit sculpture was actually the Eiffel Tower writhing in envy.
More thoughtfully, though, we have just sat through seven weeks of extraordinary human endeavour, and conducted with near flawless execution by a vast team of employees and volunteers. Some of my response is a very British, ‘We got away with it. Phew.’ Because back in June we didn’t think we would. Did we? But even that doesn’t get there either.
My gospel framework is one of Ruin and Redemption. It is the magnificent and true story of our Rebellion and God’s Rescue. That is what I teach and believe.
But, if I’m not careful, I forget the beginning and the end. I forget our original fabulousness as image-bearers, and I forget our final destiny as those who will bear the likeness of Christ. And so I forget just how stunning even fallen human beings are. My tears were a recognition of the brilliance to be seen even in the defaced image.
This summer has shown us just a little bit of that. Yes, the sight of the nations in all their pomp is idolatrous. So is the narrative of salvation through sport. The idea that the Paras have changed the way we see each other is hubristic twaddle. The closing ceremony was Glastonbury-pagan, and I harboured dark thoughts that it should finish with Coldplay being bundled into a giant Wicker Man.
And yet. What if we can put some flesh on the idea that, stunning as the Games were, they are as nothing compared to what glory will be like. That the victory parade for Christ will make these ones look pale. That if this is what wrecked humanity is a capable of, imagine what an eternity of flawless humanity will achieve. And that party will never end. And the gold will never tarnish. And the music will be better.
These Games took a decade to put on. Three years to plan and win the bid in Singapore and then seven to build them. A decade for a young woman to train to win gold.
One script says, and all for a handful of dust. Which is true.
But the other script says, so what are you going to work for in the next 10 years, redeemed and glorious Christian?