Over 8,000 kilometres away from London, a little boy studying in MSB Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Broadway nurtured a dream of being at the Olympics venue to watch the world’s most famous sporting event.
And, on the eve of the Olympics, when he got an opportunity, he sprang up from the almost dizzyingly perfect row he was seated in, and asked British deputy high commissioner in Chennai, Mike Nithavrianakis, “Sir, I really wish to see the Olympics in London, can you please help me.” But tickets to this year’s Games were sold out, he was informed.
The British diplomat visited the school as part of a joint effort with the British Council to spread the spirit and message of Olympics across schools in India.
Mr. Nithavrianakis spoke to the students about how he is a huge sports enthusiast himself. He said that as a 12-year-old, his dream was to become a professional golfer but he met with an accident that came in the way of realising his passion. This is the first time he would be attending the Games, he said, adding that he would watch the rowing event with his children.
He also spoke of the legacy of the venue. “An entire district in East London was transformed for the Olympics, and these facilities will be available to the locals for a long, long time,” he said.
He said that the younger generation must actively pursue sports. “We are grappling with fast-food culture and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes in the U.K. With such problems catching up in India too, it is important to play sports either for leisure, or on a competitive level,” he said.
And, the Paralympics which will take place shortly after the Olympics, he said, was just as important. “Even a child in a wheelchair should take up a sport,” he said.
Though not everybody can go to London, the Olympics is of great significance in the lives of a few Chennaiites. For Augustin Paul, a former hockey player for Indian Bank, life revolves around the Olympics, especially when India and Pakistan are pitted against each other.
“I have taken off from work to watch the hockey matches. V.J. Peter, an Olympian and a hockey legend, would tell me stories about how his team had to go by ship to reach the host country,” he said.
Those were days when a hockey match in Chennai would draw huge crowds, and discussion would continue hours after the match was over, he said.
R.L. Thiruvengadam, general secretary of one of the city’s oldest gymnasiums, said he would follow the weightlifting event.
He said that many of those who came to Raghuveer Gym were daily wage labourers who did not get an opportunity to watch the event. “Given an opportunity, they would love it,” he said.
The day ended in anticipation of the opening ceremony of the Games. Though rain played spoilsport, nothing could beat the spirit at Mr. Nithavrianakis’ residence, where the opening ceremony was to be streamed live in the open in collaboration with British Airways.