I have never watched so much of the Olympics as I have this year. The combination of its being in London and the British team's astonishing performance have just made it incredibly exciting, and we've been glued to it every single night, as well as a lot of the weekend. Having found a way to bypasss NBC's abysmal coverage, we've been enjoying the BBC commentary, especially Gaby Logan's rather naff, but entertaining, Olympic highlights show and relishing in every rendition of Spandau Ballet's Gold.
One thing I've noticed is that my American pals are NOT so excited about the Olympics. Despite the fact that Team USA has tonnes of medals, and US athletes have broken various world records, especially in swimming, several of my friends have not watched it at all and most are not really aware of what is going on. One guy I spoke to was amazed that the US was second in the medal table - he just hadn't taken it in. Others are aware of some results - like the victory of the female US gymnasts, who are constantly being interviewed on US TV now - but don't really know about anything else. There's usually more excitement over the latest series of American Idol than I've seen over the Olympics. I partly blame this on NBC (again) as everything good is tape delayed and its four hour highlights programme goes on far too late - most of the best events are screened between 11 and 12 at night. And of course, I'm sure Americans would be more excited were it on US soil.
But also I think it's because America is so used to being top dog. Winning all the medals just isn't a big deal for them - the only real accolades have been for people like Michael Phelps (although in the early days of the Games when he wasn't winning, this all went a bit quiet). Whereas we, in Britain, are just elated; it's as if we can't believe that we're doing so well, after years of feeling as if we're crap at sport. We're always the underdog, the team that hasn't won the World Cup since 1966, the country whose players never actually win at Wimbledon. But that is all changing with the Olympics. Finally, we can believe that the UK can be successful at something. (And not just sport - we seem to have organized a world class event, with fantastic venues, great atmosphere and not a hint of the chaos that some people predicted).
One of the boys' recurring questions while watching the Games is whether Team GB is going to get more medals than China/The USA. (An alternative spin on this, from Littleboy 1 just before he went to bed last night: what would happen if we won all the golds, USA won all the silvers and China won all the bronzes?). They just can't understand when The Doctor and I try to explain that the US and China are far bigger countries and there's no way we're going to beat them.
But as I look at Team GB's count on the medal table creeping upwards, I wonder if I'm not being positive enough? This article from the Guardian suggests that the UK is definitely punching above its weight. Maybe I need to stop telling the boys that the UK can't do it. I've never felt hugely patriotic, but maybe it's time they learned the words to our national anthem as well as "God Bless America" (which they march around singing all the time). Perhaps, if they growing up thinking we're a great sporting nation, it might dispel some of the cynicism and negativity that the British are famous for.