But I have had a sudden revelation when I found myself unable to avoid the sporting excellence that has surrounded me over the past week or so. I've began to see the whole Olympic Games from a totally different angle. I've also been learning to understand people whose daily lives and aspirations are so different from mine. I have closely followed the disappointments, triumphs, joys, tears, set-backs, grit and determination not to mention the sheer hard work that go to create a complex picture of human experience. Not for nothing is sport, rightly or wrongly, likened to war and battle.
Not only has it helped my insight when exploring character in writing fiction, it has taught me that when it comes down to it, it isn't the world records, the shaving off of hundredths of a second or racking up the cventimetres that matter, it's human emotion and the story that makes up a human being. Why does Brad Wiggins have those sideburns? Why does the first people he seeks in the crowd are his wife and children and not his cycling colleagues or coach? Why do some people gush and gush and others remain tight-lipped when faced with the same emotions? Why is Rebecca Adlington so taken with fancy nail polish? Why does it matter so much to her? And why does becoming involved in human emotions, the variety of personality, likes and dislikes is so important to telling a story? The story is paramount and that is why fiction will always be needed. Without a human story, without any emotional involvement, life as well as writing is nothing but a list of events, a timeline or a table of statistics. Who sitting at home on the sofa can fail to be overwhelmed by the roar of the crowd and the generopisty of spirit shown by all competitors? See how we react when someone's behaviour is less than admirable. And why can mass emotions can be so uplifting and good for morale - but also so terribly dangerous? When does patriotism spill over into prejudice and hatred? And at what moment is that fine line crossed?
I have also witnessed the variety of ways people react to success or failure - especially when that failure is exposed to public gaze - and how sometimes a bronze medal is not deemed good enough for those who were expected to do better. Some people seemed stunned and overwhelmed. Others seem to take their glory in their stride. Why is that? And why do most people cry when they are happy? Sometimes when you look at the photos out of context it's hard to see whether people are happy or sad.
Being a fiction writer I find myself constructing a story behind the TV pictures. It was glorious to see Mo Farah win the first British Gold medal ever in the 10,000 metres. It was a perfectly executed race which even I who, as I said, can't run for a bus without feeling like death, could appreciate. But it was all the more compelling when we saw him hugging his young daughter and his very pregnant wife. But one single picture does not necessarily tell the truth. In the picture at the opening of this post, Mo's daughter looks cross. But she wasn't. I saw it 'live'. It was a brief moment of being overwhelmed and well past her bedtime. Perhaps the ranks of flash guns dazzled her? What a story one could write about that. The sight of Sir Steve Redgrave helping a bitterly disappointed and exhausted rower to his feet. And why was he so gutted when he'd won a silver medal? Was he selfish and a spoilt baby? Or had he felt he'd let everyone down? I choose to think not. Someone else may see things quite differently. How would you interpret it? It all depends.
And finally, what emotion will the Paralympics bring us? There'll be even more stories and raw emotion on public display.
Sporting excellence and good fiction do more than entertain us. The teach us what it is to be human.