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I rarely yearn for the homeland or wish that I were there. I haven't returned since the death of my mother almost two years ago, and I find it hard to imagine the circumstance in which I might - other, of course, than a desire to visit my brother. I must admit, though, that I thought differently this past weekend, and likely will be thinking differently over the next couple of weeks. The Olympics opening ceremony was sensational, the public excitement - after weeks and months of the kind of classically British moaning that helps keep me away - was palpable, and the games themselves, doping issues aside, promise to bring that unmatchable quadrennial excitement.

I loved the Olympics as a kid. I especially loved the era of Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, and Daley Thompson. I fancied myself a bit of s track athlete, and sure enough I was a nippy little fella, but my little legs would only carry me so fast, and once I discovered beer - well, that was the end of that. But I recall especially the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. During the former, my mother and I watched the 800m and 1500 m finals as first Ovett and then Coe secured victory; the latter was broadcast live, and thus in the middle of the night, on the BBC, and as a 16 year old I had no problem with staying up until 3, watching the drama unfold as Coe again won 800m silver and 1500m gold.

Subsequently, there are snippets: watching the 1992 100m final on a ship off the coast of Norway, paying passing attention in both 2000 and 2004. In 2008, I watched much of the games in my childhood bedroom, as my father lay dying in a room below.

I spend a lot of time these days looking back on times past and on the rapidity with which the years go by. It is remarkable that four years have passed since Dad died; more astonishing still that 32 have elapsed those Moscow games with my mother.

I don't really know where I'm going with all this. Perhaps all I am really trying to say is that the Olympics conjure powerful memories in me, both good and bad. And although I somewhat wish I were in England for the London games, I shall, for their final week or so, be in Alaska with the woman I love. And that, I don't doubt, will give me cause to look back on these games with the most fondness of all.
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