Like so many sports fans around the world I’m now in the grip of that quadrennial disease known as Olympic fever. The main symptoms seem to be a TV that never goes off, regular resort to the BBC website live feed, soaring hopes for my preferred competitors and spontaneous outbursts of joy and anguish as those competitors do or don’t achieve a medal.
The outside of my residence was the first part to succumb. Several months ago students and staff from Lotsane Senior Secondary School in Palapye joined us for a long-weekend and painted an Olympic mural on a section of my wall overlooking Gaborone’s busy Khama Crescent. Now the whole house has it.
We turned my main reception room into a screening room for the opening ceremony and were joined by 30 former Botswana Olympians, members of the Botswana sporting community and media. It was a proud and emotional night as we watched the last couple of hundred years of British history and culture laid out in spectacular fashion. There were huge cheers for Team Botswana as they entered the stadium.
Last week Olympic fever spread to the High Commission itself, after we turned our car-park (opposite the National Assembly and Government Enclave) into a beach volleyball court for a day long competition with local businesses, sports groups and other local embassies. Although we can’t claim to have mirrored the standard of the London 2012 competition, we did echo the venue (the London 2012 competition is being held outside our Ministry at Horse Guards Parade).
I thought the fever had reached its crisis point last Sunday with the women’s 400 metre final. Botswana’s world champion Amantle Montsho was one of four women under 50 seconds, reinforcing her place at the very top of the sport but missing a medal by just three hundredths of a second. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was crushed on her behalf.
The pain was lessened the next day by the pride all Botswana expressed in having such a superb runner. As I confessed in my last blog, my Olympic journey has been from detached observer to committed fan. In that process I have also discovered the antidote for all sports fans – hope.
Hope for another day. And hope for another race. Last night we got just that as Botswana’s 18 year-old Nijel Amos steamed through his 800 metre semi-final. So now I’m hoping that my fever breaks at 9pm local time tomorrow night – and that Nijel and Botswana get their medal.