Britain's fans helped athletes like Mo Farah (10,000 metres) to gold.When people discuss a wave in the context of sports, usually they're either referring to the standard "Mexican" one (the origins of which are disputed between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico) or they're talking about surfing. At first glance, Daily Mail columnist Des Kelly's mention of a "London Wave" sounds like the Brits' attempt to claim that first wave as their own. Read on, though, and it's clear Kelly's talking about something else entirely, something much more organic, enthusiastic and important to the on-field action than a stadium standing up in turns. Here are the key bits of what he has to say:
It starts with a ripple of anticipation and builds with astonishing speed. There is barely time to catch a breath before the wave of sound hits in a riptide of red, white and blue. This is the 'London Wave', an awe-inspiring phenomenon of visceral power that is like no other atmosphere I have experienced in sport. ...
To be inside the Olympic Stadium is to be part of a sonic crescendo that follows the athletes along every spiked step. When Britain's Olympians run by, the thunderous crowd noise climbs as they pass.
Then the volume dips in their wake until Britain's hope returns on another lap, jump or throw and the din rises to another level. This goes on and on until it becomes a giant, all-consuming vortex of sound.
This isn't like a Mexican wave, where the crowd amuses itself when it's bored. This wave matters. It is an astonishing expression of the British people's will and desire. It is everything we hoped this Olympics could be.
The frenetic support of the Brits for their athletes has been a key factor in these Games, and it's been noticeable from across the Atlantic. It's certainly seemed to make a difference at times, too. Two cases that stand out include Mo Farah's amazing sprint to the finish to claim gold in the 10,000 metres, with the crowd roaring like a jet engine and urging him on, and Jessica Ennis' incredible finish to claim gold in heptathlon, which saw the crowd build to a crescendo and explode in celebration when she crossed the line and wrapped herself in the British flag. Could these athletes have pulled off such feats without the backing of the crowd? Well, it's possible; they're remarkable competitors who have trained for years, and even the greatest crowd in the world can't turn a couch potato into a gold medallist. On the day, though, the incredible support they got from the British fans certainly seemed to push them over the top.
[Video: Central London a ghost town]
What's really interesting about the "London Wave" is that it isn't prompted. There's no "Noisemeter", no arena staff telling fans to pump up the volume and no choreography required. This is just fans screaming their hearts out in support of their athletes, and it's amazing to see, especially considering that the Brits are often tagged as dour and dispassionate As Kelly writes, the spontaneity of what their fans have done at these Games makes it even more remarkable:
There is so much 'fake' atmosphere in modern sport where Tannoys and idiotic PA announcers tell the audience when to cheer. After every goal or winning point, a burst of Blur's Song 2 plays instead of letting the crowd hear themselves. People don't need to be told when to cheer. They know magnificence when they see it. They realise when something matters. They not only understand when they see a winner — they know how to tell the world too.
Wherever these Games take place, from Cardiff, to the south coast, to Manchester, or here in London itself, the reaction of the crowd is always described as 'amazing' or 'unbelievable'. And it truly is.
This is Britain's finest hour. We should shout about it.
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