By Mike McRoberts, in London
Pride is a word I’ve heard and used a lot in the past 24 hours.
I was honoured, yes proud, to MC the Governor General’s Olympic Gala Dinner at Banqueting House in Whitehall. It was a veritable who’s who of mainly London based Kiwis with more than 300 in attendance.
The highlight of the evening came with the naming of Beijing Silver medalist Nick Willis as the New Zealand team’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony.
Nick spoke passionately about the opportunity he’d been given. The sense of pride he felt wearing the team’s cloak, Te Mahutonga, presented to him hours earlier at an emotional ceremony with the rest of the Kiwi team at the athletes village.
Neil Finn capped off an evening of celebration with a rousing performance .
It was a fitting climax for a very clever campaign by the New Zealand Olympic Committee, where they compiled a number of inspirational stories asking Kiwis “When were you most proud to be a New Zealander”.
The brief was that it didn’t need to be about the Olympics, just a time when you felt proud of our nation. Indeed my “moment” was about attending the memorial in Christchurch a month after the earthquake in February 2011. I spoke of the spine chilling feeling as the crowd of around a hundred thousand spontaneously gave a standing ovation to the local and international rescue workers as they filed into North Hagley Park.
Like us, London too has dealt with it’s dark times. Back in 2005, just 24 hours after the city was awarded these Olympic Games , four suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 others in a coordinated attack during morning rush hour traffic.
Not far from my hotel, at Tavistock square, I found a plaque laid in memory of those killed when a bomb ripped apart their double decker bus. As I was standing there a woman next to me starting talking about what it was like that day. She spoke with a sense of pride about how the city had coped in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
And with the Olympic Opening Ceremony just hours away, Londoners indeed have every reason to feel proud.