The world is watching | Danny Boyle’s impeccably choreographed opening ceremony was the perfect way to open the London 2012 Olympics, and captured the imagination of tens of millions of viewers. (Image | BBC)

The 2012 London Olympic Games are hopelessly commercial. From the towering, monolithic structure of Westfield that looms over the Olympic Park rather like an evil capitalist sceptre, to the sponsors’ names splashed everywhere from portacabin “walls” to cash machines, this is the true nature of modern sport. Advertising is king and there is money to be made everywhere.

One word pervades the air. “Official”. Why not pay £4.30 for an “official” beer? Which is Heineken, in case you were wondering. Perhaps you would like some “official” merchandise from the outlet located close to the Olympic Stadium itself? Or maybe some lunch and a refreshing soft drink from the “official” providers, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola?

I happen to be one of the purveyors of consumerism, yelling out “official programmes” from 6am-2.30pm on the main concourse at the Olympic Park. However, despite the excessively corporate and business-driven nature of the modern Olympic Games, there is no substitute for good old fashioned excitement and national pride.

Passion | Being on the ground during the first day of the London 2012 Olympics was an unforgettable experience, despite the incredibly early start endured by all the staff and volunteers. (Image | The Times)

Today, some walking straight past me in anticipation, others stopping for a chat, some even buying one of my programmes, I saw visitors from Sweden, Denmark, the United States of America, Canada, Spain, France, Russia, Serbia and the Netherlands. Oh, and a few thousand people wandering about in Team GB shirts, which despite the fact that they regrettably sum up the commercial attitude to the Games, at least show a sort of passion among those heading to the handball without even the slightest clue of the rules of the sport, or even “what it is”.

It remains to be seen whether the hope that the 2012 London Olympic Games will “inspire a generation”, but after last night’s tremendous opening ceremony, it is hard to imagine that anyone could fail to be at least slightly stirred to cheer on athletes who, in most cases, are genuinely just like you and I. Yes, they stay in an exclusive Olympic Village along with the other athletes, but only through years of training, dogged determination and commitment to a lifelong passion.

We have already witnessed an incredible “de-throning” act in the pool tonight, with Michael Phelps thrashed by Ryan Lochte in the much-hyped battle of the day, while the Chinese have been rampant, winning four gold medals already from six overall. Despite the disappointing result in the cycling earlier, where Mark Cavendish‘s Olympic dreams were once again dashed, it looks set to be an incredible Olympics and despite our traditional British negativity and muted grumbling, it is about time we all admitted we’re really quite excited about, and proud of, London 2012.

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