ON the eve of the 2012 Olympic Games, I was walking through north London in a pretty and unobtrusive back alley, when out the corner of my eye I spotted a very familiar sight. I turned quickly, startling my girlfriend, and took off at full pelt like Usain Bolt down a 100m track. When my strides stopped, I was standing below a tree I hadn’t seen in years. It was an Australian wattle tree.
I reached up and broke off a small branch and held it fondly in my hands. It was a branch full of beautiful wattle gold flowers, and leafy sprigs of green. I sniffed it softly and dreamed of what significance this startling find might have. Was it an omen that our Australian Olympians, only hours away from walking out into the London Olympic Stadium, would bathe in the glory of our most successful Games yet? Was it a sign that the Aussie green and gold would reign supreme and show the Poms that we are the rightful suitors to that fourth spot on the Olympic medal table? Was it fate that I should come by this very tree on the eve of the biggest sporting event in years? I walked on, spring in my step, smile on my face — wanting more than ever for London 2012 to start and for our Aussie gold-wash to begin.
Fast forward a week and a half and that branch of wattle has gone limp. While it still holds pride of place on my mantelpiece, I often find myself staring angrily at it, longing it to help inspire our athletes on to greatness. It seems, just like my sprig of wattle, our chances of appearing even in the top 10 of the medal tally have gone limp too. But no matter where we feature — be it behind New Zealand and Kazakhstan — or by some miraculous quirk of fate — ahead of Team GB and South Africa — that wattle green and gold, from which our national colours are inspired, will always be a deep source pride. Because whether or not our Olympians are achieving on the world stage, they — like us — are Australian. And that’s all I need to be proud.
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