Let the races begin, here and in London
And so as we enter Olympic week, we use Olympic parlance — the baton of craic that is perpetually on the move in Galway is passed on in the relay team of Johns. First John Killeen grabbed it and ran at a speed of knots, sailing through the field, the wind at his back to pass it on to John Crumlish who took it with a little artistic flourish, had it repainted while it was in his hand, juggled it through the air, airkissed it before seeing the third John awaiting on the cusp of the last 100, and with the white flag being hoisted into the air, he passed it on to John Maloney who will, with a ‘wild lep’, jump over the last fence and bring the Galway summer to the finishing line with the applause of the audience ringing in his ears.
And although we have been overwhelmed with audience figures over the last few weeks, 150,000 people will enjoy racing in Galway next week. They will come from all corners of the country to sample the Galway they know and love — the atmosphere, the smells, the accents, the craic, the bowdiness.
They will adorn the uniform of the races, the smart dresses for Thursday, the suits, the casuals. They will get the hair done, the bod sprayed, the credit card maxed. They will go through the hell of heels on our cobbled streets in the pursuit of fun. They will create the blend that makes this race meeting one of the most unique in a city that is unique already.
And as they pass on their way in, the hordes of arts fans and film buffs leaving, we are treated once again to the juxtaposition of the wild and the wonderful and reminded how fortunate Galway is to have these lucrative and colourful festivals in its annual calendar.
And if you think we’re panicking over hosting a mere 150,000, think of London where tomorrow begins the long-awaited Olympiad and at its very start, we may see created in the opening ceremony the imagery of animals and country life as imagined by artistic director Danny Boyle, the acclaimed director who spent many of his childhood summers among animals in a country setting a few miles outside Ballinasloe.
And if Danny is to use some of that East Galway imagery and soil, what a boost that w ill be to our own Olympians Paul Hession and Olive Loughnane who carry our local hopes in London. We wish them well.
It is but 16 years since one of our local athletes carried the Irish flag in the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympiad — how sweet it would be to have more bus-top celebrations through the streets of Athenry and Carrabane. Bring on the races, here and in London