Go or not go: Opening Ceremony

On 27 July in London a lone torch will light a giant cauldron that will burn the Olympic flame during the greatest psychological show on earth. Over 80,000 people will watch the ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle, as the athletes take the Olympic oath.

The Great Britain team will be the last to enter the stadium and one controversy is whether the athletes will be there or in the athletes’ village watching it on TV.

It has been reported that UK athletics chief Charles van Commenee has recommended that his athletes miss the ceremony, as it is not part of their optimum preparation. The question has even asked; are the GB team tourists or athletes?

Sport psychologists familiar with the Olympic event – it is unique in both scale, and public and media fervor – have explored the factors that facilitate and inhibit Olympic performers. Organisational stressors were reported as a factor related to suboptimal performances at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

And the opening ceremony is one aspect that can be detrimental to an athlete, particularly if they are competing in the first week of the games, as the swimmers are.

The stress and context of the games, with the village, the media coverage, and expectations around attending the opening ceremony and indeed other events (to support team GB colleagues) are predicted challenges for athletes in London.

With regard to the opening ceremony, it is not simply a case of ‘Should I stay or should I go now?’

British Olympic Association sport psychologist, Simon Timson has described an athlete who found a solution to the challenge of wanting to be part of the Games, and balancing that with the need to rest and prepare for his event. The athlete watched the opening ceremony from the stands.