London 2012 Olympics

Written by  //  August 13, 2012  //  Olympics, U.K.  //  No comments

(The Independent) London 2012 Olympics: A musical farewell to the world at the closing ceremony
(The Guardian) London 2012: This closing ceremony was a raucous pageant of popular culture
Last night’s closing ceremony lacked the wonder of Danny Boyle’s extravaganza. But nobody cared.

 

 

 

A Great Exhibition
From bid to closing ceremony, London 2012 confounded every pessimist
Its legacy may confound them too, but in the end that is not the point
(The Times subscription only) As word came in from Singapore that London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympics, buses full of foreign journalists were winding through the Scottish countryside to the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles.
Tony Blair was already there, taking a stroll in the gardens with an adviser who passed on the news. The Prime Minister punched the air in delight. In the buses, the press did something unusual; they cheered.
The next day, suicide bombers killed 52 civilians and injured 700 on the London public transport network. By then the work to stage the Games, not just bid for them, had already begun, and it continued for the next seven years, unintimidated, undistracted by its critics and eventually triumphant.
Like the athletes who have competed on the great stage of the Olympics for the past two weeks, those who built it knew from the start that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself. They banished any instinct to lower expectations, and harnessed instead the confidence of another age; the confidence that allowed Sir Henry Cole, the Victorian civil servant and inventor, to believe it would be possible to prepare Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in nine months flat.
These Games have been almost dreamlike in their seamlessness and drama. They have occasioned so much breathless British patriotism that the world may wonder if we were ever serious about self-deprecation, but the point is, we were. No one is as surprised as the hosts that this fraught and complex festival of striving should have gone so well. And so the world will probably forgive a little more self-congratulation, for this truly was a great exhibition of competence, creativity, athleticism and sportsmanship.

A Cast of Thousands
It took ten years’ hard labour, and victory over a determined campaign of discouragement, to create the larger platform on which these dramas were played out. Tessa Jowell deserves unqualified credit for refusing, in 2002, to endorse her advisers’ view that the Games were not worth bidding for. She could have reviewed the dismal headlines that accompanied construction of the Millennium Dome and the new Wembley, and shelved the whole idea. She could have concluded from failed earlier bids by Manchester and Birmingham that the International Olympic Committee was not interested in Britain.
Instead, she won assurances of a level playing field from Jacques Rogges, the IOC President, and invited the country’s greatest Olympians to Downing Street to lobby Tony Blair.
Mr Blair deserves his share of the credit for seeing an opportunity where others saw only risk (and a win for Paris). Sir Keith Mills ran the bid. Ken Livingstone supported it. Mike Lee conveyed its themes to the IOC’s voters. David Beckham drove home the message of inclusivity and inspiration. Paul Deighton then took charge of the London Organising Committee and Sir David Higgins of the Olympic Delivery Authority. They duly delivered £9 billion-worth of venues on time, if not under budget. Construction was so efficiently managed that Sir David was able to leave the ODA a year before the Games, and preOlympic tournaments in almost every venue served to iron out any kinks in their operation.
Deborah Hale organised the torch relay that infected ten million Britons with the Olympic spirit and gave the first hint that something far bigger than the sum of its parts was about to unfold. Behind the scenes at the Olympic Park, Des Smith was the head gardener. Sarah Price did the flowers. Jan Matthews was in charge of catering.
McDonald’s, naturally, was happy to provide the hamburgers, but it also helped to train the 70,000 volunteers who did more than anyone to turn the Games into a phenomenon.
Sir John Major secured long-term funding for elite British sport by establishing the National Lottery. Sir Clive Woodward of the British Olympic Association, David Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director, and Peter Keen, of UK Sport, have used that funding to spectacular effect. David Welsh, the former sports editor of The Daily Telegraph, campaigned tirelessly for a London Games. Boris Johnson was suitably irrepressible when at last they came, and Thomas Hetherwick’s wondrous copper flame will soon be on show, in pieces, in 204 countries.
Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison of the Metropolitan Police and the security services have shouldered responsibility for security. The Armed Forces have stepped in where G4S failed. Danny Boyle hired Rowan Atkinson and several thousand others for an opening ceremony that set a tone of soaring, once-in-a-lifetime ambition that so many others have sustained. But it is Lord Coe, who hired Mr Boyle and left him to it, who should be singled out for that and so much else besides. His aura as an athlete lent the bid much of its credibility. His transparent enthusiasm for the Games and his belief in their potential to galvanise a country proved contagious. Mr Blair has said the message of the past two weeks has been to “be ambitious”. Lord Coe got the message in advance, but he also showed enormous maturity in delegating huge portions of a management task that has long since grown too big for a single CEO.
These Games were won partly with extravagant promises about their legacy. The IOC is right to worry about what happens to its host cities when the Olympic circus moves on. Montreal’s finances never quite recovered. Barcelona is living with white elephants for which it vowed to find a long-term use but never did, and Athens’ preparations were a case study in grandiosity on the nevernever. If a consensus formed that the costs of hosting the Games outweighed the benefits, the Olympic ideal would quickly find itself on life support, and Mr Rogge’s patent delight in London was fuelled by his growing belief that it may have learnt from its predecessors’ mistakes.
A Real Legacy
The legacy of the Games is supposed to consist of repurposed venues at the Olympic Park, the regeneration of surrounding neighbourhoods and a prominent new place for sport, fitness and the joy of competition in future generations of British children. Yesterday, David Cameron went farther and said he hopes the net economic boost to Britain will be
£13 billion in extra revenues.
Let us hope for all this. The future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is already a destination worth the trip. The new South Bank? Why not? Let us hope that the idea of using existing facilities to show off a host city catches on (not that Rio will need much encouragement in the beach volleyball department); that cycling in Britain becomes not just a way of winning but a way of life; and that winning itself returns to our repertoire as an expectation, not just an occasional surprise.
The Games summoned in everyone who took part something beyond themselves. They confounded the free-market fatalists who fear any grand projet not immediately justified by costbenefit analysis. They defied that less attractive British trait that cannot hear the party for the noise; that shuts out a braver future because of the risk of building sites and traffic jams. In the process they offered a guide for everyone with power or influence. Now more than ever, they must use it.
The optimism and dynamism of the Games has already transformed East London and, for a while, our sense of ourselves. When Boyle’s moment came, he seized it to say something heartfelt about Britain. When the athletes heard the gun, they gave their all. It is not too much to hope that this same spirit should now seize everyone in government. We need them to change our country for the better, and they cannot be constrained by fear.
A Moment Seized
Let us hope, but let us not pin everything on hope. As a species, we don’t often gather on single stage to follow a single set of ground rules based on fair play, hard work and the pursuit of excellence.
This is what makes the Olympics so special, and so transcendent when everything about them seems to go so right. In the end they should be judged not by the fate of the stadium or trend line of teenage obesity. What matters is that they happened and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Their legacy is how we and our children will remember them.
Guor Marial will be remembered for running the marathon after a childhood on the run in South Sudan. Hamadou Djibo Issaka, Niger’s only Olympic oarsman, will be remembered as Issaka the otter, and Merve Aydan as the woman who finished her 800m heat limping, in tears and to deafening applause. Who knows where they will be in 2016? What matters is that they were here in 2012. Thank you for coming.

London Olympics close officially
(AFP via The News) LONDON: The London Olympics closed in a blaze of music and colour Sunday after a two-week sporting festival that electrified the host nation and was watched by billions around the world.
Olympics President Jacques Rogge praised the Games as “happy and glorious” before the sporting spectacular was brought to a close in a three-hour ceremony rounded out with a performance from British rock band The Who.
“Through your commitment to fair play, your respect for opponents, and your grace in defeat as well as in victory, you have earned the right to be called Olympians,” Rogge said. “These were happy and glorious Games.”
The Spice Girls, George Michael, Brazilian football legend Pele and a cast of more than 4,000 entertained a packed crowd of 80,000 at Olympic Stadium, the focal point of a Games which has borne witness to an extraordinary fortnight.
The ceremony also saw the handover of the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, a symbolic transfer which launches the four-year countdown to the 2016 Games to be held in the Brazilian city.
Record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt and swimmer Michael Phelps lit up Olympic Park, a former industrial site, and Jessica Ennis led an unexpectedly high number of British champions who kept fans’ excitement at fever-pitch.
The United States topped the medals table with 46 golds, eight ahead of China, while Britain had 29 — their best since 1904. It was the first Games where every team had at least one female athlete.
After 16 full days of competition, 302 Olympic titles were handed out and 46 world records were broken. More than seven million fans came out to watch Olympic events, and Bolt’s 200m win generated a record 80,000 tweets a minute.
“Today was the closing of a wonderful Games in a wonderful city. We lit the flame and we lit up the world,” said Games chief Sebastian Coe.
Prime Minister David Cameron received congratulations from US President Barack Obama, who called him to praise the organisation and the performance of the British team.
“We reminded ourselves what we can do and, yes, we demonstrated that you should never ever count Team GB down and out,” Cameron said earlier.
Cameron said the Games had reflected the best of Britain’s multicultural make-up, taking the example of Mo Farah, the winner of the men’s 10,000 title who went on to claim gold in the 5,000m on Saturday.
Farah came to Britain as a refugee aged eight after spending his early years in Somalia and Djibouti.
“It’s a Britain where a boy born in Somalia, Mo Farah, can come here, seize opportunities, and run his way into the nation’s heart,” Cameron said.
“It’s a Britain where we cheer ourselves hoarse not just for Team GB but for Team Jamaica or, as people have just done on the Mall, Team Uganda,” he added, referring to the winner of Sunday’s men’s marathon Stephen Kiprotich.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we have looked in the mirror and we like what we have seen as a country,” he said.
Britain’s newspapers on Monday reflected the country’s new-found pride but also betrayed a tinge of sadness that the Games were over.
“Thanks, it’s been a blast,” said the Daily Telegraph’s front page, while the Guardian bade “Goodbye to the Glorious Games”.
“No one is as surprised as the hosts that this fraught and complex festival of striving should have gone so well,” said The Times, calling the Games a “great exhibition of competence, creativity, athleticism and sportsmanship.”
The final day of sport saw 15 medals decided, with the United States’ Dream Team wrapping up victory over Spain in the basketball final as the Americans cemented their place on top of the medal table ahead of China.
The last day started in traditional style with the men’s marathon, with Kiprotich delivering only Uganda’s second ever Olympic gold medal in a race that finished in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.
Kiprotich timed 2hr 08min 01sec on the spectacular course around the streets of central London, with two-time defending world champion Abel Kirui claiming silver in 2:08.27.
Anthony Joshua handed Britain the perfect end to the Olympic boxing tournament with his super heavyweight triumph to win Britain’s 29th gold.
Teenager Robeisy Ramirez joined the long list of Cuban Olympic ring kings with a victory in the flyweight final over Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar.
“The moment I heard I won I fell on the floor because it was overwhelming. I am 18 years old and I am already an Olympic champion,” said the teenager.

 

Olympics opening ceremony: the view from abroad
‘The most rock and roll opening ceremony ever?’ asked one Chinese journalist, as baffled overseas commentators digested Boyle’s vision
(The Guardian) Across the globe, Danny Boyle‘s opening ceremony provoked respect, excitement, the occasional whiff of disdain and no little bafflement.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic foreign reaction came from the States, where both the Washington Post and New York Times liveblogged the ceremony, although hard ball negotiating from NBC meant it was only broadcast after the event.
The Washington Post
appeared particularly energised by the Queen’s appearance. “So, we’re all watching this movie at Olympic Stadium in which James Bond (Daniel Craig) walks into the Royal Palace,” wrote Mike Wise. “He’s followed by two mutts and suddenly walks in to see, yes, Queen Elizabeth. It’s her first role. Ever!” The Post’s verdict? “It’s corny, cheesy, altogether over the top. And it works! […] This is awesome.” BBC slideshow

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