London’s Learning Curve

November 9th 1989, September 11th 2001 and July 30th 1966 are significant dates which will never be forgotten. Cast your mind back to July 6th 2005 and try to remember what you were you doing. It was a day that will go down as one of the single-most defining moments in Great Britain’s history. But why?

In fact, Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, was the man responsible for transforming our nation forever with the announcement that London had successfully won the right to become the host for the Games of the 30th Olympiad. Immediately afterwards Trafalgar Square transcended into one giant party featuring Heather Small belting out the official song of the London 2012 bid, ‘Proud’ and ticker tape streaming in every conceivable direction to the delight of the hundreds of thousands of Brits who, just minutes before, had been anxiously gathered awaiting the result.

Not since 1948 has London had the opportunity to stage an Olympic Games, and despite the apprehensions of many who believed that our Gallic neighbours would deny us the opportunity at the 11th hour, Sebastian Coe and his team pulled through.

As it stands, there are only 917 days remaining until people from all four corners of the globe flock to see what we have to offer. July 27th 2012 witnesses the start of the event which will undoubtedly change the face of London forever; an event which will give us the opportunity to show the world that we Brits can put on a show. It’s our time to shine. And boy will we shine.

London 2012 has the potential to be a spectacular showcase of athletic ability on a par, if not better than any previous Olympic Games. Before we try to surpass them however, let’s first consider the successes and, in some cases, the failings of previous host-nations so that we can move forward and make things even better for two years time.

One Games from which we can take particular heed, are those of Atlanta 1996. Many issues came to light including: the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games’ negative relationship with the world’s press, the inconsistency of Atlanta’s transportation network and the Games’ over-commercialisation. The worst moment, however, was undoubtedly the terrorist bombing of the Olympic Park and although London cannot guarantee that it won’t be susceptible to the same threat, security measures MUST be undertaken to ensure that we are prepared in such cases.

Sydney 2000 learnt well from the disarray that was Atlanta and the reports emanating from the Games were not shy in contrasting their successes with the disaster of 1996. Such was the degree of its success; the country was left with a hangover of sorts when the Games finally came to a close. The city continued the tradition set by Melbourne in 1958 of hosting “friendly Games” and the glorious weather only served to add to this. As expected, the media and the world loved it.

Fast forward four years and we were transported to Athens; the home of the Olympic Games. By any measure, the 2004 Athens Olympics were a great success, not least because of the design and implementation of the security management system which ensured the safety of both competitors and spectators. It can also be said that being awarded the Olympics was a blessing in disguise for the Capital of Greece as it allowed for the complete renovation of their transport system, which consequently was hugely influential in turning the Games into a huge triumph.

Unfortunately, following on from Beijing 2008 will not be an easy task since their no-expense spared extravaganza has set the bar dauntingly high for London 2012. The Opening Ceremony alone demonstrated this by featuring amongst other things: soaring acrobats and an enormous 16-tonne globe rising from the ground and came to a mind-blowing climax when Li Ning was winched high above the crowd to race around the stadium walls before finally lighting the flame.

Yes, there can be absolutely no doubt that the Beijing Games were spectacular, but at what cost? Somewhere estimated to be in the region of £20 billion was laid out by the host nation in an attempt to show off its emergence as a world power. London simply cannot afford this so they must accept that there is no point in trying to compete with the Chinese on a financial level. We simply don’t need to push our country further into a recession from which it is already struggling to emerge.

For any city, hosting the Olympic Games is both an honour and a challenge and one which London will no doubt embrace wholeheartedly. Learning from where Atlanta failed in 1996 as well as taking on board Sydney, Athens and Beijing’s relative achievements is key to the success of the 2012 Games. We may not be the biggest nor the best nation in the world, but what we can be is DIFFERENT. 2012 is hopefully going to be an amazing year, a year during which, in the words of Heather Small, we will be proud to say we are British.


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