As the London 2012 Olympic bubble reaches its inevitable pop, the same question is on everyone’s lips – well everyone’s in Britain at least. Did these games live up to the hype? Will it leave the lasting legacy we hope for? Or have we let the rest of the world down and embarrassed ourselves along the way?
Since it was announced that London would host the 2012 Olympic Games seven years ago, there has been an air of doubt amongst us Brits up to this day, will the failures and weaknesses of our beloved nation be exposed for the world to see? Will the pressure of having the world round for dinner – or should I say afternoon tea? – be too much?
From a Brit’s point of view I’d say we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. Third on the medal league table, an extraordinary performance from our athletes and outstanding support from the fans. Public transport has received a well needed overhaul, the Olympic organisational committee sailed through the games unscathed (well, almost) and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the security measures paid off. So much has been achieved at these Games, not just by our home grown athletes, but by the excellence of athletes from around the world. A huge step forward for gender equality has been taken by the Olympic movement from women participating for the first time in sports like boxing and from countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
I personally loved both the opening and closing ceremonies – they were home grown, artistic, patriotic and proud. They were British. Featuring a mash up of pop and rock music, tributes to fashion, industry and my personal favourite – rush hour, and what seemed, at times, a chaotic show of sheer randomness. Where else would you see thousands of Mary Poppins’ floating down on a British breeze to defeat Voldemort?
From an outsider’s point of view both the ceremonies where dubbed weird, bizarre, strange and confusing – but those aren’t necessarily bad things right? The opening and closing of the Games might not have been to everyone’s taste, but there is no denying the quality and success of other aspects of the Olympics. From state of the art facilities springing out of seemingly nowhere to the thousands of volunteers who directed people around our busy city. London last year was a scene of dismay, as riots, violence and arson stained our streets. It’s amazing to think that just one year on, London will play host to the world and play host well. There were no demonstrations, security scares or scandals. Of course there were hiccups – from the row over seat allocation to displaying the wrong flag for the North Korean Women’s Football Team, but we handled them well.
London 2012 had such a focus on sustainability and legacy – more than any other past Games. The main motto of it all – if you haven’t figured it out yet – was “Inspire a Generation”. Inspire to work harder, be more active. Inspire to believe in sports again, to join the less media covered sports like handball and fencing, or just sports in general. To create worthy role models, inspiring celebrities and promote a sense of pride in Great Britain again. Long term funding has been put in place to promote sports all the way up to 2016 when it’s Rio’s go. Although I’m sure the surge of joining sports clubs will eventually fade away like New Year’s resolutions, all we can hope is that the legacy of these games lasts longer than that. The Games have acted as a rush of endorphins, surging through London’s backstreets and spreading through the nation – it has transformed Britain into a land of happiness, patriotism and enthusiasm, let’s hope that doesn’t fade away with the fans.
It saddens me to talk about it in the past tense already – although my Olympic memories will consists of screaming at the T.V. rather than screaming in the crowd – despite it being in my home town, and getting frustrated at the many tourists making tube travel even more unbearable, these Games have proved that even though we’re a tiny island – we can throw one hell of a party.
Does Olympic success make us a better nation? Better equipped to deal with the socio-economic problems of the real world? Probably not. Does the thousands of pounds spent making the Olympics so special help us out of debt? I doubt that. But hosting an Olympic Games has brought us closer as a nation, closer to sport and closer to other supporters, regardless of nationality. In the last seventeen days, the world’s eyes have been on Britain, and I think we gave them something worth watching – I think we showed them Olympic success.