Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Vancouver's success sets the bar high for London in 2012

After a rocky start the Winter Olympics that has just ended in Vancouver proved a success. The Canadian crowds climbed out of the shadow of their American neighbour to relish the Games; the opening and closing ceremonies wowed television audiences; and competitors were on peak form both in their events and the Olympic Village - supplies of free condoms ran so low emergency stocks had to be shipped in.
Amy Williams's gold medal wasn’t much of a return for the millions of pounds that were invested in the British team. But it would have been poor PR to scrimp on UK competitor numbers given London plays host to the summer Games in just over two years time.
I can only imagine the BBC devoted so much airtime to curling because of what proved to be a vain hope we might win a medal in the so-called sport. I’d rather watch competitive carpet laying.
During the closing ceremony on Sunday night, I couldn’t but feel anxious ahead of 2012. The Canadian sportsmen and women responded handsomely to the sporting challenge. It would be an embarrassment if after all the investment, we struggled to manage only the most modest tally of medals.
Greater still will be the damage to London’s reputation as a top tourist magnet if Londoners are not encouraged to embrace the Games with the same enthusiasm, which swept Canadians.
A lasting legacy of the 2012 Games would be to rejuvenate its area at the eastern approaches of the capital. Especially so when public budgets are still likely to be very tight. The Olympic Stadium may have to be the new home of West Ham United even if it goes against the grain of the organisers to cosy up to a soccer club. A way would have to be found to accommodate athletics on the same site.
Ensuring the stadia are completed on time; organising the thousands of volunteers; the security problems; the transport difficulties; the accommodation headache - I wonder if the French are still as miffed at seeing Paris pipped at the post in its bid to hold the Games. They shouldn't be. The French capital would be an ideal time to escape London between July 27th and August 12th.

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