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Posts Tagged ‘London 2012’

Such was the rush we all got in the UK from our surprise that the Olympics started as creatively as they did, continued as seamlessly as they did, were broadcast and watched as avidly as they were, and closed as suddenly (if not as elegantly as they began) as they did, that we all were left wanting more.  Not a bad place to be if you are an organiser of such things. Little did we know (though no doubt some in the know knew full well) that the Paralympics would not just give us another fix of the same but would in some ways eclipse the main event.

Now even that is done and dusted, the main question – apart from whether the effects will last – is how on earth do you pick out from the 11 days what were the best things. Completely subjective, but here are my top 7 (and bottom three), in no order:

1. The eloquence of Alex Zanardi after he had won his first gold medal. The level of TV interviewing (and the modern obsession with breathlessly trying to interview athletes almost before they have crossed the line) was mostly quite awful, the questions never getting beyond either the inevitable “what was going through your mind…?” or deplorably loaded “what about the crowd support…?”, but Zanardi managed to rise above the twittering to string together a whole set of eloquent reactions. More of him, please.

2. The silence of 80,000 spectators in the main stadium – not in the famous Jonnie Peacock hushing, but during the 4 x 100 relay for the visually impaired runners who needed the silence to hear the calls of incoming runners. Silence was never so full of willingness to take part. Beautiful moment.

3. The back-stories, some of which are actually stories of all the troubles in the world. Much more so than in the Olympics, the Paralympics were able to inspire and help all of us question our own prejudices.

4. The good bits of the TV coverage (there’s plenty of space needed for the flip-side of this, below, but some credit where some credit’s due), which included the decision to anchor with Clare Balding, and the decision to work with so many former Paralympians as commentators and anchors and experts. Let’s hope that some new TV careers were launched by this – seeing people for what they can do, not for what they can’t. Oh, and the Last Leg.

5. Sports, as in the Olympics, that we wouldn’t otherwise see, or understand. Goalball, wheelchair rugby, boccia, blind 5-a-side… And so on. The challenges overcome in the swimming pool was amazing on its own.

6. The smiles, the friendships and the sporting behaviour that even television couldn’t hide. We have had a lot of info about the ParalympicGB stars, but just some of the ones in addition to them that caught my eye included Victoria Arlen from the US, Iliesa Delana from Fiji  and Terezinha Guilhermina from Brazil.

7. Brits. All of them, except those who think that Brits are only people like them. The crowds made the games.

As for the bottom three:

1. The worst bits of Channel 4 coverage…. And this is a long list, topped by the idiotic, counter-productive breaking off to advertisements, beginning annoyingly in what was otherwise an excellent opening ceremony. The fact that they didn’t offer coverage of all sports, or even full coverage of certain key events that a lot of people would want to see. The BBC was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Channel 4 did not emerge from this with much intact, in my view. As mentioned earlier, the inane post-finish interview questions also have to be mentioned. The obsession with where GB were in the medal table.

2. The sad news that many of the world’s media pretty much ignored the games. Their loss, but shame on them… This was an opportunity missed.

3. The fact that we have to wait another 4 years to see it all again.

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The party’s over, the orgy (of sport) is spent, the last Big Mac and fries served, and the athletes, crowds and hordes of the rather oddly named ‘Olympic Family’ have been sped back along the special lanes to wherever it was they came from. London 2012 is finished and we are all feeling a bit, well, bereft, actually. So here are my top eight and bottom three things from the Olympics…

1. The Olympic Park experience. We weren’t expecting the level of organisation and levels of welcome when we went to the Park to watch some handball in the Copper Box during the first week of the games (before the TeamGB medal surge feel-good factor had been invented). There were huge crowds, for sure, but virtually no queues and definitely no confusion. Information was everywhere (it was almost like being in Tokyo!). What’s more, Brits with smiles on their faces? That took some getting used to.

2. The Opening Ceremony. Thank you Danny Boyle and team, you did the impossible and directed a cast of thousands and our attention/feelings through a really good narrative, with just the right mix of ingredients to have something for everyone. The lack of story, point or class in the closing ceremony just showed how good the opening one was.

3. Lots of sporting highs, but my fave was the Jamaica 1-2-3 in the 4 x 100 relay final. Not just a world record, not just beating the USA into second place, but the laid back way that the quartet answered questions afterwards at the trackside. And Usain Bolt breaking away mid question (perhaps after his 200m win) to respect the national anthem being played for David Rudisha’s gold. And the Jess and Mo show, of course, which were inspirational performances. And special mention to Nicola Adams and Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Well, the list goes on…

4. Sports we don’t normally see that are much more than we thought they’d be. Handball (and I’m going to have to declare a soft spot here for the Norwegian women’s handball team – yes, all of them), taekwondo, dressage, modern pentathlon and volleyball were excellent. The BMX bike was – well, what was that all about?!? The same course over and over, the same riders over and over, race over in seconds, and medals all on the last race, which was a lottery! Hmmm, not convinced.

5. Clare Balding. Ian Thorpe. Michael Jordan.

6. The BBC Olympics website. Every venue, every event, on demand. Incredible.

7. All the athletes who weren’t there to win but to challenge themselves by taking part.

8. The Paralympics still to come! Inspiration times 10!

And my bottom three? The Closing Yawnomony (already pilloried) aside:

1. The Great Britain men’s football team. Why even have soccer as an Olympic sport at all? There’s already a world cup and regional competitions, and it’s now become the most overpaid (US men’s Basketball notwithstanding) sport in the world. When there were so many amazing performances going on everywhere else, I think no-one minded or cared when GB lost to, whoever they lost to… Whatever, etc… (I reserve the right to praise the women’s games, though, as they were actually much better to watch. More gutsy and committed). Ban football from the Olympics, I say.

2. Trying to write a Phd despite all seven points listed above, especially number 6.

3. Boris Johnson.

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