It was always going to be difficult to compete with the spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, yet Danny Boyle came up with a very distinctive, eccentric, and thus very British opening ceremony for the Games in London. It showed Britain as an open, multicultural society and was an apt tribute to the history of the United Kingdom. It has helped us feel good about ourselves for a while.
There was of course a very telling contribution by a Beijing digital media company called Crystal CG International. It provided the computer-generated creative imaginary that flashed around the bowl of the Olympic stadium, illustrating well the links made between Beijing and London from our recent experiences of hosting the Games.
This will undoubtedly be the biggest legacy of the London 2012 Olympics for us, feeling good about being Londoners and British particularly after the opening ceremony.
Of course there were some criticism of the Games, in particular concerning empty seats, the transport and the corporate sponsors of the events. We were always going to get some empty seats in the preliminary rounds of some contests, but the attendance figures have been quite astonishing if you look at the figures for track and field events and even football with the domestic season soon to start.
What has been pointed out is how it appears that corporate sponsors do not take up all their seats and it’s something the International Olympic Committee will need to look into more carefully, particularly when host cities’ citizens are finding it difficult to get hold of tickets. The publicity about transport during the London Olympics, along with the mayor’s announcements, meant that people thought the city would be heaving with people, so no one decided to go into the city center, affecting business. Once this was acknowledged in the first week of the Games, matters were addressed. All in all, this was all managed well, as and when matters arose.
As for the economic legacy, it’s yet to be clear how during the Games it benefited London and UK but in the long term could well attract further investment and trade as it promoted London as a global city to do business, or have pleasure. This as the Bank of England warned that the impact of the Olympics may not be long lasting on the economy, though there were lessons for the banking sector from the “fair play” of the Games.
By spreading happiness and good cheer the Games have made us all feel better. And, who knows, the impact on confidence may give the economy a boost. But ultimately the Games cannot alter the underlying economic situation we face: the United Kingdom’s economy has shrunk for the past three quarters. While we have been celebrating the Olympics, the economy has been flat lining with the downgrading of official growth forecast to zero in 2012 and the trade balance increasing against us, with the latter not helped by the euro crisis reducing the trade we are clearly having with our main partners in Europe.
Team Great Britain bagged 29 gold medals at these Olympics, and amazingly we came third in the medal table. I doubt we will be able to match this feat again. More importantly it was done in the spirit of fair play, and the crowds often showed their appreciation for the efforts of athletes from other nations as well.
Unfortunately this could not be said of all the teams. The United States raised questions about China’s swimmer Ye Shiwen, whose phenomenal performance at the tender age of 16 secured her two gold medals. Their accusations were shown to be merely bad sportsmanship when the British Olympic Association cleared her of any doping. This all the while as individual performances by athletes were greeted very well by the fans in attendance, the ultimate test of acceptance. British fans are strong supporters of fair play and this came out well during the Games.
London along with Athens has now had the honor of hosting the modern Olympic Games three times. On the previous two occasions in 1908 and 1948, we hosted it to assist the OLympic movement. On this occasion we wanted to host it, and I feel we have done a good job of it. The London Olympics has reflected well on us and showed us to be the sporting nation we undoubtedly are. So let’s bring on the Paralympics in a few weeks’ time, which will also receive great support from the British public.
This article first appeared in China Daily