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London 2012

With the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games about to begin and the story of the 30th Olympiad now coming to an end. It’s just as good a time as any to take a look back over the events from the past two weeks. It may now be another four years until the 2016 Rio Games (or at least 2 years until the 2014 Sochi Winter Games) but with all the achievements made over the last 16 days its important to take stock of what has worked well and unfortunately what didn’t.

There’s no doubt that the United Kingdom is knee-deep in some pretty far-reaching shit. We’re in the midst of an economic crisis which appears to be never-ending. We’ve been stuck with a deeply unpopular government which has been responsible for a lot of unpopular decisions. Especially when you consider how much has been made of an Olympic legacy yet the Government has been responsible for selling off school fields, withdrawing funding for sports programmes and closing schools. On top of this it’s very easy to claim that the Olympics are unnecessary or too expensive. However despite with everything going on, maybe the Olympics were exactly what the country needed. The Jubilee Celebrations showed that there is nothing wrong with a bit of national pride and singing the national anthem.

Now while I’ll be looking at some of the things that didn’t work well with the London games there is something I should make incredibly clear. It is in my opinion that the games have been a huge success and have presented Great Britain and the Great British Public in a favourable light. There has been incredible world records made, careers launched and fond farewells made. In the days before the beginning of the London games, all I heard from people was just how much England were going to make a cheap, cheerless and pathetic Olympic games. Fortunately those very same people shut up after the spectacular opening ceremony and quickly revised their comments after TeamGB started bringing home the gold.

So let’s have a look at what worked well in the London Olympic Games. Since I want to focus mostly on the positive, it only makes sense to get the negative out-of-the-way first.

The Negative

The BBC’s David Bond:
While the BBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games has been incredibly comprehensive and enjoyable. Not all of it has been complimentary. The BBC’s Sports Editor David Bond has frequently shown this when it comes to his reporting. Not only is he content on speaking over the National Anthem of Great Britain but he has also continuously been painting a negative light on Great Britain’s accomplishments. He didn’t stop at TeamGB either, he painted a negative light on American coverage. When China was ahead of the USA. He painted a light that Americans were altering the table score so they were out on top. While this may be true of the American media, it certainly doesn’t reflect the American population who were just quite simply enjoying the games and supporting their team.
His most critical of reports occurred when Rebecca Adlington swam her life out and came back completely delighted with her Bronze Medal. David Bond clearly stated in his report that “questions would be asked about why Adlington failed to win Gold.” Even when Adlington herself had said “there’s no way I’m disappointed with Bronze. If anyone else thinks other than they clearly do not know my sport.” David Bond didn’t stop there either, when TeamGB finally started getting Gold Medals in on Day 5 his report stated “questions will be asked why it took TeamGB so long to get a Gold Medal.” In fact when it comes to David Bonds reporting there always seems to be questions that must be asked. Perhaps questions will be asked why he thinks questions should be asked instead of simply celebrating and supporting what TeamGB had accomplished.

The Badminton Incident:
There is no way of looking at the Olympics event overall without a glance at something which made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian Women’s teams were thrown out of the Badminton event when it became clear that the players were trying to fix events so they would face a favourable draw. They accomplished this by playing badly. So badly that the crowd booed at the teams and the judge had to at one point stop the game and warn the players.
It may be possible to look at this that the teams were merely trying to arrange a more favourable result so they would have a better chance of winning a medal. However, personally if I had paid money to go and see the badminton events only to find that players were trying to lose on purpose. Then I would have been pretty pissed off. It doesn’t fit either the Olympic code of better, stronger, faster. The right decision was made in throwing the teams out. Their respective governments can complain as much as they want but they can’t expect to walk away with a Gold Medal if they are going to use dirty unsporting behaviour to win them.

China’s response to Silver Medals.
If there has been any one thing that has annoyed me most of all. It has been the response of China’s athletes upon getting Silver Medals. Qui Bo from the Men’s Diving event and Sui Lu from the Women’s Gymnastics Events are the best examples of this. In the Mens Diving Finals, Qui Bo broke down into tears when he learned that his score was not enough to beat the first place spot of David Boudia. Not only did his tears flow but the tears flowed of his coach and team. Upon being given his Silver medal, he didn’t accept it graciously. He just took it and stood stone faced while having his photo taken. This is made even more clear when you take into account the celebrations of Tom Daley and the GB Diving Team who immediately celebrated by jumping into the pool.
Sui Lu’s response is probably the most insulting. She broke down into tears when she failed to beat her teammate Deng Linlin on the Women’s’ Gymnastics Beam Final. When she was given her Silver Medal, she immediately took it off. Refused to wear it and refused to have her photo taken with the Silver Medal. Contrast this to the image of Aly Raisman with her Bronze medal. Beaming with pride and enjoying every minute of her achievement.
The blame for this cannot just be placed solely on the Chinese athletes themselves. The fault more importantly lies with the Chinese Sports Authorities which drills into their athletes that anything less than a Gold Medal is a failure. The result is Chinese athletes who react disgracefully when anyone else would be properly overjoyed with their achievement. Personally if it had been down to me I would have stripped the athlete of their medal the moment this was detected. If an athlete is going to behave like a 5-year-old throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get the toy they want. They should be treated as such.

The Positive:

The social website Twitter has played an incredibly large role in making the Olympics a far closer experience. For the first time it is possible to communicate directly with the athletes themselves. Obviously for some, it has resulted in acts of disgust. For others though it has been a way of being close to their heroes and heroines. For the athletes themselves it has been the chance to thank their fans for their support. I have used Twitter for several years now but mostly as a way of communicating with friends or making random comments. With the arrival of the Olympics I have been offered the chance to chat with some of my favourite stars. I have been incredibly lucky to have received tweets from Dana Vollmer, Hannah Miley and Jennifer Pinches. The fact that some of the athletes took the time to respond and thank their fans is surely to their credit.

The Great British Public:
There is no way to truly understand or state the impact that the people of Great Britain have played on the Olympic Games. Many looked at the games with revulsion, boredom or just simply not caring. From the moment the Olympic Torch began it’s journey at Lands End to its eventual destination at the Olympic Stadium, it has managed to capture the attention and warmth of the Great British public. More importantly it has seen people adopting new athletes from far away countries and urging them on with support. It has allowed the athletes of TeamGB to push themselves harder with more strength.
The most important point though is that it has managed to display the best of being British to the Global world. The World has watched as the people of England have cheered on their national heroes. Never turning their back on the athletes. Willing them all on and it is entirely to their credit that has managed to make the London games the success they have been.

The BBC:
There is no way to stress the absolute importance that the BBC have played in the Olympic Games. The average licence fee payer will have only paid £5.60 for the two weeks coverage of the games themselves. For this the viewer has received coverage of every single event, online streaming, tv coverage on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Three. The service of the BBC has been crucial in allowing fans and followers of the Olympic Games to track the progress of their favourite athletes or sport events.
It isn’t just the coverage the BBC have provided which has made them so worthwhile. Its the choice they have provided the viewer. At no point is the viewer left out of the event and the BBC One coverage tried to cover as many events as it possibly could and still notify viewers of results. Additionally the BBC have provided us with outstanding commentators and footage. This is shown best by the coverage of the rowing events at Eton Dorney. Throughout the entire event Sir Steve Redgrave has been there not only to provide commentary to viewers but have also shown moving support at congratulating victorious rowers or helping losers to his or her’s feet. Through the BBC’s coverage we saw Redgrave as the ‘Rowing Dad’ cheering each one on and being there to support or a hug at the end.
The BBC’s coverage is made even more special when you compare it to the American’s coverage of the Olympic Games with NBC. In the case of NBC, it was filled with commentary written by idiots or filled with adverts. The best example of NBC’s incompetence is shown when the results of Missy Franklin’s swimming race was delayed so it could be shown at Prime Time on American TV. However when they eventually showed the event itself. They included an advert congratulating Missy Franklin’s on being an olympic champion. Annoying when the advert was shown before NBC aired the coverage of Franklin winning the Gold Medal.
People most often like to rip into the BBC. They view it as biased or they hate the fact that it requires a licence fee to watch it. When compared to the competition though, the BBC is still light years apart from any other channel in terms of choice, quality and more importantly value for money.

The GB Gymnast girls who just wanted to have fun:
When the Great Britain Women’s Gymnastics team entered the Team Finals for the first time in years. It would be easy to assume that the pressure would be on them. The Great Britain Men’s Gymnastics team had done the impossible in winning a bronze medal in their team finals. Now all eyes would rest on the women’s team. The task would not be easy. Before them stood the USA, Romanian, Chinese and Russian teams. Each titans in the sport and to defeat one or two would be next to impossible, not to mention to defeat them all. Yet still the pressure was placed upon the women’s GB Team. It would be all to easy to just crumble in the pressure. The task was gargantuan. Rather than face this nerves 3 of the Great Britain Gymnastics team responded with what could only be described as the typical British attitude. When the task before you is difficult. You go out there and you have fun.
Hannah Whelan, Rebecca Tunney and Jennifer Pinches. They may be names not held in the same regard as Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Catalina Ponor, Svetlana Khorkina and others. But most important of all, they went out and did their routines. They didn’t respond with nerves, they went out did their best and crucially they had fun. There is nothing better than watching an athlete go out and just have fun. It is a sport after all and to frequently it is filled with personalities who take it all to serious. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Whelan and Tunney smiled all throughout their routines. For Tunney it was her first big event and as the youngest member of Team GB overall she could have just turned into a big ball of nerves. She didn’t and the best example of this overall is British Gymnast Jennifer Pinches. Pinches performed her Floor routine, walked off beaming and joking then looked into a camera and flashed the Nerdfighters salute. This wasn’t a girl who wasn’t there to worry. She was there to have fun.
I have to make a special mention of Beth Tweddle though. In the UK, Gymnastics has always had a difficult time in the british spotlight. In 1996 there was only 1 british gymnast at the Atlanta Games, Annika Reeder. By Sydney 2000 there was Reeder and Lisa Mason. At Athens 2004 there was a significant change in the air. Beth Tweddle had come along and she was trailblazing a path. Tweddle didn’t just blow the doors open for other gymnasts to follow in her wake. She smashed them open. In 2004 and 2008 TeamGB were able to send a women’s team to the Olympics. They didn’t get to the team finals but they were able to make progress. At 2008 Louis Smith earned a Bronze medal. Finally at London 2012 a mens and women’s team made it to the Team Finals. The Mens team scored a bronze medal, an achievement that before had been thought next to impossible. Additionally Louis Smith and Max Whitlock earned Silver and Bronze medals respectively. Most importantly of all, Tweddle finally got her Olympic Medal. It might have only been a bronze but it was brilliant to watch. Tweddle was finally getting her reward for not only bringing Gymnastics to the front but allowing for a new generation to follow in her wake.

The Proud Parents:
If any memory is going to stick out at all in the Olympic Games, it’s going to be the parents. Those cheering on watching as their sons or daughters competed in the games. From Chris Hoy‘s parents cheering him on at the Velodrome or to the response of Chad Le Clos‘ father on watching his son win a gold medal. The human element of the games has allowed viewers to be able to watch as someone’s son or daughter lives the moment of their lives. Either like Chris Hoy’s mother and peering through closed fingers or like Tom Daley’s mother who watches with pride as her son won the Bronze medal. Gemma Gibbons is another example. After winning her Gold Winning Judo match, she looked up to the sky and whispered  “I love you Mum.” A fitting tribute to her late mother.
Tom Daley‘s achievement is what sticks out the most though. In his case, he didn’t have his father there to watch him achieve his dream or cheer him on as he performed the dives of his life. Sadly Tom Daley’s father Rob had died in the previous year. Just as much as all of Great Britain watched on with pride how Daley had grown from Boy to man in front of their eyes. Surely too did his father watch on with pride as Daley earned his gold medal.
It is the human element that defines the games and makes them watchable. It’s all too easy to just cheer on the local boy or girl. It’s all too easy to watch as they accomplish something not many others can. It is something else entirely when you watch athletes, you either grow up with them or you see them grow into the accomplished athlete. there is nothing better than cheering on an athlete you have watched grow. then for the merest of moments you watch someone achieve their dream, knowing that quite literally. Nothing is impossible.

So there you have it. In conclusion the entire 16 day event has created an air of positive atmosphere for the normally stiff upper lip of the British. There is no doubt that there are dark days that lay ahead. But the important things is that for just over two weeks. The nation came together, united under one flag and one team who proved that with hard work, determination and strong effort. Then anyone’s dreams are possible. It will be a shame that for some, they have attempted to use this time as a means of tactically trying to win gold or behaved like children. It’s also a shame that France have used this time to accuse the British of cheating. In fact there has been numerous accusations of cheating. Some directed at the home team, some directed at the Chinese. It isn’t good for the sport but at least these things were taken on the chin and laughed off.

Of course, it should be noted that London’s Olympic story doesn’t end today. On August 29th we go through it all again with the beginning of the Paralympic games. The BBC won’t be showing coverage of the Paralympic games. That duty will fall to Channel 4. So then, it’s time to be inspired all over again, lets meet the Super-Humans.

The only problem now for me is, what now? For 16 days the Olympic Games have been relayed through the BBC and into my TV and to move from having massive choice of games to watch to suddenly having none will be a difficult one to accept.

Of course, if one thing will keep me sane. It is knowing that it will only be a few weeks until he returns.

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