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The 12 best things about hosting the Olympics

Posted at 3:00 pm, August 14, 2012 in Olympics & Paralympics
Olympic opening ceremony rings w/ caption.

Remember London’s pre-Games mindset? Just four short weeks ago, the city was a bundle of nerves. For seven long years, we’d been mired in a classically British bog of cynicism towards the whole endeavour. And as the Games approached, we were treated to a troika of fail – embarrassing light shows, collapsing festivals and scaled-down parades. Stratford station flooded, brand police loomed and security guards… well, there weren’t any.  Was London about to blow £9bn on embarassing itself on the world stage?

Actually, no.

It turned out bloody brilliant!

So to assuage the cynics in Rio – if cynicism even exists in Rio – here are some of the things we enjoyed most about playing host.

1) Condensing your nation’s cultural quirks into bizarre ceremonies

Opening ceremony.

Fake Isambard Kingdom Brunel reading Shakespeare!
The Arctic Monkeys, on a ‘Middle Earth’ themed grassy knoll, covering The Beatles!
Mary Poppins battling Voldemort for the soul of the National Health Service!

Genius. Still some British stuff left over? No problem – we’ll put the Spice Girls on black cabs, One Direction on a truck driving around the M25 and Annie Lennox on a pirate ship. Welcome to Britain, everybody!

2) Winning loads of medals

We! Are! Number three! Say we are number three!

‘Go Team GB!’ we cried. And go is exactly what they did. They might have spent six days a week training to exhaustion for the past few years, but convinced of the powers of a cheering home crowd, we’ve enjoyed a little pang of vicarious satisfaction each time one of our fine athletes scored another medal.

3) So. Many. Emotions.

Golden girl.

We like to think the British are known for their stiff upper lips, but… it’s just… so… nice… oh god. Excuse me.

4) Olympic spirit

Oscar and his competitor swap name tags.

The Premier League’s finest could probably learn a thing or two from this lot. Just saying.

5) Gamesmakers

70,000 unpaid volunteers stepped up to help make the Games happen – and they smashed it. This charming army of purple-clad heroes guided, assisted, directed and entertained visitors (and athletes) from around the world with humour and grace. The lady in the above video does a particularly skilled job of combining infectious enthusiasm with world-weariness. Who says Londoners aren’t friendly?

6) Transport for London(‘s comms strategy)

Olympic transport: expectations vs reality

Avoid central London.
This station will be extremely busy.
Consider working from home during the Games.

TfL’s ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ campaign had us quaking in our boots. We were braced for transport chaos, unnavigable crowds at our major rail termini and commutes from hell’s innermost Circle Lines. Instead, everything seemed to run even better than normal. You could even catch the tube at 1am! We might never know whether it was a world-beating piece of expectations-setting, or PR so persuasive that millions of Londoners abandoned hope and telecommuted in their pants, but either way, our infrastructure’s resilience in the face of 500,000 extra punters was a deeply pleasant surprise.

7) Mo Farah’s winning face

Mo Farah.

Mo’s shock at his own world-beating greatness goes hand-in-hand with Londoners’ bewilderment at their thawing attitude to matters Olympic. He couldn’t believe he’d won. We couldn’t believe the Ukrainian delegates didn’t have to walk to the venue along the Jubilee Line tracks. Perhaps the exhausting nationwide campaign of pre-Olympic pessimism was all worth it, just to make the eventual success all the sweeter.

8) The BBC (NB: may not be available in your country)


Every sport, live. Up to 24 different channels. And all while the Americans tweeted bitterly about NBC’s injudicious editing. Long live Auntie!

9) Taking the world’s fastest runners, highest jumpers, deftest fencers (etc.) out for a drink

Olympic athletes get drunk.

We don’t have a shortage of bars to enjoy in London,  so it was nice that the athletes ventured out of their Village to enjoy a celebratory drink or two. (Or ten.) Cheers!

10) Your Mayor causing world confusion

Boris dancing at the Closing Ceremony. Boris gets stuck on a zip wire.

A Mayoral mishap is always a Rorschach test for Londoners; where some appreciate a genuinely endearing absence of damns given, others see a cynical strategy of faux-foppery in action. But in any case, it gives the rest of the world a smile – ‘You can never say it enough times, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is a weird guy,’ says Le Monde.

11) Memes for everything

Mo Farah running away from things (specifcally a T-Rex)

In 2012’s viral-friendly world of Twitter & Tumblr, the event-to-meme-cycle has never been shorter. (A late contender for the best might just be ‘Mo Farah Running Away From Things.‘) At the current rate, by the Rio Games in 2016, amusing GIFs will actually start being created before the event they’re based on.

12) Buying tickets was a simple and straightforward process

That’s my little joke. (Brazilians, train up your mouse-clicking fingers now… you’re going to need to be on world-beating form when the Games come to town.) Guy Parsons

Having Olympics withdrawal? Not long to wait for the Paralympic Games

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