London 2012: Help or Hindrance?

Back in 2005, Lord Coe and co. were given the opportunity to host the Athletic Extravaganza that is the Olympics. Now that the big curtain-raiser on July 27th is within reach and billions of public pounds have been sunk into the project, I’m going to take a look at how the games may have helped the country already and how the legacy they leave might impact on the UK in years to come.

Sebastian Coe himself has already outlined the importance on making London the “Green Games”, in an attempt to try and make the 2012 Olympics the most environmentally friendly in the history of the games since the modern era began in 1896. So the fact that many venues that already exist are being used to their potential in London, for example Wembley Stadium, the O2 Arena, the Wimbledon All England Club and Earls Court is a good start towards that, saving the inevitable costs that would have arisen from the building of bespoke arenas for certain events.

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have had a whole seven years to prepare for the arrival of 10,000s of athletes, backroom staff, volunteers and millions of lucky ticket holders over the course of the 17-day event. This as well as thousands upon thousands of journalists and the world’s separate television coverages. So the legendary London Public Transport system is going to be tested to its full, but the clever people at LOCOG have already got this covered. Over the duration of the games, there are going to be specialised shuttle trains, named “Javelins” running continuously and frequently to and from the Olympic Park. There’s also going to be a special bus service and individual “Olympic Bus Lanes” across the city to ensure efficiency across the city. So in this gargantuan logistical task, it seems that many bases have been covered.

Now for the main attraction of the games itself: The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. Including an 80,000 seat (temporary) Olympic Stadium with 55,000 seats being removed after the games, and is the centre of a hotly contested bidding war among London based football clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United to be used as their new home. Among others, there is also a 17,500 capacity Aquatics Centre for many of the watersports like Swimming, Diving, Synchronised Swimming etc. Also, there’s the recently tested Velodrome (used for the Track Cycling World Championships 2012).

The big bone of contention over the running of the games so far can be summed up into one word: tickets. The system used by LOCOG has been widely criticised as almost 70% of people that applied for tickets in the first round of balloting weren’t lucky enough to get any. This furore was intensified when it emerged that the standard “first come, first served” ticketing method was being employed across the world for tickets, so tickets for events were immediately accessible rather than in a month-long balloting period and a non-biased automated ballot system. This was a system that inevitably led to some being allocated tickets for more than one event and the majority being left with none.

The fact that the Olympics has been paid for with mostly public funds (with around £1billion extra coming from the private sector through advertising, supplying etc) in these times of austerity has also put an interesting twist on whether the government, along with LOCOG, can spend taxpayers’ money efficiently and not spending more than a penny over budget. The situation is seemingly so rosy, that the Coalition Government actually cut the budget by £27million as part of their action on reducing the deficit. Speaking of the government, enter lovably mad Mayor of London Boris Johnson. His endorsement of the games would be frankly admirable, if anyone could understand what on earth the man was talking about. But the advertisement across the world of the games in London has given it a lot of hype, and the question would be if the games can deliver. The Government Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson has even suggested the games can turn a profit through the revenue that the games will bring (ticket sales, merchandise, refreshments, memorabilia etc.) which in everyone’s mind, can only be a good thing.

Doubts have been expressed with the Olympic Park in Stratford destroying animal habitats and the demolition of homes and the relocation of families living in the area, all for the sake of the games. The BBC have even rented an apartment building directly adjacent to the Olympic Park to present their coverage from, forcing all the tenants in that building to move for the duration of the games, thus infuriating the locals.

The eyes of the world will be watching The Opening Ceremony on July 27th, be it for the thrill of the Danny Boyle-directed show orto see if the usual Olympic terror plot rumours actually exist, and with an estimated global audience of 1 billion people, it would be easy to forget those few poor souls that have to move their lives around for the sake of sport. The situation should have been handled much better, with at least alternative accommodation being available rather than leaving tenants in the cold.

While having to move is a complete hindrance to those that have to, the Olympics can be seen as a chance to help build a better image of the UK in the international community. Putting it lightly, other countries don’t exactly like us very much. First, Sarkozy and Merkel don’t exactly want our help in trying to sort out the Eurozone and then we nearly always get “nul points” at Eurovision every year! So aside from the terrible organisation with the tickets and the poor souls that have to make their lives make way for the games, as a country we should try and get behind the XXX Olympiad, because it’s OUR Olympics to do with what we will. Thousands of people are volunteering their time and effort and it’s only fair that we do our bit to try and make it as successful as possible.

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