10 reasons why we loved the London 2012 Olympics

1. It showcased London at its best

Summertime in London is a wonderful thing and summertime in London 2012 came just in time. After the rains came a beautiful celebration of all the things that make London such a wonderful place to live.

The Olympics were the highlight but the South Bank’s Festival of the World and the BT River of Music festival were just two of the fringe attractions that reminded us what a joyous, creative, inclusive and diverse place London can be when it is on form. And my, what form it has showed over the last few weeks.

2. Seven thousand cheerful volunteers

It could be argued that London 2012’s army of 7,000 volunteers made the Games really work.

It was impossible to get lost or confused with so many helpful and cheerful volunteers to guide the way. They were so good they made travelling on the tube a pleasure. Everyone was good, everyone was helpful, some were even witty and innovative – I’m sure the volunteers with the toilet roll finishing line were not acting under instruction.

3. The opening ceremony

These occasions tend to be overwhelmingly embarrassing (see Diana Ross and World Cup 1994) or bafflingly overwhelming (see Bjork at Bejing 2008). Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for London 2012 was an absolute joy, which everybody of every conceivable demographic seemed to enjoy.

Boyle’s paean to GB was cool, clever, heartwarming and thrilling. It wasn’t without its faults. The post-procession stuff went on way too long with the Arctic Monkeys seemingly there only because Boyle loves them.

But everybody will have had their favourite moments (Me: they played New Order!). Nobody will forget James Bond pushing the Queen from a helicopter. It officially crowned Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers as the Greatest Song of the Twenty-First Century. And it clearly told David Cameron to leave his dirty hands off our beloved NHS – an institution to be proud of.

Unfortunately the Closing Ceremony had very little to be proud of and got everything wrong that Boyle got right. If anything, it just confirmed how masterful Boyle’s efforts were.

Apparently my Mum liked it. And so did the lady next door. So it obviously appeared to an older demographic. For the rest of us, it was just irredeemably naff.

4. The government failed to make political capital

Quite the opposite in fact. London 2012 was a triumph for New Labour. It’s been a long time since anything was a triumph for New Labour. But London 2012 was won and built on its watch.

The coalition government bickered about the House of Lords while the rest of the nation sat and stood glued to the Olympics. The media giggled about the Curse of Cameron every time the PM attended an event GB did not win (even though he was there for a few we did win), savaged The Cuts for endangering the sporting legacy of the Games and made Boris Johnson look an oaf…. again and again and again…

5. The Union Jack was reclaimed

It was okay to be proud to be British. An Asian friend told me how it was like reclaiming the flag. The flag was no longer being used in some nebulous celebration of nationality or as a rallying point for racists. It was okay to see it being waved around everywhere because it was celebrating something good, something inclusive and something unmistakeably British. 

6. No JT

The British football team predictably lost on penalties but it was refreshing to watch a representative team at a big event without the remarkably unlikeable John Terry and Ashley Cole.

It was easier to love the sportsmen and women involved in the Olympics when they came without the baggage associated with your average England footballer. And it was easier to be unashamedly patriotic without obnoxious twats like Terry and Cole to prick your conscience.

7. It made it a joy to watch football

Wembley rocked. The good vibes of 74,000 cheering Gabon and South Korea to a 0-0 draw was infinitely preferable to 30,000 East Enders screaming abusive vitriol at their supposed heroes at Upton Park (the last professional football stadium I attended).

The thought of this rabble inheriting the Olympic Stadium seems incongruous at best, disconcerting and depressing at worst.

It would be wonderful if the good spirit exhibited by the Games caused a bit of a rethink from the administrators, players, managers, executives and supporters of the country’s most popular game. Dream on.

8. Olympics Tonight

The BBC had a great Games even if its promise of everything being available on the red button was only really true of satellite TV subscribers. Almost all commentators, pundits and presenters were on good form – although Gary Lineker seemed a bit out of his depth.

The real star of the show was Gaby Logan, whose Olympics Tonight highlights show was essential viewing. It was beautifully put together with great guests and in Logan, it had a funny and engaging presenter and a knowledgeable and empathetic interviewer. The ease with which she handled any technical glitches was a throwback to the glory days of Des Lynam.

9. It inspired a generation

Possibly. Well, if my four-year-old daughter is anything to go by, it did. She is going to be a champion BMXer, gymnast and hockey player. Other parents have told me of similarly enthused children.

10. Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah…

…Greg Rutherford, Michael Phelps, Ruta Meilutyte, Louis Smith, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas, Max Whitlock, Dan Purvis, Andy Murray, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Tirunesh Dibaba, Felix Sanchez, Kirani James, Missy Franklin, Arthur Nabarrete Zanetti, Gabrielle Douglas, Steven Kiprotich …and a whole heap more.

I’m pretty sure there was a load of incredible Chinese gymnasts… Oh yes, there were some good rowers and cyclists too. British ones apparently…oh okay, Lizzie Armistead and Victoria Pendleton were great. And so were Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins. For a short while there, it was almost like cycling and rowing weren’t posh boys’ sports after all. Alan Campbell wins my award for the most heroic rower. That boy is hardcore.


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