London 2012

London Olympic Torch Relay
London Olympic Torch Relay

I recently returned from London and the opening week of London 2012 Olympic Games.  Having taken in a lot of activities and events during Vancouver 2010, it was interesting to observe another Olympic Games as a visitor.
The British media and public are a usually cynical bunch and the lead up to London 2012 was no exception. Stories of overrun budgets, security, the ticket lottery and sales, the weather were all fodder for the press and water cooler crowd.  Those topics should sound familiar to all us Vancouerites who experienced the same woes during the lead up to Vancouver 2010. A continuing economic malaise doesn’t help boost the positive attitude either. However, something happened in the last week before the Games, the weather turned sunny and the Olympic torch wound its way through each of the London boroughs.
Suddenly people, perked up by the sun and heat, had something tangible to see and experience after years of Olympic preparation stories. The torch meant the Games were almost here and the mood noticeably changed.  As international visitors and media descended upon the City, London looks good. Dressed with flags, banners and bunting the streets are alive with colour.
In Vancouver, I was lucky enough to catch two Torch runners as they pass my building and it was a surprisingly moving moment. In London I was able to see the torch relay pass in two different spots in Ealing, West London and see again how witnessing the Torch touches the heart of the public. Huge crowds suddenly appeared on the streets and greeted the Torch runners like heroes. As the Relay neared its final day and more hints, and much guessing, came out about the Opening Ceremony the anticipation truly hit new levels.
Most people were going to tune into the Ceremony but many had a hint of cynicism in their talk about the show. I watched the opening with a group of Brits, Australians and Canadians so everyone came into the show with different attitude. However, once the show started we all universally agreed that it was exceptional. When the Queen turned in her chair to greet James Bond, the Brits were truly won over!
As with the Vancouver opening it was not only the host’s chance to show itself to the world but more importantly make the citizenship feel good about themselves. This ceremony did just that, the Ceremony highlighted the very best of Britain’s historic and cultural contribution to the world but not enough to alienate the rest of the world. It completely turned one of my friends from a games pessimist into a fan, got him excited about the games and proud to be a Londoner.
The mood of the British public has changed now that the Games have started. The angst over the predicted transportation nightmare has been alleviated by lighter crowds of commuters on the transit system as many work from home or have taken alternative shifts and routes. Country houses and pavilions have opened around the Capital giving party atmospheres to many areas.  Throngs of people are descending on the Olympic venues, the busiest area is Strattford,  formerly a rundown suburb of industrial warehouses and works yards. It’s now site of the Olympic Park, a gleaming host of the Athletes village and many sporting venues. Thousands of people travel to and from the site daily and the nearby stations and the adjacent shopping centre are heaving with humanity. Order is the norm, no people are better at queuing than the British.  Rather than a congested mass of humanity Olympic sites are a friendly, albeit crowded, gathering of faces from around the world coming together to celebrate sport. Not quite the same as our smaller and more compact Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but good vibes are percolating throughout the populace. Once Team GB started claiming more medals the atmosphere heightened even more, making an already exciting city even more vibrant. I’m glad I had the chance to experience the buzz!

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