The Olympic Games are coming to London in 2012, and the UK is making a big song and dance about it. Quite right they should too, for the whole world will be watching. Two years after that, the Commonwealth Games will be hosted by Glasgow. After the mess of 2010’s Delhi Games, have organisers got their act together? And will Team GB win anything?
The last time the Olympic games came to the UK my parents weren’t even born. And they are old. Well, not that old, but old enough for it to be considered a long time ago. That was 1948. Fast forward some 64 years and London will once again play host to the world’s biggest sporting event.
It’s funny to look at the parallels between the two dates. 64 years ago the world was a completely different place. There was no internet (imagine!), no McDonald’s (hooray), no Sky. It was a patriarchal society, where women, if they did work, were often fairly low ranking. Yet the similarities between the two games are striking. In 1948 the UK was in financial turmoil, just as it is today. The war had just ended (we’re at war now), and major political changes were afoot. The ’48 Games were considered a great success. Will 2012 be the same?
Well, you can’t say they’re not trying. I went to the shop the other day to get breakfast. I paid with a 50p coin with the London 2012 logo on it, bought some cereal and milk, both emblazoned with the same emblem. Eating the Olympics. Later that day I got a taxi with a huge London 2012 sign tacked to the side. That logo (which, by the way, looks like a child has drawn it – maybe one has?) is becoming ubiquitous.
Organisers have even got creative with the ticket prices. It was announced fairly recently that the cost for various events will range from £20.12 to £2012. Genius. Now, you’d be criminally insane to pay £2012 for a to watch almost anything, but just over twenty quid is pretty cheap I reckon. Might go and watch the beach volleyball or something.
And there’s real hope for Team GB at the games. In real sports too, not ones that pretend to be (ahem, synchronised swimming). Gymnast Daniel Keatings, who’s 19, won an all-round silver medal at last year’s World Championships. Megan Sylvester is only 15, yet she managed to come 6th in synchronised diving at the same event. Then, of course, there’s Tom Daley, also a diver, who seems to turn everything he touches to gold. He’s 16. I wish I’d be as motivated at that age. He’s the current World Champion. Just incredible. What have I done with my life?
Of course, the other constant that has been around since long before ’48 is that great British institution, the BBC. In 2012, they plan to have 6000 hours of live coverage. Yes, 6000. I did some sums. The Olympics go on for 17 days. That’s 408 hours. Which means in order to get their 6000 hours the Beeb are going to have to fit about 14.7 days into every day. Just not enough days in the day, as the old saying goes.
Really though, I’ve complained about Sky’s complete dominance of sport coverage, their monopolisation of anything worth watching and the general evilness of their conglomerate ideologies, so I think it’s actually a great thing that the Beeb are putting all this effort into covering the games.
Two years after 2012, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games. Delhi held the event last summer, and it was an event plagued by constant problems. Scotland’s team travelled out late because of justified concerns over the standard of the athletes’ village. Press pictures showed the state they were in just a day before they were due to arrive – dirty, unfinished, unliveable. “Unfit for human habitation”, as the UK officials asserted. A few days before that the footbridge linking the main stadium with the car park collapsed, injuring 23 people. Then there was the dodgy repair to the running track.
A friend of mine suggested Glasgow’s main problem is going to be getting language experts in to translate from Glaswegian to English. It’s a fairly incomprehensible dialect to me, and I’ve lived in Scotland for five years, so goodness knows how Russian gymnasts will fare.
This is the UK’s big opportunity. Two of sport’s biggest events in two years, then – fingers crossed – the World Cup in 2018. And it’s going to bring millions into the economy. So it’s up to organisers to make it a success. They’ve already recruited thousands of volunteers and the main stadium is basically finished. And it looks like we’ve got the athletes for it too. I, for one, can’t wait.
You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace