The Olympic Games 2012 are over and judging by the outpouring of grief, it will take many of us a long time to get over that fact. This is because wall to wall coverage does something to the mental thought process. It stops us from worrying about the mundane things in life and provides escapism. Thankfully the Olympics got off to a flyer but it wasn’t long before the controversies began to roll in.
Japanese swimmer Park Tae-Hwan was disqualified then reinstated.
Sixteen year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen had to publicly fight back against doping slurs.
Eight Badminton players, two pairs from China and one pair each from Indonesia and South Korea were disqualified for trying not to win.
Team GB’s male gymnasts were stripped of their silver medal and demoted to bronze after protests by the Japanese team.
Iran’s boxer Ali Mazaheri was disqualified after receiving three warnings in under a minute and then he refused to stand next to the referee when the fight was brought to a premature end.
The South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed on Hampden Park’s stadium screen next to the North Korean women’s football team (a mistake of seismic proportions).
For South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam time stood still when the clock seemed to be stuck with one second left, meaning that her opponent Germany’s Britta Heidermann, was able to score the winning point in a sudden death match. Judges ruled that the point would stand leaving Shin A-Lam in tears. But she refused to leave the piste and accept the decision, and waited for over an hour for the result of an appeal she eventually lost.
There were more controversies too but let’s remember that London hosting the Games was truly an amazing gift. Though we rightly questioned its monumental cost and the ticket buying process, the whole of the United Kingdom became infected with Olympic fever, including a lot of the pessimists.
The Olympic Torch went through Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales thus allowing ordinary folks to become involved by cheering on the lucky people selected to carry the torch. The Opening Ceremony didn’t disappoint, in fact it dazzled us and the athletes and fans from all over the world enjoyed the spectacle. The marvellous achievements of Michael Phelps in perhaps his last Olympics set the standard and Usain Bolt cemented his place in athletics history by defending his titles and picking up three gold medals. Our travel infrastructure didn’t collapse as we feared, we just had to get used to the re-routing and temporary no go areas that were put in place, and we witnessed ‘Super Saturday,’ when three of our athletes, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford, and Mo Farah brought home gold.
I succumbed to the Olympic fever too and visited the ExCel Centre, one of the Olympic venues. My journey to and from it went pretty smoothly and the distribution of the tickets and the information updates I received prior, were good. Being on home turf meant that anyone representing Team GB received an automatic maddening cheer with lots of flag waving smiles. Unruly behaviour was kept at a minimum which proved that we could all come in from the cold together and be as one. Not only that, but athletes from other countries received a nice reception as well from the home crowd.
Although Team GB performed exceptionally well, analysis from the Wall Street Journal suggests that they topped the loser table with the most last, second-to-last, and third-to-last finishes in total. We also know that a lot of money was ploughed into our swimming programme for which we only saw a small return. So what is the legacy? The effects of the Games are already seeping through with the hope that they will last. Despite the financial cuts already made the Government will make more money available from the National Lottery for elite sports, millions over the next four years, and the focus is already on getting youngsters into sport to be our athletes of tomorrow. But it’s also important to remember that sport and exercising is supposed to be good for us. At the height of Olympic fever a newcomer to my local gym mentioned to the instructor that she hadn’t exercised for two years. Now I can’t confirm that the Games played a hand in her return to the treadmill but I kind of suspected it did. Athletics and cycling clubs up and down the country have seen an upsurge in queries from those wanting to take up the respective sports, and Paralympic tickets are apparently selling faster than ever too.
Sadly not everything in the Olympic Park will remain which is a shame because those facilities could have led to more events being hosted there in the future. I hope that the feel good factor of the Olympics, coupled with a natural sporting interest from even those who are not ‘sporty,’ still remains intact for a long while because at least 90% of the UK population tuned into the games at some point. Coming third to America and China with a medal haul of 65 – 29 gold, 17 silver, and 19 bronze – is no mean feat and the Minister for Sport even hinted that London may bid for the Games again as early as 2024, now that would be something.
This post along with other articles can be found on my Huffington Post Blog by clicking here.