I worked on the advertising campaign of original Olympic application. To win the bid London had to prove that the UK Olympics would mean progress, not just in sport but for the nation.
So we came up with the idea of leap for London. A leap ahead for everyone, for schools, for the community. We also talked about the legacy, brilliant sports facilities for deprived areas of the UK and even a way of shipping stuff out to poorer countries.
Ten years later I wonder if the billions of pounds that have been lavished on the games meant a step backwards rather than forward.
The country is about to hit a double dip recession, mortgage rates are on the up, public services are creaking but instead Brits are keeping calm and partying on so it seems. The ceremonies alone cost 14 billion triple the original budget. Not forgetting the cost of the roadworks for the special vip IOC lanes and the army needed to protect the city and now to fill the empty seats unused by blase/bored corporate sponsors.
We also had one big fat warning sign of what might happen if we overspend. Greece. Their economic situation today is in part due to the pressures of staging the Olympics. The world is looking at you so no penny can be spared. National pride swiftly transforms into international vanity. Athens is now littered with empty stadia and a population too preoccupied with debt to go play sport.
The UK has already had some very expensive parties over the last year. The Royal Wedding and the Jubilee. The Olympics is the cherry on the cake. Nice and sweet but is it all really worth it? I don't think we can be in any doubt of our patriotism after seeing the opening ceremony. But at a time when the world is in financial ecological and human crisis was it all worth it? Will the country yield the benefits of the three headed party beast? I wonder if the Queen should have done the decent thing and waited till the Olympics for her bash. It would have saved the tax payer a bob or two. Not to mention the amount of days off work we have had in honour of these events.
The 2012 Olympics also seems seem further and further away from the Ancient Greek roots. A modest sporting event focussed on human physical and mental performance. Apparently Seb Coe said sport is all about entertainment now. Millions of viewers indeed watched the opening ceremony, a fabulous eulogy to Brit culture, yet sport seemed decidedly absent. Every man and his dog seem to be jumping on the brand bandwagon and the links between sport and sponsors seems decidedly tenuous. My favourite is Coke. Which athlete actually drinks chemical sugar liquid? TV breaks are full of ads trying to make you buy something just because of the Olympics. The rings are everywhere and in danger of becoming wallpaper.
I wonder what London will look like once the party is over in a month's time. Will there be a case of the royal blues as no more upcoming festivities? Possibly a royal baby in the offing but nothing else to gee up the country spirit. Let's hope there is a positive aftermath - great sports venues, motivated youth and some healthy national businesses. I personally would not want to be sitting in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's seat right now. President Hollande must be incredibly relieved not to have the games under his watch. Or maybe I have gone all native.
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