Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Watching the London Olympics from the UK Part Two

The London Olympics are over - now what? Can Britain keep up the vibe?
I was in a truly privileged position as a spectator in the London Olympics. I traveled economy class, stayed in a budget hotel, had ordinary tickets. But I attended as both a tourist and a local. I saw things from both sides. I experienced the airports, tube, venues etc as a (newly-minted) foreigner, but really rooted for Team GB to do well. By Team GB, I meant everyone, not just the athletes.

This fellow English-born-ex-Fife-expat(and repat) summed up the logistical experience of the London Olympics really well, good and bad. The volunteers and staff were fantastic. They gave directions, they offered encouragement and lightened moods. They suggested great spots to watch the games, and acted as ambassadors who presented the UK as a friendly and outgoing place full of friendly and outgoing people.

The transport and infrastructure also worked perfectly (for me, at any rate). London felt more vibrant and excited than I've ever felt it. I went to bits of London I'd never been to before. Brits seemed genuinely surprised (in a good way) that things went off without a hitch. Blimey, Britain can scrub up well when lit on the world stage.

The BBC can be proud of its coverage as well - which I can compare first-hand to NBC. The overall choice and the ease with which to access it (even in budget hotel rooms) was not only impressive, but exactly what media outlets should be hoping to achieve with technology available to them. I'm not going to go into comparing budgets here and now though - if anyone else has I'd love to see.

What happens now? Will there be long-lasting positive legacy from the Games? Will it truly rejuvenate the East End? Will this bring a new era of super-serving broadcasting? The tagline for these Olympics was "inspire a generation" and the British government is keen to see Britain's bounce last a while. This hasn't happened in Cameron's case, but it'd be great to see Team GB match its medal haul in four years, and it'd be great to have new and old generations inspired to take up sports, whatever the reason, whether Taekwondo medal hopefuls, or healthy yoga-bugs. But sport success isn't the only inspiration to take from the Olympics. Two different comment pieces in the Guardian cover this topic in different ways, one about the sponsors of the games and another more wry piece about the economy. 
What legacy would I like to see? What inspired me most? Amongst all the branding, celebration and glamour of the games, there's a different message to take. The Olympics see more defeat than success - only the successful few take home a 'prize' - but the message of perseverance and inspiration would be a great one to carry through to the next British generation. Seeing all the defeated athletes getting cheered on and encouraged was an amazing reminder, both to keep on living the best I can and with the best mental attitude, but to support others around me doing the same.

My previous employer also has a great article about one particular aspect of the London Olympics that could be a great legacy if recognized and nurtured: the Gamesmakers. Can the UK inspire a new generation of civic activists? It's food for thought.

As we wave goodbye to London 2012 and the UK's moment of glory, can the UK keep up the enthusiasm for civic pride?
Glasgow has the Commonwealth Games in just two years. While in London I already heard about people keen to pick up even tickets, including me - I want lawn bowl tickets. I hope there'll be the same enthusiasm to get involved too.

What do you think?

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