It was almost 10 years ago when I was working on a project in Stratford, East London. Our office was on Burford Road and on the floor below was a little office with a handful of people in it who forever seemed to be working away like mad. In fact some days while having a crafty smoke outside I would see the odd person go into the office that were reasonably well-known in the UK. That little office was the centre of activity and the base of the London bid for the Olympic Games.
A place where the cool-aid was bottled and stacked to the ceiling and surrounded by a great many sceptics. However, I had a little experience with larger scale sporting events as I was the marathon controller for the 1991 World Student Games in Sheffield with 111 countries and every single competitor a member of their national Olympic teams for the 1992 Spanish games. In some respects due to the sheer number of countries participating; the 1991 World Student Games was far bigger than the Olympics the following year.
BUT… at the incredible opening ceremony the ministers of sport from 110 countries turned up – and the British one? Nope… because the host nation’s government didn’t think was a big deal. As such, British Gas wouldn’t even sponsor the flame, so after the opening ceremony – they actually switched it off!
However, it rejuvenated the east end of Sheffield, commerce and the later use of the Arena and Stadium as concert venues make the city a “must” stop for any touring production or band worth their salt…
I knew that games cost a fortune and rarely see a financial return; at that time a given, as while I stood there having my smoke, I also remembered what a massive effect it had on Sheffield and its people. But knowing what I witnessed before – I did have to wonder if, as a nation, we were up to the task.
Later I saw the model of the Olympic village they had made as the proposal – that’s when I realised they were serious and had a chance.
Obviously the rest is history, but it is a history marred with pain; the day after the UK won the bid, London was ripped apart by multiple bombings on the Underground system. This was of course the July 7th 2005, 56 people lay dead and a great many more injured. Now, if you listen to scare mongering by the press, there wouldn’t have ever been an Olympics – but while we have fought terror for a great many years (since 5th November 1605 in fact), we know that living so freely often comes at a price – one that we can handle and not beat up the rest of the world over – unless of course you remember the Empire. ;-)
The biggest waste of money hasn’t been the games… it has been the London Underground Connect Project. This was a complete and total upgrade of every part of the Underground system and as I have worked on the project twice – never have I witnessed such a complete waste of money on planning and paperwork in my life… In fact tens of millions spent before anyone attempted to install a single thing. Anyone use an air conditioned train lately? Not on the underground you haven’t! But contrary to popular belief police radios do work underground and the entire system is Cell/Mobile ready – they just need to switch it on…
Irrespective of cost, the Olympic city appeared on time and what an awesome venue… Due to the transportation of so many people I, like so many avoided London – as it turned out, so did millions of others. This led to a great part of London’s tourist trade being almost demolished throughout the games sadly and even £500 a night hotel rooms were being offered for under £100 instead.
But the there were three other issues
1 Security of the City of London
2 Ticket access for the games
3 Private security
The Defence of London came under the direct control of the Ministry of Defence – strangely enough, it’s what they do… it’s in their title y’know. This logic was lost in the eyes of some lily-livered do-gooders in London… So when the city was placed under an anti aircraft missile shield – oh did they just whinge… seriously!
The ticket access for the games was an abomination that I hope Rio can learn from. In major events of this type, they gain a massive hierarchy of VIPs which = BS… and the IOC more than indulge this because most of them have their heads up their own jack like backsides… Let me be clear – these are either the people’s games – or they are not… I guess they’re not when a massive amount of seats remained empty and those that filled did so on a £70+ price tag… Yeah, the people’s games – uh huh….
The company “Group 4 Security” failed to provide the manpower to secure the games and as such – the Army was called in, I’d add the other services, but after watching the RAF warrant officer marching out of step with the Olympic Flag – hell no. The really strange thing about the G4S shortfall was, well…. I didn’t once see an advert hiring anyone for the Olympics – and I looked…
Finally: Olympic copyright… seriously, I get using their logo and name with reference to these games is a fair copyright – but when they started copyrighting common words like the phase London 2012 – I took serious offence to this… the reason? We were already using that phrase long before the IOC copyrighted it and I think it’s just wrong and BS gone mad… But then stories came through thick and fast about all sorts of things like the many years old Olympic Cafe being ordered to change its name – my answer “get real!” after all it’s not written in Greek… And in true British style, the owner did – and five minutes with a ladder and screwdriver changed the name to Lympic Cafe… :-)
The Opening ceremony…
Ok, huge on the wow factor, bit slow in parts and needed to be explained to simply too many people – thus, while spectacular, it kinda failed in concept… No, I’m not slagging it off (I’ll do that later) but when commenter’s in the USA ask “Who is some guy called Tim Berners-Lee?” you gotta think – WTF??
The opening ceremony was pretty amazing and the HM Queen-007 thing was great… Strangely, after the diabolical Diamond Jubilee concert when it had become plain to all those with ears – Sir Paul McCartney’s voice has sadly lost its edge… So why on this earth did they insist on him finishing the night off.
The Olympic torch was frigging awesome! And the rock history thing quite cool – with even a riff or two of the Sex Pistols thrown in for good measure.
What seemed like a slow start for the UK and was bitterly shouted about in Fr**ch news papers that along with our “mediocre games” they were leaving the UK far behind in the medal tables. Indeed at first we were a few places down with China and the USA at the top… but within 3 days we not only surpassed the F**gs (ribbit) but in doing so we would perpetually see them get further and further down without any chance or glimmer of hope of a comeback – shame huh?
The USA soon took over China and while we had started to gain on the US, it was short lived with the games being finally won by Team USA, Team Take-Out 2nd and Team GB in 3rd – the Fr**ch coming in 7th.
Germany did better than the French (historical fact) and really took to the overall spirit of the event and that leads me to wonder if there should be a Team Spirit Award at these things.
In Badminton we had controversy with several people being disqualified and rightly so and I managed to watch some Shooting events, Kayaking and other stuff but missed the beach volleyball :-(
The games also made history with several historic records broken by athletes from around the world – but the highest praise has to go to Michael Phelps of the USA for attaining more medals than anyone, anywhere – ever, throughout the duration of his Olympic career.
Troops drafted in to take over security were, as it turned out, a welcome sight and it’s nice to see uniforms being worn out in public again as wearing your uniform was not allowed to worn in public for many years because of the troubles in Northern Ireland tended to get them blown up, or followed home and shot in front of their families.
Needless to say, nearly every nation took the spirit of the games to heart and as the games drew to a close there was a genuine feeling of sadness from every corner of the earth except Fr**ce who seemed bitter until the very end – no surprise there then!!
In the USA however, there was a lot of unhappy people! You see historically the Olympics have, where possible, been televised live around the world. Indeed, the Olympics were one of the few events forcing global live television technology in the first place. Ironically it never truly worked until 12 noon (BST) 13 July 1985 when the first truly global televised event took place – that was Live Aid and since then we’ve never looked back…
So how then did the ENTIRE North American continent not see most events live? How come this stuff wasn’t streamed globally on the internet for all to see? Well some TV person somewhere who is either the most money grabbing nob OR the most money grabbing nob – decided only to air the whole thing in primetime… thus leaving the alleged most forward thinking of nations – well behind in the darkened orifice zone wondering what the hell was going on with twitter alive with up to date commentary from users and medal tallies going up, thus knowing the results before being able to watch it. And because the Olympics is such a money grabbing self gratifying event to a select few and copyrighted to death event – nothing was even available on YouTube for days – and still isn’t.
I genuinely felt sorry for our North American friends, I even held a web cam to my screen for some to watch, but it wasn’t same – all because one person made probably the single worst anti-viewer decision in TV history…
The Crying Games
OMFG!! The boo-hoo-games…. Seriously, an opportunity to cry was taken by athletes, coaches, watching team members and audiences…
Cry if you win, cry because you lost, crying because you watched, crying because the sun came up, crying because they’re crying, crying because the fat kid has chocolate – crying because they were f’kin breathing!!
I commented on Twitter that maybe the games official sponsor should have been Kleenex… Then Kleenex started tweeting with me!!
So, I thought I should cry – not!!
The Closing Ceremony
The coolest part of these events are the opening and closing ceremonies… and I don’t think this one failed. Some things were a little too kitch and frankly when I saw Liam Gallagher sing I just thought – why don’t you get that you’re nothing without your brother… But then I thought this might have been too harsh while I considered he wasn’t much better with his brother! Noel of course being the talent.
The thing with live audio in a stadium is, well, radio waves… radio waves take time to move, as does the audio signal down wires. Infact it’s a very serious business that one of the single most expensive things in the new Wembley Stadium is actually the PA! The PA at Wembley is so good that bands don’t actually need to bring speaker stacks, they can just hook into the PA. It’s no surprise then that with people and performers walking around the stadium, moving different distances from the receiver equipment that delays and echoes suddenly start appearing.
For the most part they coped well with this at the Olympic stadium, but from time to time it was apparent.
The overall show was tracking back over 50 years of UK Rock and Pop and while I gave quite a bit of grief to the Diamond Jubilee concert organizer Gary Barlow, this time I can’t and even if he was the person who did organize it – wouldn’t. Because just over a week ago his wife gave birth to their still-born daughter… and yet he was still there and came out singing with the rest of Take-That. The Spice Girls appeared to my thoughts of “oh, there’s a 5 piece baby factory” and yet again that kid with the toy guitar who looks like Prince Harry’s younger brother turned up to sing looking like a complete slob – in fact, I don’t know who he is – but I wish he’d not get roped into these things.
While I could list all the bands I will list two that changed the entire place: First up Freddie Mercury appeared on big screens and led the entire stadium in an impromptu sing along from the grave before Queen rocked the entire place… and finally The Who finished the night… Proving actual “Rock” is what really gets a crown bouncing like mad – not Pop… Pop music is fashionable money grabbing commercial music where the record company makes a fortune and the artist makes little in comparison and is often gone in a matter of months – Rock being the thing that affects the soul to its very core when live and played well and is why so many Rock bands are still going and still making money.
It was a fantastic ceremony, not sure why some people were there but it was good nevertheless.
The Olympic park is now undergoing a massive reorganization process for the Para-Olympic games and as it does, we look at the media from around the world… Every nation praised the UK for the job it did, there were a few snarky comments from the US media, but at least all athletes made it to our games and nothing got blown up. Team USA did an outstanding job for the US, the first lady on hand for a good part of the time too. The Fr**ch were and are still totally bitter and in Germany they even took the newspapers names off and replace them with Thankyou Great Britain…
To everyone : my snarky stab at the games, the people behind it etc. mean nothing! These were as these things go – a pretty damn good Olympics. Infact I’ve not enjoyed an Olympic Games as much since the L.A. Games. If you’re not from or haven’t been to the UK, well I hope you had fun seeing this little part of the place – we’re not all bad… But we can be found at a colony near you ;-)
:-) God Save The Queen :-)