London 2012
Phot courtesy of Garda

By Tiffany Francis

For those that missed it, London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic games this year. It was a fairly low-key affair, a couple of fireworks here and there, but altogether it was rather exciting.

In all honesty, this is the first year I have been gripped by Olympic fever. Aside from horse-riding and a nice Sunday walk, I have little interest in sport. I was on the netball team at school, but I can now happily admit it was mostly for the free cake they give you after the match.

But this year I became rather interested. Perhaps it was the pleasant sense of patriotism I felt, or perhaps the opening ceremony drew me in. Perhaps I just enjoyed being able to watch television all day and feel ‘productive’. After all, those athletes certainly wouldn’t win their races without the silent support of a 20-year-old student in Hampshire eating biscuits all day.

I was, however, highly impressed with the levels of dedication from the BBC during the Olympics. In total, they broadcast 25,000 hours of footage across 24 different streams, on television and online. This meant that viewers could watch any sport they so wished, without having to settle for the ‘highlights’ at the end of each day. We all wanted to see Tom Daley and his golden muscles live in action, but what about the archery or canoeing?

The Robin Hoods and Pocahontas of the realm were able to enjoy live footage of these excellent and lesser-celebrated sports, and I congratulate the BBC for such an effort. A few grouchy people declared that Olympic events were taking up too much daytime television space. Perhaps they were, but perhaps these people should find something better to do in the daytime.

I think most will agree that the Paralympics were slightly harder to get excited about, simply because of their blatant separation from the Olympics. I spent countless, biscuit-filled hours watching the Olympics, but when it came to the Paralympics, the guilt from watching television all day had become too great and I moved onto other more summery things, like eating ice-cream.

I can’t quite understand why the two events cannot be combined into one longer event. Yes, the Paralympics were marketed as the race of ‘superhumans’, but they are still just humans: in my opinion, a longer event combining the Olympics and Paralympics would have made far more interesting viewing. Furthermore, Channel 4s poor broadcasting did not help rouse much excitement, using only 1 of their 5 available channels.

The highlight for me had to be the Opening Ceremony. Danny Boyle created something that simultaneously showed the lightest and darkest moments of our nation’s past, whilst highlighting Britain’s rich, fascinating and multi-cultural heritage to a record-breaking 26.9m viewers. With live horses, the Arctic Monkeys and a performance from the Royal Ballet, it was a beautiful ceremony, and the Olympic torch at the end was an artistic masterpiece. Paul McCartney was simply awful, as his rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ was weak and rather flat.

But the ceremony as a whole seemed to be a success: a few people commented on it with disdain, suggesting that other nations may not understand the references, such as the rising towers of the Industrial Revolution. I heartily disagree: if they don’t know certain details, it only serves as encouragement for others to investigate further into our fascinating history.

It’s always good to have a spot of humour in these sort of events, and nobody apparently understands that better than the negotiation team for London 2012 sponsorship deals. The Olympics are a symbol of health, happiness and exercise, they thought. We must demonstrate this through our sponsors, but who could we choose?

Ah, but of course. McDonalds are a committed, active company that strive for health and fitness with their ‘fries’ and chicken nuggets. And who else but Coca-Cola to promote the benefits of natural ingredients in their drinks? The addition then of Heineken beer and Cadbury’s chocolate really rounded off the ultimate package of longevity. The most preposterous element of this corporate nonsense was the news that vendors around the Olympic stadium were banned from selling chips, because McDonalds had exclusivity. How fair.

Besides this, however, London 2012 has provided an excellent springboard for the younger generations of Britain, particularly with the riots of 2011 still fresh in our minds. The ‘Inspire a Generation’ scheme has created 2,700 individual projects across the UK, including Bicycle Ballet, Wheelchair Fencing and a Hip Hop Shakespeare competition. The athletes themselves have proven to be excellent role models for hard-work, ambition and a healthy lifestyle, and the atmosphere of patriotism and success can only be positive for young people.

Aside from sport, the Tate Movie Inspire project also engaged children in creating the film ‘Itch of the Golden Nit’, which went on to win a BAFTA award. And if you prefer animals to people, you’ll be delighted to hear that London Zoo have installed an Inspire mark diving board for their rookery of penguins, as part of their Animal Athletes programme.

You’d have to be rather miserable to completely detest London 2012, as even we biscuit-loving, sluggish types enjoy a good race or two. One of my highlights was perving after the gymnast Louis Smith and his beautiful man-muscles – does that demonstrate a love of sport? I think not. But it was a product of the cheerful and patriotic haziness that floated over London for two weeks, as we welcomed exotic visitors from every country in the spirit of the Olympics.

Perhaps it did drown the television schedule, or daze us with Olympic propaganda, but it also brought the nation together for a few weeks to witness and enjoy the fruits of hard-work, good health and determination.