Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

New Olympic Games chapter to be written at London 2012

Who will be the new hero? What will be the $1bn image? After a tortuous journey, we're about to find out

Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 opening ceremony
Industrial workers in a scene during the London Olympic Games 2012 opening ceremony
Union flags are waved during the opening ceremony
Zara Dampney from Great BritainÕs WomenÕs Volleyball team during a training session on Centre Court at the Beach Volleyball arena at Horse Guards Parade in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Netherlands Rowing team members (left to right) Inge Janssen, Jacobine Veenhoven, Chantal Achterberg and Sytske de Groot arrive at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 24, 2012. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Street artist James Cochran, Aka Jimmy C puts the finishing touches to a piece of work depicting the face of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on July 20, 2012 in London, England. The opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games will take place in seven days on July 27, 2012. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Annabelle Smith of Australia practices a dive during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
A member of Team Australia practices the floor exercise during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Diver Tom Daley of Great Britain shakes water out of his hair as he climbs out of the pool during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley (R) and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain dives during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Great Britain's Tim Baillie (left) and Stott Etienne in action in the mens double canoe during the training session at Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Cross. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire.
Athletes from the Great Britain Women's Synchronised Swimming team practice during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) A Chinese diver trains ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
The Great Britain synchronize team train ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatic Centre on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Yang Sun of China swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England.
James Goddard of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Swimmer Hayden Stoeckel of Australia swims during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Daniele Matias Hypolito of Brazil chalks her feet on the uneven bars during training sessions for artistic gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games at Greenwich Training Academy on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Team GB Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne during the Team GB Press Conference at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Sharapova of Russia looks on during the practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: A Spanish volleyball player practices during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: A Spanish volleyball player practices during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Maria Tsiartsiani of Greece warms up during a beach volleyball practice session ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at Horse Guards Parade on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Greece's Voula Papachristou didn't make it to the games - but she would have been a contender in this discipline
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis during a Team GB athletics training session at the Monte Gordo Stadium in Monte Gordo, Portugal. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch during the Diving Training Session at the Aquatics Centre, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 25, 2012. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley talks with partner Peter Waterfield (left) during the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tom Daley takes a shower after practice next to Tonia Couch at the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Tonia Couch takes a showers after the training session in the Aquatics Centre at Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 26, 2012. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Stephanie Rice of Australia stretches during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer of Australia warms up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Becchara Palmer and Louise Bawden of Australia warm up during a Beach Volleyball training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at Horse Guards Parade on July 23, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark looks on during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: (FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE) Team GB weightlifter Zoe Smith poses at the adidas Olympic Media Lounge at Westfield Stratford City on July 24, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images for adidas)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: Moira de Villiers of New Zealand addresses the media during a press conference ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 24, 2012 at the Main Press Center in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Georgie Twigg of Great Britain looks on during a British Olympic Association Hockey Press Conference ahead of the London 2012 Olympics at the Olympic Park on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 25: Heather Watson (L) and Laura Robson of Great Britain take a break during a practice session ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain smiles during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Swimmer Siobhan-Marie Oconnor of Great Britain looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Cook Islands atheletes (L-R) Patricia Taea, Ella Nicholas and Celeste Brown relax in Athletes Village after their official welcome to the Athletes' Village at the Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Federica Pellegrini of Italy looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Dave Berry poses backstage at the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Finale Concert in London's Hyde Park, presented by Coca-Cola on July 26, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Tom Daley of Great Britain looks on during a diving training session ahead of the London Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park on July 26, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
USA's Serena Williams during the press conference in the Main Press Centre at the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 24, 2012. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

It is entirely fitting that it should start with a stopped clock. At nine o' clock tonight, when that grand timer in Trafalgar Square – which had almost failed to start – finally reaches zero, it is indeed the beginning, but it is also the end.

The end of "out-of-control budgets", the end of the "ticketing fiasco", the end of the "security debacle", the end of "question marks still hanging".



The end of all the politicising, and the beginning of what you could be forgiven for forgetting it is all about. Finally, the suits are off. Behold! At last, the lycra. Let the Games begin.



The running, the jumping, the synchronised swimming, the unsynchronised swimming, the rowing, the shooting, the taekwonding, the pommel-horsing and every other feat of spectacular endeavour, starts now.



For a short time, we still have the raw excitement of not knowing what new chapters London will contribute to the Olympics story, the one in which Usain Bolt almost walks over the finish line to smash the world record.

Or where Kelly Holmes's eyes widen as she realises she's finally taken the last chance she will ever have. Or where a diminutive child gymnast lands with a perfect bounce on a mat, confounding the scoreboard operators, who don't know how to display a perfect 10. What will be our billion-dollar photograph? It is a tantalising prospect.



And one, after all, that will be over fairly soon. It is not a long time, two weeks, when you think of what passes in seven years. Where were you, seven years ago, when Jacques Rogge opened his envelope on a stage in Singapore, and read out the word "London"? When Lehman Brothers was about to report its biggest-ever profit, and not many of us had heard of a politician from Hawaii with a foreign-sounding name? It is in these two weeks, not the previous seven years that, where once stood piles of discarded fridges on top of millions of tonnes of toxic earth, hundreds of the planet's most talented, most dedicated and for the most part rather young people , will be going about the business, in front of a watching world, of determining what does or doesn't get written on their gravestones.

Things will, inevitably, go wrong. Trains will be cancelled, platforms rammed, taxi meters will tick up towards eternity while the traffic never moves and the big boys zoom past in their BMWs on their way to some other segment of the Greatest Show on Earth to which you probably haven't got a ticket. But just for a short while, try to be nice. After all, we've got guests.



Jamaica House with its jerk chicken stalls, and giant Bolt-watching screens is installed in the O2 Arena, Russia Park, with its outdoor skating rinks in the middle of August, is open for business in Kensington Gardens. The Swiss have taken over the Glaziers Hall in south London and are inviting the world to the Bernese Games next weekend, with promises of "folk wrestling" and "cheese rolling" contests.



The giants of the US basketball team are stalking the streets of the West End. Slovenian swimmers are furiously tweeting pictures of themselves on Tower Bridge. Wimbledon's Centre Court has been turned temporarily fuschia.



The Prime Minister is eagerly awaiting dignitaries from all around the world at his pop-up "Business Embassy" at Lancaster House, where with the backing of a £7bn advert in the East End, he hopes to tie up dozens of massive deals for British companies overseas. One of the many issues around the seeming scarcity of tickets was that no Olympics had ever seen the sort of demand from foreign countries to come to London.



Despite the cavalcade of corporate sponsors that have both blazed its trail and followed in its wake, the Olympic Torch has been greeted with a tidal wave of goodwill on every step of its 70-day, 8,000-mile journey. Among the crowds who waved it off from Land's End on Day One was a sexagenarian man dressed as a Beefeater waving a giant plastic matchstick. It was just one of a thousand displays of the sort of British eccentricity that Danny Boyle has promised to, amongst other things, show to the watching world tonight, and which according to the IOC President Jacques Rogge, contributes to "a fascination with your country, all around the world, that you probably don't realise".



The buzz words of the Games, that have been so marvellously denuded in the BBC's Twenty Twelve – Legacy, Diversity, Sustainability – will re-emerge later this year and stick around for decades to come, but in the meantime, there is just the great attraction of sport, and the irreducible centrality of the contest. The teams, or the individuals, in a fair fight which only one can win.



So finally, if you really don't think the Olympics coming to your capital city when it is, for the time being at least, one of the greatest cities on earth, is not something worth telling the grandkids about, do bear in mind that there might just come a point at which they'll put two and two together, and ask you about it.



You have two weeks to decide what you want to say back to them. If it's: "You would not have believed the traffic!" or "Oh the queues to get on the Underground, the queues! The queues!" then brace yourself now for the crystallising realisation in their unborn eyes that granny or granddad might not be all they're cracked up to be.

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