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After seven years, London 2012 makes the start line

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David Bond | 14:34 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2012

For years now we have questioned the costs, cast a sceptical eye at the legacy promises and even scratched our heads at the gaudy logo.

But as a hazy, overcast dawn broke over London this morning and the torch made its way down the Thames, it was impossible to ignore the growing sense of collective national excitement.

Sure there have been problems, some in the last few weeks and days. Mitt Romney may have been spectacularly chided by Boris Johnson yesterday but he was only giving voice to the concerns which we ourselves have expressed.

Today doesn't feel like the right moment for such cynicism.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Stadium took just under three years to build. Photo:Getty

Anyone lucky enough to have walked around this Olympic Park in the last week will have been stunned at the way organisers have put this place together. I have seen it take shape piece by piece over the years, but nothing prepares you for the sight of it in full Olympic mode.

But before we all get carried away, it's worth remembering we have only reached the start line.

These Games will only be judged as a success if the organisational plans do not descend into a farce worthy of the BBC spoof documentary Twenty Twelve. They will only be seen as truly memorable if Team GB hit their medal targets and we are left with truly jaw-dropping sporting moments. And looking further, they will only be a triumph if they inspire and deliver a proper lasting sporting legacy for this country.

To understand what hosting the Olympics means to sport in this country it's worth remembering the journey of the last decade or so. It's been quoted elsewhere and was dug out by my old Daily Telegraph colleague Paul Kelso, but this sentence is illuminating.
"Our influence in international sport has all but disappeared. We are cherished only for our irrelevance and tolerated only for our history but it's even worse than that because, as a result, we are betraying our sportsmen and women."

The author of that devastating assessment of Britain's sporting status?

Sebastian Coe, now chairman of London 2012 and the man credited with articulately persuading the International Olympic Committee to take a chance on what rivals Paris described back in 2005 as the "virtual Games".

He wrote it in October 2001 - long before he even became chairman of the London bid. It was his very genuine and very un-Seb-like reaction to the Picketts Lock fiasco which had forced London to hand back the 2005 World Athletics Championships to the IAAF because we couldn't build a stadium to stage them.

To look around the park is to be transported in time to another world, another Britain. I have been to three Olympics, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 in full and Athens 2004 briefly. Sydney was a wonderful celebration which has provided the template for London's approach. It's obviously early days but the atmosphere that seems to be building suggests London will be similar if not better.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said on Friday morning that in terms of "readiness" these Games are equal to Sydney and Beijing. When you think back to Picketts Lock, the delayed opening of the rebuilt Wembley Stadium and all the other sporting shambles, this is extraordinary in itself.

But, he added wisely, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

It was a very good reminder on this celebratory day, that getting ready for the Games is only half the story. The next 16 days are what really count.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Typically down beat BBC tosh. Give it a rest, the games are here, stop whining.

  • Comment number 2.

    David - wise up, this is one of the most exciting sporting events in our lifetime. And as someone in the front row seat, you have a duty to convey that excitement. Every one of your reports to camera over the last few days has been downbeat and littered with sceptical remarks. Stop hedging, get behind it and dare to smile.

  • Comment number 3.

    It has been a bit of a shambles so far with the ticketing fiasco and the blunders surrounding security. We are now on the 5th 'revised budget' having started at £2.75 billion and now breaching £ 9 billion. A hell of a cost for what is essentially a compendium of minority sports.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    ....After seven years, London 2012 makes the start line...

    A shame that you haven't, then.

    I'm fine with the Games. There will be mistakes, probably some howlers, but I have no doubt that overall it will be a hugely positive, exciting and emotional experience. My concerns lie entirely with the BBC. Coming off the back of the Jubilee disaster, I wonder how many of you actually realise the extent to which you are all on notice. Grudging respect, with 11:59 on the clock, is no respect at all; merely a reminder of someone else's agenda.

    The BBC have had seven years in which to tell us what they think. We're not stupid, we've twigged where you stand. Now, how about putting the bias to one side, reporting on a quite exceptional fortnight in the UK's history and persuading us that when people say the BBC is the best broadcaster in the world, they might actually be right.

  • Comment number 6.

    Like most people, I suspect, I don't really understand or care for most of the sports. I won't be watching the kayaking or the weight lifting. I'm not bothered by the women's long jump or the men's coxless pairs. I'm a sports fan, but still, 95% of this will pass me by.

    I did see the Torch, since it passed at the end of my street... and what a disappointment. A Coca-Cola bus blaring slogans and snatches of songs? Yes, very British, that. I understand the need for sponsorship, but only to a degree, this was ridiculous.

    Over the next 2 weeks, I suspect I'll be watching a lot more of ITV than I usually do.

  • Comment number 7.

    Can all the media please please on the 30th September 2012, STOP all reporting on the Olympics!
    We have had SEVEN years of daily stories on the coming of the London 2012 Olympics. Call time on the reporting!!!!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    The only thing that can spoil the Olympics is the BBC presentation, some very
    average and poor presenters. I hope the BBC step up to the line, but based on some of their recent fiascos I very much doubt if the BBC will meet the expecvtations of the British public.

  • Comment number 9.

    If there's one thing I've learned in all my time it's that to do anything really well, you are going to make mistakes along the way. What's important is that you learn from them. Enjoy the journey. And only look back on it all when it's completely finished.

    Right now is the time for spectators to enjoy it, athletes to embrace it and the officials to deliver what they set out to do.

    God will no doubt gum up the weather a bit: Wimbledon next week may extend into early the following given bad luck. That's life.

    Let's not get into carping about this, that and the other. Making cheap shot nationalistic points. We all know the faults of every games since the year dot. Not one was without flaws.

    I supported bidding for the games because I thought it was one of the very few things that could unite most people in this country. You'll never get everyone, but at least it stopped the politicians being at each others' throats all the time. At least a new generation had something to aim for if they were gifted in sport. Our planners, designers, engineers and project managers had something to really get their teeth into.

    I supported it because I thought it a unique 7 year window allowing Britain to re-engage with the whole world, not as an Empire power, but as an emancipated mid-sized nation which believes in free trade.

    I supported it because it promised a sporting legacy, something my generation didn't in the main enjoy. What I got from sport, I mostly did for myself. So much more could have been done. You either trash the next lot or use what you learned to help them. I have done the latter.

    The media think sometimes they represent the people. Often they don't, they represent a small segment.

    Now lets all realise that £9bn would have done nothing to have averted the financial crisis, nothing much to dent the austerity we currently experience. It was £1.3bn a year for 7 years which is no more than Crossrail is costing in the next 5 years. It's not the cause of our challenges, really it's not.

    I wrote a lot of sport-related humour in 2005 and sent it to you lot about 6 weeks before Singapore. I wrote a lot about legacy, leveraging the Olympics for business, I even did a spreadsheet of medals 1996 - 2012 to bring the team down from the Beijing high.

    Not a lot, but if 10 million people do not a lot, it adds up to enough to host a memorable Olympics.

    Handle the objections that come. Accept the imperfections but don't let them spread or fester. Treat our guests like guests. And request if any of them become belligerent to treat us with the respect we are treatiing them with.

    This is our time, now. It won't be ours for ever.

    It won't be ours again in my lifetime.

    So my advice to everyone is this: enjoy it while it lasts. Because, like your young sweet innocent children, it won't be like that for long.

  • Comment number 10.

    Reference #9 The fact is that 0.042 per cent of the London population will be actually attending an Olympic event. Most were unable to get tickets for events they wished to attend, could not afford it, or were simply not interested. The Olympic stadium will be used as a football ground by West Ham, while the Aquatic centre, will cost millions to maintain. Other venues will be sold or scrapped. That is the current 'legacy'

  • Comment number 11.

    @10

    I agree. A far better legacy would have been to spend a fraction of the Olympics cost on sports pitches for schools, which have lost so many in recent years, and on the equipment to go with them.

  • Comment number 12.

    Time for the carping to stop. Time to get behind Team GB and believe something good will come out of London 2012..maybe the inspiration for some of our youngsters to go on and achieve an Olympic ideal in the future. I for one am fed up with the negative BBC approach and all the other whingeing gits.

  • Comment number 13.

    Such a shame that all those of you lucky enough to be in the UK at this time can't appreciate the amazing opportunity you have on your doorsteps. If you haven't been lucky enough to get tickets you still have the best armchair sports coverage in the world presented by the best broadcaster. If you can't watch it then do what I do and try to get some BBC radio coverage, even if it ends up being via iplayer (can't get the TV version) or World Service.
    Don't knock the BBC until you have experienced coverage of these events in other countries (only exception to this in my time here being CBC's coverage of the Thames River Pageant - on this they could teach the BBC a few things - especially the incomperable Peter Mansbridge).
    Failing that there are events such as the cycle road race and marathons that are free to view and can accomodate hundreds of thousands.
    Here in Canada the news re London 2012 is nothing but positive (no Mitt Romney's in my earshot) and with few serious medal contenders to cheer on they are looking forward to seeing the absolute cream of world sport performing, hopefully in line with their aspirations, and repaying their commitment and that of their supporters of the with performaces of their lives.
    Instead of the pre-occupation on cost (160GBP for each member of the UK population spread over 7 years - assuming no increase to GDP, no sponsorship, and no benefit to employment as a result of the expenditure) translate it into value and remember this is one of those sporting "where were you when" moments that happen so rarely in anyones time on this planet. Brad's win last week, 1966, Headingley 1981, Jonny's kick, Steves fifth Gold spring to mind during my 54 years.
    As for legacy, Seb Coe has committed to deliver, it's up to Briton's at home and abroad to make sure he is made to stay on and deliver on the vision.
    #10 Your .042% suggests only 375,000 people in London will get to see anything. I bet there will be that many watching Cav win Gold tomorrow!
    #11 Instead of whining about lack of pitches persuade your local councils to open up access to the playing fields that already still exist and get parent's to support their kids in experiencing sport and what it can do to benefit health, teamwork etc

    PS As for Boris - Bloody Brilliant!!!! Hope he lights the torch

  • Comment number 14.

    Absolutely amazing opening ceremony - pity anyone who has to follow it - Sir Danny Boyle??

  • Comment number 15.

    @10 and @11 I couldn't agree more. This Olympic is hijacked by so called celebs, politicians and 3rd grade footballers. The amount of money wasted on this event could have bought lots of equipment for all school children to enjoy sports. Only winners are low grade sponsors, you know who I mean.
    By the way the opening ceremony is the worst I have ever seen.

  • Comment number 16.

    Way has the BBC have more presenters there than team GB that just makes no sense at all and shows the waste of money good old BBC

  • Comment number 17.

    Following from my #15, and of couse the gold medallist as they go on and promote commercial products for others to buy. That the lasting legacy and may also pick up honours so that keep politician in good stead with public.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh God.
    Just as you start to have faith that the country will recognise its own brilliance. That it will realise how well it has done to stage this event at all. That it will accept that most people have embraced the games. Utter no-mark folk like 10, 11,15 and 16 come along and wee on your chips...........I'd suggest you go and study your navels for the next fortnight while the rest of the world revels in the greatest show on earth.

  • Comment number 19.

    #10 and #13 I am quite sure that more than 350 Londoners will actually attend an olympic event! I desperately hope that everything works, but I am afraid that good old British incompetence and "what do I care, I just work here"-attitude as shown by train, tube and bus drivers etc and attempted by self-important officials staring screens at airports. Olympics may have become very commercial but there is still immeasurably more "spirit" than all Premier Kickball etc Leagues put together.

  • Comment number 20.

    TedsDad, it is most certainly not the greatest show on earth, you will be watching a compendium of minority sports such as badminton, kayaking, archery, judo, weightlifting, greco-wrestling, to name just a few, that you would not be able to name one competitor in. It is, of course the most over-hyped, expensive, commercial event on the planet. And we will be paying for this, for the next 25 years, so you better enjoy it.

  • Comment number 21.

    Massive! Brilliant! Welcome! Performance! Wish the world was united like this in reality. Thank you very much to the organisers. It has washed away all the negatives.

  • Comment number 22.

    Whatever Maxmerit.
    You live in your little puddle for the next few weeks.
    Personally I'll be enjoying the spectacle of what is the greatest sporting event on the planet. If you cant accept and enjoy all sports, be they as you point out badminton, kayaking, archery, judo, weighlifting, greco-wrestling, to name just a few, then you're clearly not a sports fan and probably got picked last for PE at school.

  • Comment number 23.

    Speaking as an Irish man, I say enjoy the spectacle, the opening ceremony was fantastic and gave me goosebumps. The money has been spent, there's no turning back, let's embrace the spectacle. If that was my country I'd be delirious with pride, i hope it's a massive success for you.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 18

    I'm completely with you!! The games will have faults, the build up had faults, many faults and the legacy will not be what we all want it to be. But can we not just enjoy a time where the rest of the world look at us and say "you know what? They actually did alright".

    For people to put down some of the "smaller" sports is ridiculous. There is no sport better than any other. All are different and all have their good and bad points.

    Can we not, as a nation, just enjoy these olympics for what they are? A true celebration of British incompetance, British spirit and Britain itself.

    Well done to everyone involved inthe opening ceremony. What a spectacle!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    @24

    Completely agree. The opening ceremony has really got me excited and I can't wait to sit back and thoroughly enjoy the Olympics whilst they are in London!

  • Comment number 26.

    So far it's all been about politics and showbiz. Now that's all out of the way we can get down to the really serious matter of sporting competition. For two weeks we'll see joy and we'll see tears but it will be the sports men and women that we'll remember far beyong the carping and bitching of those that want their 140 characters of fame.

  • Comment number 27.

    What a pathetic show.
    Why would a Billion people round the world want to watch such a feeble display of British navel-gazing ?

  • Comment number 28.

    James bond could do the bit from the helicopter with the queen, Jason Bourne couldn't.
    Now THAT is part of what makes a great ceremony!

  • Comment number 29.

    What a disgraceful opening ceremony. Where did the £27million go. Mr Coe should be ashamed of himself as should rowan Atkinson, Daniel Craig and the queen for allowing such rubbish. Can someone please explain why a 70+ yr old rubbish musician ended that debacle. P mac is without doubt the worst solo artist in the last 35 years yet is probably paid a fortune to sing terribly. Again England have made themselves look ridiculous and totally out of touch with what real people want

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh my golly! The BBC aren't half laying it on thick!

    Anyway, it was a ceremony full of pros and cons.

    But I had a wager (albeit a small one) with mates that Macca would have to sing "Hey Jude" Oh why do we ALWAYS have to have "Hey Jude" ??!!! At every British event. McCartney was weak and should retire.

  • Comment number 31.

    Other than the McCartney miming (though to be fair, chances are ALL songs were mimed, just like in Beijing and those before it - you can't get a clear voice coherent throughout the stadium live after all) and the Queen being fed up, the show was amazing. So many good points, and for all the spectacle that Beijing was and how this couldn't possibly match it... well I think it did, if not more so... simply in different ways. Maybe some of the issues covered were too niche and British centric.... but then arguably you could say that for most ceremonies.

    And the cauldron thing and how it was lit up may not have looked dazzling and full of pomp and showiness, but it was beautiful and more importantly, symbolic... passing on from one generation to the next - and then all countries making up the fuel that lights the Olympic Flame. Awesome.

  • Comment number 32.

    I was nervous with the world watching the opening ceremony, that something would go wrong. But it was the brilliant, the highlight being the lighting of the Olympic flame..
    I think looking for things to go wrong is in our nature but we can now sit back and enjoy the games with confidence in the organisers.
    I feel ashamed for doubting them.

  • Comment number 33.

    I enjoyed the show, this is an extraordinary country with an extrodinary history good and bad. The olympics has a great do or die element unlike a lot of main stream sports, there is a moment you are ready or not. Some elements of Britishness are embarassing but what is so to me is not to others. Please please please no more Paul McCartney though he does not have 'it' any more if he ever did I was born in the 1950's and even I think it is so yesterday and Elton John plays to a big crowd better as he is larger than life (whether you like him or not). I cannot critisise the Queen although not a royalist. I'm v glad we have the games.

  • Comment number 34.

    Truely remarkable opening of the games. A fantastic ceremony full of vibrance, colour and enthusiasm with thousands of extactic paticipants and observers celebrating everything great in Britain for the whole world to see and enjoy...who forgot to tell the Queen to smile and look interested?

  • Comment number 35.

    With regards to minority sports, many of these sports are in fact extremely well regarded in other countries and are far from being minority sports in a world wide context. Being derogatory and dismissing them in the manner that has been exhibited so far is typical of the 'Little England' bigotry that plagues this country. Open your minds, broaden your horizons and you may be pleasantly surprised and enjoy yourself. I will not hold my breath however as small minded prejudice against the rest of the world is so deeply engrained in the British psyche, much to our detriment.

  • Comment number 36.

    Kind of pointless article...... 5 minutes reading it that I won't get back.....

  • Comment number 37.

    my goodness. you should be happy that London is hosting its third Olympic games - a rare occasion on its own.

  • Comment number 38.

    David Bond. You are one the laziest most ill-informed sports journalist I have ever come across. I just sat saw your abysmally inaccurate report on the Road Race on the 10 O'clock news. If you don't know a thing about how road racing works talk to someone who does. It wasn't Box Hill that did for the GB team, Froome and Wiggins would certainly have a few words for your description of their performance as "not hacking the pace". Go find something out about the sport you're reporting on and come back and spout then.

  • Comment number 39.

    I must echo @drk2aps comments. During the segment I was amazed at how ill-informed yor report was, Mr Bond. It sounded as if you threw it together in 10 minutes with no prior knowledge of the sport at all.

    Then, to cap it all, you include Mark Cavendish's insightful response to you - "Stop asking stupid questions. Do you know about cycling?" - which actually highlights your own shortcomings as a sports reporter! Bit of an "own goal", eh?

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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