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Four thoughts on Two Years To Go

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Roger Mosey | 10:31 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A day of travelling in East London courtesy of a garishly-pink London 2012 bus - part of a fleet taking the media and officials around the Olympic Park - is followed by a day in the office thinking about some of the lessons from the "Two Years To Go" celebrations. Here are four for starters.

1. The London Olympic Park has the 'wow' factor. For much of London's Olympic journey there's been a spot of British pessimism that has assumed Beijing would win hands down in terms of buildings and venues.

It's still the case that the Bird's Nest Stadium in 2008 was a piece of brilliance. But viewed collectively, London has come up with a great Park. The people on the tour yesterday loved the velodrome and the aquatics centre; they saw the potential of the basketball arena, which can be illuminated in a similar way to China's Water Cube; and they were knocked out by being inside the main stadium, where you can already imagine the atmosphere there'll be for a big day of athletics.

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The landscaping of the whole site is starting to happen, with trees and 'wild' flowers alongside the waterways. And we shouldn't forget the range of other venues ready to come into play - from Wimbledon and Lord's to Horseguards and Greenwich. This adds up to a reason for pride not embarrassment.

2. Organising the city and the transport during the Games remains a huge challenge. It's daft to extrapolate from an avowedly rough-and-ready day yesterday, but wandering around St Pancras Station looking for a Javelin train to the Park led to wrong turnings for Londoners despite the volunteers in red t-shirts - and it will be even more tricky for the Chinese, Namibians and Peruvians who'll be here in 2012.

I've written before too about the need to get the media buses right - not because journalists should have better treatment than other people but because their writing about a bad experience (see Atlanta 1996 and Vancouver 2010) can cloud some of the bigger successes.

Yesterday had a forgivable example when the buses became jammed in the Olympic Stadium and there was an edge of tension building among some of the crews - but it points to the need to get it right down to the last detail. Seasoned Olympic observers remain worried about the transport in London in 2012.

3. We will go into the Olympics with views still polarised about whether they should be happening here at all. The evidence from the BBC London poll is that support in the capital is still growing and the national polling has always been favourable too.

This is a more united host country than many at a comparable stage. But I came across Mark Littlewood's piece online and some will still feel as he does, though it's extraordinarily unlikely that his wish for half-empty stadiums and low TV audiences will come true.

What is important for the BBC is that we reflect all shades of UK opinion, and I was pleased to hear some tough questioning in our output from the Olympic Park. We have to maintain the focus on the legacy of these Olympics.

In the time I've been doing this job I've come to like part of London I never knew before: Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. The promises made to the people living there, in some of the most diverse communities anywhere in the world, should be delivered.

4. Audience interest is growing, though it remains at different speeds. We had a strong response to the launch of the BBC London 2012 website yesterday, and I was delighted with the BBC News coverage from Breakfast and the main bulletins through to the afternoon special with Sophie Raworth and Jake Humphrey. 5 live was on top form, too; and anecdotally, people are already liking "World Olympic Dreams". I've seen some of the debate on Digital Spy and you won't be surprised to know I agree with wizzywick more than stevvy1986 but we've always been conscious that we have to tread a line between delivering content now for people who want it and not banging the drum too early.

I'd never claim we're perfect, but I've no doubt a significant landmark like Two Years To Go deserved the kind of airtime it got yesterday. And that includes applause from me for Newsnight, for proudly saying it would remain an Olympic-free zone.

So there are my four thoughts for today. As ever, I'd welcome yours.


  • Comment number 1.

    First of all, I wish you the best of luck over the next two years as things build up to crescendo. Your level headed approach comes through your blogs and, hopefully, will get rid of the 'ignore the battle for bronze, there was a plucky Brit in 8th place' approach so common on the BBC and ITV!
    However, I take issue with you on the significance of 2 years to go. You were led by the nose by two Tory MPs who are past masters at making the press do what they want. It was not significant, just a huge amount of PR guff fed to a captive audience. I might agree that 1 year to go is significant as an auditing point but don't allow the tail to wag the dog in future please. Report in a balanced unbiased fashion and the audience will follow. Say what Seb Coe wants you to say without asking him any difficult questions as you did yesterday, and we won't.

  • Comment number 2.

    Roger, did you pick up on the GB women's volleyball story over the weekend? They cycled from Sheffield to London to raise awareness of the fact that they have very little funding for their Olympic bid. As a new sport, they receive little funding (as they are low in the world rankings) so will struggle to improve and train together.
    I was with them on the ride as the map reader and was astounded at their professional attitude. There were 20 athletes who had never cycled and they did 75 miles on average each day for four days. There was not one moan and they embraced the challenge as their opportunity to do something positive for themselves. I was hugely impressed and they are true role models for every aspiring athlete out there - check out their site -

  • Comment number 3.

    Here's a fifth thought that I'd just like to throw out there. I couldn't care less, and as it stands, I'll be struggling to care less when it comes down to two days to go. This is completely failing to capture my imagination in any way, shape or form and I suspect I'm not the only one.

  • Comment number 4.

    Quick responses:

    Summerbayexile in #1 - I promise it was our editorial decisions you saw on July 27th not the result of any political influence. But thanks for the good wishes.

    I can't help contrasting louise oreilly in #2 with Einveldi in #3. Given two statements (a) "they embraced the challenge as their opportunity to do something positive for themselves" and (b) "I couldn't care less" - I know which I prefer.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3, Einveldi: That's absolutely fine fella. And I completely agree with you that you won't be the only one who "couldn't care less." There's over 60 million people in this country so it would be very odd if that wasn't the case.

    Couple of pointers though: Firstly, it would be interesting to know why you couldn't care less. Do you not like sport? Bearing in mind the blog you've posted on, this seems unlikely. Is it just Olympic Sport you don't like? Are you angry about the cost to our country or the fact that things seem, understandably, a little London-centric?

    A couple of whiny sentences without any rationale leads me to conclude that you probably like to just have a moan for the sake of it.

    Personally, I'm looking forward to the Games, though I have reservations about the aftermath. As much as Beijing may have looked great on TV, it was by all accounts hard to get away from the iron hand of the state throughout the event. In this respect, London will be different and, I'd argue, will reflect better what the modern meaning of the Games is in terms of reflecting a global community and a genuine opportunity for a country to welcome the World. Sporting excellence is a given at any Olympics. I am confident that the world will remember the games fondly. The big challenge will be in ensuring that Britain and London can do the same.

  • Comment number 6.

    I would like to make two points.
    I am totally sick of the wall-to-wall sports coverage that overtakes the main BBC channels, especially recently. I will watch parts of the Olympics but I also want the choice to watch some other programmes on BBC1 & 2 so please pay some heed to the majority who do not like sport.
    Secondly, the coverage of the paralympics on the BBC from Beijing was lamentable.
    So, Roger, could you assure us that you will not take over all the channels all the time and will you please provide as good coverage of the paralympics which, in many ways, are more important but always seem to be an regarded as an add-on rather than a main event.

  • Comment number 7.

    Crickedneck in #6:

    The good news for you - yes, we're going to make sure there are some Olympic-free zones. They'll most likely be on BBC Two and BBC Four.

    The bad news - we don't have the rights to the Paralympics in 2012 because they were awarded to Channel 4. But we're proud of our traditions of covering the Paralympics since the days when no other channel did, and we will of course report them across our news services.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well Mr Mosey

    I went and read that piece in the Spectator and the first thing that comes to mind for me is this ridiculous assertion that £9bn is being spent solely on 'the games'. It's time that the figures were really laid out clearly, so the country knows exactly what that £9bn is being spent on.

    1. Decontaminating a wasteland - how much?
    2. Cleaning up waterways - how much?
    3. Building accommodation: how much to build, expected rental/sale returns as a result?
    4. Building Stratford International and upgrading other transport links: how much?
    5. Creating a true park with grass, trees, parks ameneties etc etc: how much?
    6. Building accommodation which can be used subsequently for business, a school etc etc: how much to build, how much return?
    7. Programmes to promote sport etc etc in communities: how much?

    After that: then and only then say how much it costs to build the stadia, do the branding etc etc. Subtract from that the sponsorship raised and the ticketing income and you get a true cost.

    And you might then start considering tourism income from the following:
    1. London 2012.
    2. Glasgow 2014 - no doubt helped by Sir Craig Reedie's success for 2012?
    3. Winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup tournament, which will be profitable.
    4. Rental/sale income from the Olympic stadium for the next 50 years - should recoup its purchase price long-term.
    5. Rental/sale income from other Olympic buildings such as the Broadcast Centre, the Basketball Arena and others.
    6. Potential for holding World Swimming Champs, World Athletics Champs, Rugby World Cup matches, Football World Cup matches, the prologue to the Tour de France, the start/finish of the London Marathon etc etc etc, many of which will generate income.
    7. Potential construction contracts won globally by firms demonstrating their professionalism, expertise and ability to project manage to cost and deadlines through the 2012 project.

    That may not be the whole of it, but we really must get this across because I am tired of reading the inaccuracies of how much the actual sporting part is costing.

    I'm also tired of people implying that the money spent wasn't partly spent on real British companies paying real people's wages, ensuring real young people get real apprenticeships during hard times, which builds and retains skills in this country rather than sees money used to prop up unemployment. It really isn't acceptable not to highlight all that.

    The other point is this: do-gooders fail to understand that if all you do is do-gooding, slowly but surely a nation's will is eroded and dies. Human beings are not saints, they were not designed to be saints and fun, dreams and hopes are all part of life, especially for the young.

    I saw hundreds of billions spent on the NHS this past decade with not a great discernible benefit. Why? Because people are addressing the symptoms, not the cause, which is a toxic societal dysfunctionality which promotes ridiculously unhealthy and unsustainable life patterns. We don't see people trashing that, because it's sainthood, the NHS. I don't trash it either, but it's not the raison d'etre for a society.

    I see hundreds of billions spent annually on welfare, where there is no requirement to dream, work hard, make sacrifices or any of that. But there's no trashing that, is there? Trash young folks who dream of competing in the Olympics, but appease and pander to those who want a free ride. It makes me sick, to be honest..........and 20 years of it broke my spirit and broke my heart, because of all the trashing of my entire efforts to build my own life my way, which should be, in any functional society, the most fundamental human right of any citizen when they are not looking to peddle drugs, kill people or embezzle funds through financial larceny, whether they expect to compete in the Olympics or not. The ones who were trashing me? Some of the foremost critics of the Olympics......says something about this country, doesn't it????

    Be that as it may and it has been made quite clear to me by this schizoid country of warmongers, false socialists and psychotic control freaks that my life is trash for making two mistakes so much smaller than going to war in Iraq, destroying young white men through hateful feminista shit or considering a child to be merely a medium to channel one's own life fantasies no matter how much it trashes them, it is time for this country to make some final, intergenerational choices about what it wants this country to be.

    It can be small-minded, petty, sanctimonious, self-righteous and hateful. In which case it can, and will, go to the financial dogs.

    Or it can be far-sighted, empowering, international, tolerant and inspiring. In which case their might be a future for the current generations' grandchildren.

    It can't be both. It's either/or.

    I think you will not be surprised to hear that I cast my X for the second choice.

    And, in my Weltanschauung at least, that sees the Olympics project as an intrinsic part, but only a part, of the regeneration of the British psyche for post-imperial life.

    That transformation is what I spent the past 10 years trying to jolly along and I make no apologies for doing so.

    I only started doing it when it became clear to me that this country would stop at nothing to destroy my hopes and dreams of doing things the only way which could work for me. Not the ways that things might work for others but couldn't work for me no matter how hard I tried. The ways that would work for me.

    I needed something to make life worth continuing, you see.

    Because you either start hating back or you shame the haters by putting them beyond you and helping others who will listen while the haters go on hating you. And they hate you because they require you to submit to their will despite being completely emotionally ignorant, contemptuous of you as a person and an absolute Queen Bee of a person to anyone to whom they are not a fawning sycophantic little apparatchik.....


  • Comment number 9.

    OK, in request of some clarification, here it is.

    I like London. I think it's a fab city, it's a lively, organic, living thing. I've visited twice and will definitely do so again. I have no anti-London bias.

    The money being spent on it is absurd, but there is an expected return, financial and cultural, so I'm not spitting on that either. I've got the Scottish Parliament on my doorstep and that's the dictionary definition of white elephant.

    It's a sporting thing. I felt much the same about the recent World Cup. Sport at the very highest level has now become completely detached from any sense of its roots. It's not the times and medals that matter anymore, it's the corporate backing, merchandising, and money-makes-the-world-go-round attitude that's ruining things. The Olympic spirit no longer exists, it's been completely replaced by a relentless hunger to make the Games as much of a money-spinner as possible; for the contestants, for the organisers, and especially for the corporate sponsors.

    The athletes too, no longer represent the Olympic spirit. It's about doing everything you can without breaking the rules (or, at least not get caught breaking the rules). You can never have a contentious result without recriminations. Goodness, who can forget the taekwondo in 2008?

    Simply put, the Olympics is now too big, too unwieldly, and run by precisely the wrong reasons and by the wrong people, to inspire me.

    And yes, talking about it in this great depth when it's still two years ago is more than a tad excessive and presumptious in my eyes.

  • Comment number 10.

    Quick re-comment on *6 *7.
    Roger, thank you for your clear and concise reply and I hadn't realised Channel 4 had the paralympics - I hope they make a good job of them.
    What I really want to say is how refreshing it is for a busy director of the BBC to actually answer the questions. How often have we all been fobbed off by the sycophantic responses from the 'complaints' department and even direct emails to programme editors/producers rarely result in a response. So thank you for actually taking an interest in what people say and having the guts to put your head on the block with some honest answers.
    Ever thought of applying to be DG?!

  • Comment number 11.

    Rjaggar in #8: I think most people would vote for "far-sighted, empowering, international, tolerant and inspiring" too.

    Einveldi in #9: thanks for the longer version. You make some sharp points and they're ones I'm sure we'll come back to here.

    Crickedneck in #10: er, no!

  • Comment number 12.

    It's the first one so I guess the jury is still out over how the Youth Olympics should be scheduled. I see the BBC are opting for red button rolling highlights, but would be good if you could at least have the Opening and Closing ceremony live too.

    I see Newsround and Blue Peter will be involved too, which is probably the right way to approach it - but surely the Blue Peter special could be shown before January 2011.

  • Comment number 13.

    Louise at #2 - yes we've been following the women's volleyball story - here's our online report.

  • Comment number 14.

    The 2012 BBC website needs some design improvements. Too much scrolling at the moment

  • Comment number 15.


    Last week a new event - the GB Amateur Boxing Championships - in November in Liverpool was announced as a key event in the amateur code in the run-up to the next olympics.

    Is there any chance the BBC will cover this event as boxing will be one of the big events with good GB medal chances in London 2012?

  • Comment number 16.

    David - that will be one for BBC Sport to consider, but proof that they read this blog is that the enigmatic "Claire S" in #13 is their Olympic Sports editor. So all points are noted.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ok thanks Roger.

    Hope your reading Claire!

  • Comment number 18.

    I am excited about the London Olympics, but sadly, the best they can ever be considered is a successful failure, but a failure nonetheless. The failure to control the budget will be the overriding legacy of this olympics. If the games are a success (a big IF given the UK's history of delivering large infrastructure projects), it will be a minor consolation. Is it too late to down tools and walk away? The olympics are great, and I will always support Team GB, but let's face it, London should never have bid.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good to see C4 putting some real effort into marking two years to go to the Paralympics - put the BBC's news based coverage of two years to the Olympics to shame.

    Anyhow, quick technical question. Do the Paralympic broadcasters get their own studio space in the broadcast centre throughout the Olympic/Paralympic period, or will the BBC and other non-Paralympic Olympic rights holders have to clear out in between the two games?

    And good work covering the Youth Olympic Games, though a bit too news and feature based rather than highlight based really, but I think for the first games, when it's unclear really how they should be treated, the BBC got it's level of coverage just about right.

  • Comment number 20.

    Brekkie: we'll have to agree to differ on the first point, not least because the News approach gives a very high audience reach. But on the second one - we'd expect there to be a changeover between the Olympics and the Paralympics. Neither side has official access during the event for which they don't hold the rights. Oh, and thanks for the kind words on the Youth Olympics - I'll pass on to the team.


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