London Olympics: How did the Games do?

Spectators walk to and from the Olympic stadium Organisers of the London 2012 Olympics were faced with a raft of challenges ahead of the Games.

The announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympics was followed by intense speculation about the how well equipped the city was to host the Games.

But how did predictions compare with the reality? Our correspondents give their verdicts.

Brand UK

Mark Easton, Home editor

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BBC home editor Mark Easton

We have... presented Britain as self-confident”

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Forecast: We had been warned to expect travel chaos, security meltdown and organisational incompetence.

Verdict: When a coach driver got lost bringing athletes to the Olympic Park, it seemed as though Britain was lining up for at least a bronze in bungling.

But it didn't happen. In fact, the teams of pandemonium correspondents assigned around the capital were forced to kick their heels or quickly develop an understanding of the finer points of dressage.

There were those who predicted London 2012 would be an embarrassing and chaotic two weeks during which all the flaws of our declining nation would be exposed. Brand GB would be horribly undermined and this country's reputation and prospects damaged for decades.

As it turned out, we not only massively exceeded expectations in the sports arenas and won universal plaudits for hosting a brilliant games, we have also presented Britain as self-confident, forward-looking and fun.

That, I suspect, has been as much a surprise to the watching world as it has been to some justifiably proud Brits.


David Bond, sports editor

Forecast: UK Sport had invested £300m in Olympic and Paralympic sports and athletes in the past four years. It had set a minimum target of 48 medals for Great Britain's athletes and a top four finish in the medal table. After seven years of build-up, the level of international pressure on Britain was intense.

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David Bond

Sports such as wrestling, basketball, handball and volleyball may find they are struggling to receive the same level of funding”

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Verdict: Team GB won a staggering 64 medals, 29 of them gold. The best performance of the modern era and arguably of all time. We all expected the rowers and cyclists to come good but the big question was always going to focus on whether Great Britain could deliver more medals across more sports. The statistic that 16 different sports delivered medals here tells you they did.

Of course, not everything has gone to script for every sport. Swimming missed their medal targets and an internal review is under way.

There are also bound to be some questions asked about athletics. Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford produced that dazzling, golden 45 minutes in the Olympic Stadium with Farah repeating his exploits in the 5,000m a week later.

But there were also some disappointing performances - capped perhaps by the men's sprint relay team dropping the baton again. Head coach Charles Van Commenee missed his own target of eight medals by two. Other sports such as wrestling, basketball, handball and volleyball may find they are struggling to receive the same level of funding in the run-up to the Rio Games in 2016.

But some of the most memorable moments came not in sporting triumph but in the taking part. Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius broke new ground just by competing in the Games - the first paralympian to do so on the track - and every one of the 204 countries sent a delegation which included female athletes.


Gordon Corera, security correspondent

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BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera

The military stepped into the breach quickly and efficiently”

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Forecast: Security concerns always loomed over the London Olympics and some of the steps taken - including the missiles on rooftops - were questioned. There were fears just weeks before the Games began when private security contractor G4S admitted it would be unable to provide enough security guards, forcing the military to step in.

Verdict: Terrorists struck London the day after the city won the Games, prompting an enormous amount of preparation that cost at least £1bn. But the Games have taken place remarkably peacefully. There were no terrorist threats - that we know of - and surprisingly few lower level security problems, such as disruption by protesters. This is apart from the odd bottle thrown at the track and some lost keys.

Planners believe some of the high-profile coverage of the security preparations, like the missiles, may have helped by acting as a deterrent.

The military stepped into the breach quickly and efficiently, meaning that there have been few complaints about long queues to get past checks at venues.

The people who had been paid for years to worry about security at the Olympics will now be breathing a huge sigh of relief that everyone was able to focus on the sport.


Richard Anderson, business producer

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Major sporting events rarely bring lasting financial reward”

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Forecast: To leave an economic legacy worth £13bn to the UK economy over the next four years.

Verdict: Retailers were hoping for an Olympic bonanza and most have been left sorely disappointed.

Many small businesses across London have criticised the Games' organisers and Transport for London for scaring off shoppers. Footfall was noticeably down during the first week of the Games. Anecdotal evidence suggests a similar picture across the UK. Numbers picked up during the second week, with bigger retailers reporting higher sales, but no-one is expecting to see a major pick-up in consumer spending.

It will be another four years before we know whether the government's longer-term legacy targets for the Games will be met, but the experience of previous host cities suggests they are a little optimistic.

Most economists agree major sporting events rarely bring lasting financial reward. The government will have its work cut out to buck the trend.


Richard Westcott, transport correspondent

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BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott

Even Heathrow was fine”

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Forecast: Everyone predicted disruption to the transport network during the Games. London's transport system was written off as too old, and plagued by injury.

Verdict: The transport system actually worked. Some £6.5bn was spent patching up wounds on Tube and train lines and people just went another way. More people travelled, but they were scattered over different parts of the day.

The system was busy. The Tube kept smashing its own record for carrying passengers, with four and a half million journeys on the busiest days. There were also record numbers using the Docklands Light Railway, which was 70% busier than usual. Numbers on the London Overground were up 27% and the Barclays bike hire scheme broke records too. Even Heathrow was fine.

There were some problems, of course. The main roads coming into London were bad because of all the changes to the way the traffic lights were phased. Various rail lines suffered delays and suspensions, including the Central line, the Jubilee line and the DLR, all of which went to the Olympic Park.


Claire Heald, BBC 2012

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BBC 2012 reporter Claire Heald

People came, saw, enjoyed”

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Forecast: The Olympics were exciting, but tickets were hard to secure, a plague of people would bring meltdown to London, the biggest burger chain outlet sat ill in a theatre of sport and, amid stringent rules, the British would fail to get picnics in.

Verdict: The Games transformed the Olympic Park and, during free events like the triathlon, the centre of London. They created a festival of sport for spectators. There were queues for water fountains and for food, but the queues to pass through security moved quickly.

Prices at this mass event were above street average at £5 for a pasty, £4.30 for a bottle of beer and £2.50 for an ice cream. But people could bring their sandwiches and picnicked on the parklands.

More tickets were released online but they were still hard to come by, with up to 2.5m people trying to access them.

The sight of empty seats at venues enraged those who had been unable to get in. Try to find anyone at the Olympics with a bad word to say about it, however, and you would have searched long. It was awash with colour from decorated fans clad in international colours and union flags.

People came, saw, enjoyed and it lifted them, as well as the national mood.


Michelle Roberts, BBC news online health editor

Forecast: The anti-doping authorities were prepared to take a tough stance on drug cheats, promising to banish any athlete found to be taking performance-enhancing drugs. London's anti-doping lab was hailed as the most high-tech in the history of the Olympics. And it was the first summer Games to use biological passports - ongoing electronic records of any substances found in an athlete's blood to confirm that they are "clean".

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It appears that the extra checks were necessary and the problem of doping may be getting worse, not better”

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Verdict: If you measure success as keeping drugs out of the competition then the authorities lived up to their pre-Games promise.

The International Olympic Committee carried out more than 5,000 drugs tests during the Games. Syria's 400-metres hurdler Ghfran Almouhamad was disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance called methylhexaneamine. Another 10 athletes were also banned from taking part because of failed drugs tests.

Suspicion spread wide, so much so that when 16-year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen set a new world record for the women's 400m individual medley a cry of foul play was raised even though the young swimmer had passed all of the checks.

And when you compare the figures with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it appears that the extra checks were necessary and the problem of doping may be getting worse, not better. At Beijing six athletes failed the IOC's drug-testing regime.

All the drug test results for London's games aren't in yet, which means athletes who fail testing could still be stripped of their titles - as Belarusian women's shot put gold medallist Nadzeya Ostapchuk has just discovered.


Claire Douglas, BBC Weather

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There should be at least a small space on the podium for the Great British weather”

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Forecast: After the wettest start to summer on record in southeast England, with more than double the usual amount of rainfall, you could be forgiven for thinking hopes for a sunny Olympic Games were not high.

Verdict: In the lead up to the Opening Ceremony there were a few light showers, but thunderstorms that had worried forecasters stayed away to the east. Some very 'British' summer weather followed - breezy, showery and slightly cool for the time of year.

For the thousands of athletes and spectators in and around London, the weather performed pretty well. Not many gold medals for warm sunshine until the last weekend, but the vast majority of events were unaffected by any weather-related delays or cancellations.

London was mostly rain-free; however there were plenty of heavy showers and even some flooding across other parts of the UK. Temperatures were near or slightly below average, meaning heat stress was not a problem for either athletes or spectators.

With a mix of sunshine, a few showers, and just the right amount of breeze, there should be at least a small space on the podium for the Great British weather.


Richard Black, environment correspondent

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Richard Black

The biggest climate impact of any Olympics comes through the necessity of flying”

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Forecast: Most "green" issues were clear ahead of time, although there was talk that air quality might suffer owing to extra Olympics-related traffic.

Verdict: A number of reports concluded that the London Olympics lived up to their pre-race billing as the "greenest ever games". Novel building materials and techniques were deployed to minimise use of natural resources, everything from steel to water was recycled, and the use of temporary arenas reduced the carbon footprint of heavy construction.

The greenest part of the legacy is local. The area where the Olympic Park now stands used to be a wasteland of fetid drains, derelict factories and polluted ground. As well as cleaning it all up, the authorities have re-tooled the waterways into wildlife habitat, running between the upper Lee valley and the Thames. Birds and small mammals should enjoy the new green spaces as much as people.

Amid all the low-carbon hype surrounding London, however, it shouldn't be forgotten that the biggest climate impact of any Olympics comes through the necessity of flying thousands of competitors and officials half way round the world to take part - not to mention the thousands more who come to support them.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    9 Minutes ago

    yeah wonderful monly cost just under £1 billion per gold medal just think what society / elderly / schools / hospitals / armed forces could of done with that money

    The vast majority of the money was spent in the UK creating jobs, profit and therefore taxes to help pay for the things you mention. so as well as making many people happy, where's the downside

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    legacy is just a word, and givinng kids the resources and motivation does not address the route cause of this problem. We need to tackle the PC laws that allow children (with the help of thier parents) to opt out of sport at school and the nonsense that maths is more important than P.E. The truth is being bad at maths never killed anyone, avoiding exercise does and it starts at an early age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Jesslin@40.....Spot on my sentiments exactly

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I feel I must congratulate the BBC. Yes we won the games, Yes we put on a great show for the whole of the world. Yes it was amazing, but it was delivered to the world by the BBC. The coverage was outstanding acorss all platforms. Whatever you wanted to watch, where ever you were it was there at a push of a button.
    The teams did us proud but BBC as a broadcaster you also did us proud. WELL DONE

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    The olympic site also used to have a large number of allotments, which were replaced by a huge McDonalds. They also built a 10-million pound megalock to move building materials by boat (thus lowering carbon impact) but they ended up not using this at all and moving the materials by road.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    yeah wonderful monly cost just under £1 billion per gold medal just think what society / elderly / schools / hospitals / armed forces could of done with that money

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    'Moaning' and decrying (otherwise known as 'Daily Mail syndrome') is the British way of worrying. And there was some cause. G4S - the company I would hesitate to entrust with the care of a balloon let alone an massive internationally significant event; TFL - Totally Flaky Lines; 'Zil lanes' and TicketMiser (motto: "We like to disappoint"). As it happens the Olympics turned out alright in the end!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    To all down-voters on the sober voices below (mine is at present at -4) - I'm sure it's great that we are 3rd in the world. Also, I'm sure it's great to watch sports on a large screen telly with a pint and a pack of crisps. How, exactly this helps a) the obesity crisis, b) the struggling economy? And, please, don't just down-vote. Explain why so that I know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Well done Great Britain and our thanks to the German press for their glowing comments. How different to the French newspapers as reported this morning – full of sour grapes, envy and obvious disappointment. They should be ashamed of themselves! What a miserable lot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    It has been said, and will be said again I am sure but ...... don't forget the Gamesmakers. They have proved that we can provide excellent, discreet, customer service under pressure, and the help, services they offered made a vast difference, in my opinion. WELL DONE TO THE 'UNSUNG HEROES'

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Loved every moment of it. Found myself watching sports I don't usually have any interest in and cheering everybody on even from other countries, especially if it was their first medal. I did wonder how the Games would go until the opening ceremony which was incredible. Couldn't be more proud to be British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Most people in the UK loved the Games and it made them happy and proud. The UK needed this boost. As regards whether it was value for money the Games probably cost far too much. However if this is the way most of the people in the UK want their money spent I suppose you cannot criticise them for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Aspect45 might like to add Benefit Fraud to his list of list of social and economic ills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    One of the delightful things was that so many people admitted that they were against the Games to start with but were convinced or even enjoyed them in the end. To admit a change of heart is rarely done and these people deserve credit. So many 'half-empty glass of wine' people are now optimists. Wonderful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    If a legacy is that the negative ne'er do wells in the press and media have to shift their perspective because they have been made to look foolish over a 7 year period, then that will be great. What people said would be delivered was delivered. We coped, we managed, we succeeded, we delivered - it's part of our heritage, it's what we do. We are all Team GB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Hopefully part of the 'legacy' will be that the media have noted Britain can appreciate and achieve great things in sports other than Football - a sport which, as a nation, we're actually rather poor at.

    GB's performance at London 2012 has overshadowed "England 66" by a country mile!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Great for the egotists who delivered it, great for the Olympians and great for the city of London. Great for the UK and the economy?
    These are tough economic times and it was always going to be a contentious decision to host them. As for the legacy, lets see - put the money where the mouth is and invest in schools sports for all, not just the most fortunate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Environment correspondent Richard Black's report on impact is unbalanced and inadequate, he appears to have swallowed the PR uncritically.
    The wildlife corridors do not yet exist (he paints the rosy fantasy that they do) and the devastated wasteland he describes as "before" was in fact a massive haven of incredible bio diversity which has been literally wiped from the face of the earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Fantastic event, well organised and brilliant competition.
    The legacy for this country must be. With hard work and proper planning we can get it right and still be proud to be BRITISH.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The marathon and the 20 & 50 km walk not finish in the Olympic stadium from a deserve mark 9 out of 10 the above will reduce to 6 or 7 out of 10
    shame.The Olympic is not a advertise spot for London is a sport event, the Marathon and the walk competition are one of the hardest competition in the Olympic and 100% deserve to finish in the Olympic stadium.


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