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 90.

    @43 It will hopefully help tackle obesity by inspiring people to be more active. If you still want to sit all day after watching the events... Well, there's just no helping some people.
    As for the economy,the country looked amazing during the games and hopefully this will bring in tourists.
    Well done to everyone involved in making the games such a success!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Credit where its due...I dont normally get excited about sports days but must admit that once you started watching it became addictive and not a bad sport day outing at all. All we need to do now is beat South Africa at Lords this week and it will truly be a Great British summer !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I’m very impressed with the overall organisation of the games which must be a very good advert for foreign organisations wanting to do business with GB companies. Speaking as an Englishman, I was disappointed that the closing ceremony, or UK PLC sales pitch, was too focused on England. In the spirit of “Team GB” the closing ceremony should have done more to “sell all home nations equally".

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Odd that the "Editors' Picks" include #11 (high praise for the BBC - surprise!) but not #46 (highest rated by HYSers).

    I agree with #46 - editors take serious note please. Britain is GREAT! So were the games, the organisers, the volunteers, the crowds, the transport - and most of all, the athletes. Well done, and thank you all. You've made this summer memorable for so many of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    I'm guessing your glass is pretty much always half empty. Of course a successful Olympics isn't a panacea for all ills but how can it harm this country to get a bit of self confidence and optimism back in our lives?

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Tried my hardest to get tickets for my 2 boys (11 & 7) and I. No luck. They were not too interested. Both were sitting there saying the wished I got tickets and I wish I just bought any tickets now.

    Loved the whole thing the 3 of us, late nights watching diving and boxing included. From here in Aberdeen Scotland all I really wanted to say was a big WELL DONE to everyone involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    16. Agree wholeheartedly

    To many people in this country Leveson is a good thing , the British press always trumpetting its independence , fairness and ethics needs a serious wake up call . The constant negativity leading up to the games was a misplaced , your constant focus on celebrity and nobodies and bad role models a huge turn off . You think you capture the mood of a nation ? Wrong .

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    So glad we proved the Daily Mail led media wrong. London 2012 was a bigger sucsess than anyobne imagined. the opening ceremony with the queen and Mr bBean was inspirted. mo and Jess, and of course Bolt kept the drama going, and the closding ceremony was genius, the Who to end, typically briotish, we should all be very VERY proud.

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    It was without doubt, unbelievably wonderful. I am now suffering from an extreme case of Britishness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    I'm truly gutted that the Olympics is over, i really don't know what I'm going to do with myself now, the come-down is comparible to going back to school after a summer break, or the day after my wedding, I'm a 41-year old man and i feel like crying its been so wonderful. And to all those naysayers before the games began, (including my mother-in-law), stick that in your pipe and smoke it!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    No doubt about it,the best Olympic games ever. Congratulations to all involved. I look forward to the Paralympics,which I hope will be the icing on the cake for GB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Can we now do the same with the economy please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Judging by the comments on here, i'd say the £14 billion of bread and circuses has worked better than expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Still think it was a colossal waste of money. Don't see why those who *wanted* it shouldn't have been forced to pay for it and not burden the rest of us.

    Legacy? It'll be forgotten in a week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Well done everyone and especially Londoners who have suffered much inconvenience and have the pain of paying for the games. Three things struck me about the 3 football events i attended. Firstly the audience was almost entirely made up of families, secondly i heard no swearing at all (at least in English!), and thirdly many of those watching, including young people were ironically seriously obese!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    It really does look as though there's a message for the media here. To my surprise, my comment (16) is building up more and more support. Now, do you think anyone 'upstairs' will pay any attention to us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Didn't the Olympic Deliverance team of Ian Fletcher, Siobhan Sharpe, Nick Jowett, Kay Hope, Graham Owens and Fi Healey do well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The day before the Olympics started, neither my wife or myself were interested.

    One week in, we were hooked and set about booking train tickets/hotel reservations.

    We arrived in London on Friday just to soak up the atmosphere, even though we wouldn't be able to get in the Olympic Park. Seeing Mo Farrah win gold on the big screen in Hyde Park is something I will never forget.

    Thankyou London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Like most people, I think, I was a little apprehensive before the Games started - would the weather behave, would the transport system hold up, would terrorists strike, would the athletes perform - that sort of typically British thinking.

    It's a delight to be so wrong on all fronts. Roll on the Paras and Glasgow 2014, and let's do everything we can to keep the positivity going.


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