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 130.

    Biggest nay-sayer prior to the games.

    1 week in scored tickets that cost a small fortune for a sport I've never watched live before, drove 450 miles through the night, after finishing a 12 hour shift, to get there in time.

    Roaring on Kate Copeland and her genuine, infectious reaction to winning melted my heart and embraced the games.

    Amazed at the whole spectacle. Will never forget it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    To all saying, we should have spent the money on schools, hospitals etc, is it not just as important the lift the spirits of the majority of country? We needed a break from the doom and gloom, and boy did we get one. Well done team GB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    2 weeks ago I thought GB was awful at sport and great at music.......

    Well put together event all round, pity about the closing event owing more to Simon Cowell than Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare etc....

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Before the games we were lead to believe, by BBC journalist, who thrive on speculation and controversy, that the games would be a disaster.

    The people of Britain and Locog have proved them wrong and surplus to requirement.

    We do not want the BBC’s doom and gloom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The two weeks just finishing will be memorable for years to come.

    There maybe some criticism of the chosen performance acts but the technical bits from the cauldron (totally amazing concept) to the camerawork and event organization were 99% plus spot on......and the athletes and the spectators took this event to a new level.

    We will remember all this long after forgetting the empty seats.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    The games were amazing-well done everyone. Now it is up to schools, clubs, but especially parents to ensure that we don't go backwards.
    Come on people-get to sports centres or sports clubs-get involved-get others involved-perhaps we will do even better in Brazil in 2016.
    Parents- get children away from their electronic must have gadgets-get them into sport-if you don't,they won't bother-TRAGIC!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    A bit rich from Richard Black considering all the summits he attends, which unlike the olympics could be done via video conferencing!
    But then these doom monger climate types do tend to be dull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    There will definitely be ever more money spent on future Games, but this will not buy the originality, creative flare or public enthusiasm of London 2012 . More money won't buy such a rich contribution to popular culture or suddenly create a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Iconic venues can’t be built to order and sporting heritage can’t be scheduled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I was not one of the sporty millions, waiting with baited breath for it all to start, and was heartily fed up with the TV adverts before it began .
    I must also confess, I was not enamoured with the Opening event, I felt that it was very muddled.
    But the sport, and the organisation has made me a true believer of how great our Nation really is.

    Well done everyone
    What is next ????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    I am a bit surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the wonderful camerawork during these games. At times it was almost like being in the pool with the swimmers. The 'flying' overhead camera at the rowing. The shots of the riders against the sky in the BMX. I could go on. Best pictures at a sporting event ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    So delighted that we put on such a wonderful Games - well and truly delivered excellence on the world stage and created a fantastic impression of the UK over 2 incredible weeks. Attention to detail was obviously key with the planning and organisation of the past few years clearly paying off. Also relieved that predicted problems around security, transport etc came to nothing! Well done LOCOG!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I was one of those who voiced disdain on Coe and LOCOG in the years leading up to the Games (mainly due to location planning and misplaced optimism). It was a memorable Games and one that will not be so easy for Rio to emulate. It gives me great pleasure to own up and say I was wrong - in spades. Chapeau LOCOG!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    In regard to the environmental cost of competitors flying to the Games; I wonder which city's location would result in the lowest carbon footprint, based on the various teams journey to get there? Is it better for a Games to be held in Europe, rather than say US, Brazil or Sydney, where the average distance for a competitor to travel would be greater?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    By far the best games I have ever seen. Well done to all those involved in making Britain proud from LOCOG to the volunteers to the BBC for fantastic coverage What a fabulous 2 weeks Congratulations to ALL of Team GB, you made us proud !!

    Enjoyed the coverage of all the sports and like everybody else up and down the country very emotional at times but what an Olympics !!!!! Unforgettable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I admit to being a massive sports fan but a sceptic of these huge events as I felt commercial interests would overshadow the sport.
    I was MASSIVELY wrong. The sport was spectacular. The atmosphere unbeatable and as an already patriotic Brit it got the tears flowing.
    A massive thanks to Lord Coe, LOCOG and to the BBC whos coverage in all media made following he games compulsive and easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of the games. Just prior to them, some fellow called Romney, visiting from across the pond, expressed the opinion that we might not be ready to hold the games. Somehow I think we conclusively proved him wrong on that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    The view here from Holland was of a well organised, clever country, carrying out a spectacular games with verve,gusto and bags and bags of friendliness.

    You couldn't have done it better..

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    2012 Olympics was an absolute triumph. And loads of congratulations go to the BBC, not only for the amazing coverage, but also for giving us the background on sports we are unfamiliar with and athletes many of us have never heard of. This is what really inspires a nation, understanding and getting involved. It would be great to see more sports coverage on TV, but perhaps sponsorship doesn't allow?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    As a very proud Scot who now lives in the SE, my heart is still soaring after what has been a brill 17 days for Britain. Great to see people smiling, talking to others on the tube (not normal), and everyone at my office is buzzing from the pure joy of togetherness. Just loved wearing the British flag - and that's from someone who also wears my kilt and Scottish jerseys with pride. Fantastic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I am a Brit living in Canada, when I speak everyone realises where I'm from and the number of really good comments I receive about the Olympics is fantastic. The opening ceremony with the historical content and the way it was performed was brilliantand and the games themselves supurb.

    Well done London, GBR and NI you have done us all proud.


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