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 150.

    It was ALL wonderful! In Canada, I was glued to my TV, and I needed the kleenex handy, as there were, so often, tears of both British and Canadian pride. I must commend Wada for the effective and thorough doping controls, but, now that it's over, I would be fascinated to see a complete list of the cheats, and how you get back the medals, that may have already flown away, eg to Belarus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Aha, so the small-minded ones are back. Not content with the dreary old class war prattle, I see one of their number is now complaining that South London will not get as much 'legacy' for their money as North London (145). It's enough to make you giggle out loud. GROW UP. He's clearly a lost cause, but everyone else is welcome to join the growing campaign for a more positive media (16).

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.


    I hope that the stadium ends up in good hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.


    1) It didnt help that hotels in london were gouging prices.
    2) Thats due to the Global-corporations being hired directly by the IOC (LOCOG barely got a penny from McD's)
    3) True, but the Eastend got a olympic size new swimming pool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Great stuff athletes, spectators and volunteers especially. Well done the BBC which should now consider how it can help keep the afterglow nice and warm. Let Sky do all the football stuff, velodrome cycling is much more exciting.

    Anyone for handball?

    By the way, only £2.5 million from G4S for the military? Make it £10 million and you're heading in the right direction Mr Buckles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    No doubting the success of the Games, but three serious questions to be answered:
    Cameron and Johnson assured us that the Games would be great for business and tourism, but they were spectacularly wrong.
    Huge Corporations, mostly foreign allowed to dominate Games, British companies virtually excluded.
    South London paid as much for Games as North, got very few events and almost no infrastructure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Watching the departing athletes I can't help but feel for those who have to return to war-torn, poor or oppressed countries. For almost three weeks they have been housed in first-class accommodation with state of the art facilities, royally fed and have been safe and secure. It must be hard for some them to leave this privileged and "pampered" environment for the uncertainty they face back home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    The games and all the preparations turned out to be a remarkable success for the British people. I think Mitt Romeny should congratulate the Mayor of London now that his persimisim about the security of the games shows no reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Everything about the games was fantastic, so proud of everyone who made it possible.

    Thank you so much, Julie from Dundee Scotland

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Dear Sepp Blatter and FIFA,

    What a great World Cup 2018 could have been ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The organisation and facilities were impressive but anyone can buy that if they throw enough government money at it. What made the games were the passion of the British public and the cheerful efficiency of the volunteers and army. You can't buy that, you've either got it or you havn't. I'm sure Rio will bring their own unique positives when its their turn, they'll certainly have better beaches.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    135 Sid
    Too simplistic Sid. The money given to londoners would have been paid by the rest of British taxpayers. Hardly fair. And what would they have bought? Stuff made in China. Limited job creation potential. Firms employed on the venues, comms etc will have gained an international reputation, which will benefit them in the future. Already Rio have said they will be employing some UK companies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    The number of blind patriotic fools that down-vote any post that doesn't consist of gushing nonsense is astonishing.

    Seriously, folks, get a grip. Have the courage to respond in kind, rather hitting a button like an ape pawing at the keyboard.

    London 2012 has been a glorious success, but the cost is still appalling; considering the fact that the economic benefit has been negligible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Luddite1811 -

    Dont feed the troll ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Nice to see the Spice Girls reunited and well done to Gary Barlow for turning up after his recent sad news. What a shame Robbie Williams couldn't make it...or John Deacon from Queen.
    Perhaps they had other prior pressing engagements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    It seems like common sense to ask those who went along if you want a representative view, but those people have already expressed interest in the games by turning up.
    I can't help feeling we could have created a better party atmosphere for longer, and really boosted local spending, by giving every Londoner £1000. With 8,000,000 of us, it would have cost £8bn, a saving of £1bn over the games

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The media should win a gold medal for their normal negativity. The Games were brilliant in every possible way and showed the UK as a great country which we should all be proud of. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Congratulations all around to those involved with the games. Congratulations too to the BBC, for their thorough coverage. Leaving the entire sessions online until January is particularly great.

    A truly fantastic couple of weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    London 2012
    Now that's why I'm proud to be British!!

    It was creative, exciting, dramatic and emotional.
    All done with a huge national smile and a sense of humor.

    Congratulations to everyone that contributed to the best Games I ever saw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Well done Coe et al. A great Olympic site, exciting spectator experiences and the best possible environment for the athletes to thrive and perform! I went to the 100m final session and expected bedlam at throwing out time. 150000 people out through the gate at the same time; we were into Stratford station in 10 mins. 1 min wait for a tube and got to Paddington in 15min. Fantastic!


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