Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s not over until it starts

Unless you spent yesterday with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears,  chanting “La La La” all day long, you will today be aware that that we are just 100 days away from the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.  How ready are we?

The optimists (of which I am one) are represented by this wonderful picture:

260 Guardsmen from the Household Division, who normally guard the royal palaces, pick out the number 100 with inch-perfect precision on Horse Guards Parade (venue for the 2012 beach volleyball).  A good example of the tradition, discipline and dedication which, we optimists believe, will deliver an memorable and successful Olympics.

The pessimists are well represented in the national press, though here we have to distinguish between the Jeremiahs who have prophesied doom from day one, and the more balanced sceptics who point out potential problem areas.  Despite the impressive efforts of the ODA (the builders) and LOCOG (the organisers), such problem areas still abound.  Top of the list comes transport.  Today’s Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/18/london-olympics-2012-hurdles-transport-system) reports on a test journey from the Basketball Arena to the Shooting venue and then on to the Aquatic Centre, using the public transport network which LOCOG are telling us is the ONLY way to travel during the games.  It makes a disturbing read.

Over the past 2 years I have been amazed at the speed and efficiency with which the venues on the Olympic Park have been built.  But my focus has been on how far we’ve come; it takes an outsider to see how far we still have to go.  The word “park” is only figurative: everywhere there are still acres of concrete, piles of building materials, large expanses of brown earth.  And only 100 days to finish planting, landscaping and clearing away the bulldozers.

Well, 99 now.

Keep Calm and Carry On

A sports event in which none of the supremely fit competitors is paid, despite attracting 250,000 spectators and a television audience of millions, is unusual in itself.  But the University Boat Race has a significance which goes beyond its 180-year history.

For the British, particularly those interested in sport, it heralds the start of springtime, and with it a domestic season whose highlights are welcomed for their familiarity: the Grand National, Royal Ascot, the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon, the Open Golf Championships.  This year will, of course, be dominated by the foreign intrusion of the Olympic Games, but soon things will settle back into comforting domesticity.

The start, it has to be said, has been ominous.  Instead of the usual intense but well mannered contest between Oxford and Cambridge’s finest rowers, we had something of a fiasco.  A few minutes into the 20-minute event, the race was stopped to avoid serious injury to a swimmer who suddenly appeared in the river between the two boats.  After the re-start, the boats got too close together, oars clashed violently, and an Oxford crew member was left “rowing” with splintered pole for the remainder of the race, which Cambridge won easily.  To finish things off, the Oxford bow man passed out shortly after the finish and was taken to hospital.  Cambridge’s 81st victory (to Oxford’s 76) proved a hollow one.

Picking through the entrails, the doom merchants quickly shifted up a gear, predicting all kinds of calamities for the summer.  There is, however, little similarity between the Boat Race and the $14 Billion rocket-fuelled global mega-blast that is the Olympic Games.  One key difference being that the Boat Race is still, wonderfully, an event for amateurs.  Keep calm and carry on.