'Absolutely superb Olympic Games'
Australian Chef de mission Nick Green congratulates London for their running of the Olympic Games.PT0M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-243n2 620 349 August 13, 2012
London, you didn't half do a decent job. These Olympics had Sydney's vibrancy, Athens's panache, Beijing's efficiency, and added British know-how and drollery. With apologies to Sydney, they might just represent a new PB for the Olympics.
They were superbly organised. The Olympic Park's setting, in one of Britain's poorest boroughs, proved inspired. London consists of layers, new cities built on top of fallen or demolished old. Now another has been added. Some Olympic sites become wasteland after the Games. This one began as wasteland and is now full of possibilities. Derelict bits of old Stratford still poke through, without ruining the effect. It is a measure of Britain's maturity that it went to less effort to disguise its warts-and-all self for the Games than most Olympic cities do.
Elsewhere, London was unbuttoned, which made for some delightfully unexpected sights: Chinese archers hugging over the fence in front of the Lord's pavilion, for instance.
Lightning strike … it was always Usain Bolt's show. Photo: AFP
The Games were preceded by the usual fatalistic anticipation of a cock-up. It proved groundless. Moving masses of people around a mazy city was expected to be a nightmare but London made it look effortless. Security was plentiful but low key. The army, called in to meet a shortfall, proved to be Britain's finest ambassadors.
If you were to pick a nit, it would be to say that some volunteers tended to officiousness, sometimes.
It rained, of course, but no more than usual for London, and not at all on London's parade. A carnival spirit prevailed. A London cabbie said he had never seen so many happy people. Custom was down because most people were either at the Games or out of town but he didn't mind.
Champions ... Victoria Pendleton of Britain with Anna Meares. Photo: Getty Images
It helped, of course, that the host nation outdid itself in the arenas. The athletes surprised the fans with their excellence and the fans perhaps surprised themselves with their fervour. The stadium was Homebush reincarnate, but without the infantile chanting.
Usain Bolt cannot be said to have stolen the show, because it was his anyway. But his performance personified the rarefied standard and the joie de vivre of these Olympics. Jessica Ennis was the British face of the Games but the delightful Mo Farah became their envoy.
There were many forms of winner. In the stadium, women from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, running in hijab, trailed their rivals by hundreds of metres but were cheered home to the echo. Their victory was to be even at the start line. For bodily challenged South Africans Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya, ditto.
Golden girl ... Sally Pearson after winning her gold medal. Photo: AFP
Sportsmanship was these Games' motif. There were exceptions but they served to prove the rule. British cyclist Victoria Pendleton was plainly devastated to lose a sprint final to bitter Australian rival Anna Meares, yet in the moment took Meares by the arm and held it up to the crowd in an age-old gesture of acclaim. London's Games had no finer moment.
The Olympics were not perfect, of course; nothing on this scale could be. But the faults were mostly endemic to the Olympics, not London particularly. There was the merest hint of a drug taint. Will it ever go away? And the time surely has come to dump the tedious athletes' parade from the opening ceremony. Apart from anything else, it is now mostly devoid of athletes.
James Magnussen lost a dead heat and so personified Australia's Olympics. As Britain's team exceeded expectations, Australia's disappointed them; one magnified the other. This is not a media construct; it is a matter of record. Saying so does not implicate the athletes in lack of effort, nor does it diminish what they did achieve. But it does mean that as all sports become ever more competitive, Australia's best endeavours are no longer always good enough.
Goodbye London - Olympics closing ceremony
Fireworks explode over the Olympic stadium during the closing ceremony. Photo: REUTERS
Already, it has reopened another four-year debate about what is a conscionable amount for government to spend on those efforts.
The unpalatable fact is that in professionalised sport - which is nearly all now - success is indexed as much to population as money. Have a look at the medals table.
Once, wanting and caring more than other countries took Australia a long way, despite a small talent pool. Now, what was once a proud boast - that we punch above our weight - is a handicap: we are a lightweight. No amount of money can change that.
That is for then. This is now. There is an incandescent glow over London today. At worst, the Games were a distraction from troubled times. At best, they might act as Britain's timely reminder to itself about what is possible when it puts its mind to it and its heart in it.
The London Olympics, it can truly be said, were a right bang-up job.