The best Olympics never; mystery, magic and magnificent trivia

[This piece is a version of ‘The best Olympics never’, in Mark Perryman (ed) London2012: How was it for Us?, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 2013, pp. 47-61]

In its last issue of 2012 The Guardian asked of 2013 ‘what can we do to match the Olympics?’ – perhaps mainly as excuse to show on the front page yet another photo of the firework display over the Thames for the Olympic celebration, itself resonant of that other national extravaganza of the year, the Queen’s Jubilee. These would be the abiding images of 2012 for Britain – colourful celebrations of national pride and tradition. This was a year in which for once, back in August and September, the national press in the United Kingdom had been united on a dominant public issue of the day: the media had come together to massage the public ego in an orgy of self-congratulation about the unadulterated success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Sunday Times set the tone in its editorial on the final day of the event, under the heading ‘A nation united by our golden Games’: the Olympics had ‘engendered a sense of wellbeing and benevolent patriotism that has further united the nation’.

On the day after the closing ceremony, headline writers and lead editorial voices were as one, exuberant and triumphant, from the posh to the popular. According to the Daily Telegraph: ‘We lit the flame; we lit up the world’; and the paper extolled the ‘wonderful advertisement for the glories of this country and its capital city’, while Mick Brown recalled the ‘two weeks of unbelievable spectacle that surpassed our wildest dreams’. Other front-page headlines shared the same ecstatic moment of celebration. In the Daily Mirror: ‘Goldbye! One billion watch star- studded finale to greatest Games’; in the Sun: ‘We’re world beaters … Dream GB’. Daily Star: ‘Best of British, Amazing farewell to Games’. More muted was the Independent’s ‘That’s all, folks’ on its souvenir issue pullout, and ‘What a swell party that was!’ in the main paper. ‘Goodbye to the glorious Games’ declared the Guardian on its main page, setting in sepia, in its Olympics 2012 special supplement, the 29 gold-medal winning individuals and teams around the acclamation ‘Golden Britain’.

And the hyperbole was not from just the specialist sports writers. Voices unfamiliar to sporting commentary and the sports pages were drawn into the excitement and debate. Writer, poet and literary critic Blake Morrison recalled being inspired as a ten-year-old by grainy images of the Rome 1960 Olympics on television, restaging events on his own in his backyard in rural Yorkshire. Initially sceptical about the winning bid, he had remained so up to the eve of the event, when stories of security mismanagement were to the fore. Now resident in South London, he had been particularly concerned about the ground-to-air missiles being installed in his backyard in metropolitan Blackheath. The costs were spiralling, corporate sponsors were gobbling up privileges, an Olympic bus driver couldn’t operate his satnav, the weather was wet and grim. This was hardly the stuff of dream-inspiring spectacle:

I was wrong. Most of us were wrong. The last two weeks have been amazing … I’m embarrassed to admit how many times my eyes have welled up. And even more embarrassed that the cause has usually been a British medal … pride of some sort seems to have affected most of the country … What’s wonderful about the crowds waving their union flags inside Olympic venues or sitting in front of giant screens across the country is how diverse they are, yet how united … The Games have been the most inclusive event in Britain in my lifetime. Particularly once the gold medals started coming for the Great Britain squad on the fifth day, the Games offered ‘an escape from reality’: ‘for 17 days we could forget’ the mess of the economy, the tensions of international conflicts, the shenanigans of national politics. Ticketless, but transformed into Olympic superfan by the wholesale coverage of the event on free-to-air television, Morrison exploited to the full the ‘right to roam’ that was offered by the ‘unprecedented freedom’ of the red button in what was the first-ever fully digitalised Olympics.

Everywhere I went in London and across England during the Olympics and Paralympics, I found people expressing similar sentiments to those of Morrison. London 2012 – and especially so once the sun came out and stayed out for close to the duration of the event – literally put a smile on people’s faces; affluent families who could get tickets spent the cost of an annual holiday on an afternoon in the Olympic Stadium, whatever the competitive line-up; commuting fans took to the streets of London for free glimpses of cyclists or marathon runners; people clamoured to simply spend some time – any time – inside the Olympic Park; ‘did-you-see’ became the opening gambit of gossiping fans as livetime took precedence over the time-shifting mechanisms of our contemporary media. What were people chatting about at their kettles and worksinks, at the now proverbial water-cooler, if not the next rowing or cycling team’s prospects, Bradley’s sideburns, Jess’s all-round talent, or the recovery time Mo needed for the merciless double of the 5000 and 10,000 metres? This was the WOW factor at work, as those sucked in to the spirit of the event talked it up to unanticipated levels of all-embracing import and significance.

Not everyone, of course, could get there, or get off work, or access the red button options and permutations. Not everyone – even as Team GB was pipping the Russian Federation to third place in the gold-medal table – thought that the £9 billion (minimum) cost of the Games was worth it. A Guardian/ICM poll reported on the final Saturday of the Olympic Games that 55 per cent of Britons saw the Games as ‘well worth’ the investment, and as having done a valuable job of cheering up the country during hard times; but 35 per cent, despite the smiles and the medals, still believed that they were ‘a costly distraction from serious economic problems’. And in Scotland, opinion on the worthwhileness of the Games was evenly split, with 42 per cent agreeing, and 42 per cent not agreeing that the money, time and effort were worth it. Younger people were generally more in favour of the Games than older people, and professional (AB) social classes were ‘keenest’, with 63 per cent seeing the games as a good thing.2 Not everyone joined the party then. But more than enough did – particularly in the media spotlight of the venues and the Olympic Park itself – for talk of a consensus of support to be credible, a shared and extensive reading of the Olympics as a collective endeavour staged for the good of us all. London 2012 in this sense sustained the historical claims and values of Olympic enthusiasts and apologists through time. The city/country could combine a cultural- historical pedigree of commitment to sport (for both the articulation of national pride and the cultivation of individual character), with an all-embracing multicultural and projective vision of the contemporary relevance of the Games.

London 2012, just like other recent Games, was based upon an alliance-cum-contract between the city and the global brand of the IOC – with the national government signing up to cover contingencies in the eventuality of economic or security crises. To many people it is difficult to understand why informed and experienced politicians and professionals come to sign up for such a project – one that will always escalate out of control in costs, and can guarantee none of its projected benefits, whether these be home-nation medal tallies or tourist numbers. But my argument is that understanding the source of this willingness to take on the Games helps a wider understanding of the whole Olympic process. It is the special trick of the Olympics that there is always competition from hopeful host cities; and it is the magic that it continues to generate – for however transient a period of time – that provides an answer to the mystery of its attraction.



Team GB exceeded all expectations at the 2012 Games. Nervous Olympic planners, administrators and enthusiasts had aimed for fourth place, to equal the performance at Beijing, where China, the US and Russia took the top three slots. But once the gold medals started to accumulate, it became clear that, counting just golds, in line with IOC protocol, the athletic might of the Russian Federation could be matched and bettered. The nineteen British golds of Beijing were eclipsed by the twenty-nine at London 2012 – five more golds than Russia’s total (though Russia’s overall medal total of 85 was well clear of Team GB’s 65). Without these stirring results, the chemistry of the Olympian summer might have been hugely different; modest results would have led to serious questioning of costs. But as the medal count mounted, the seats filled up, and the carnivalesque crowds materialised, an aura of sorts settled over the event. Women boxers? Taekwondo champions? It was not just the rowers, the cyclists and the equestrians who were doing it for Team GB – the old country was also competing with success in new spheres. Or in older spheres with revitalised competitiveness – Andy Murray taking tennis gold, and the virtually unknown Greg Rutherford taking long-jump gold with the shortest winning jump in the event since 1972. But who cared about records when yet another gold was won on that transformative Super Saturday? Tony Blair had promised a ‘magic and memorable’ Games, to ‘do justice to the great Olympic ideals’. And once the gold medals started coming for the host nation, the magic truly began.

Part of the mystery of the Olympics lies in its longevity, its survival and growth across what is now three different centuries. This partly stems from the rhetorical tone set for Olympic discourse by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games, right from the very beginning. At his 1894 congress to launch the modern Olympic Movement in Paris, he toasted his own vision: ‘I raise my glass to the Olympic idea, which has crossed the mists of time like a ray from the all-powerful sun and is returning to shine on the gateway to the twentieth century with the gleam of joyful hope’. But it is remarkable that such messianic sentimentality has been successfully reworked in an informed world of global media and digital communications that guarantee unprecedented levels of access to information and material. And what explains this longevity is the suspension of disbelief by a willing public, the readiness of people to not just watch, but to participate in the magic show. The turning point in recent Olympic history has been its adoption by an increasingly globalised media that is ready to embrace its rituals of idealism and rhetoric – particularly after satellite transmission made live coverage possible at the Tokyo 1964 Games. World media can now beam in and celebrate across the globe the skill and techniques that have made the opening and closing ceremonies such a quadrennial highlight for the national and global audience. These ceremonies have now become an essential part of the whole magical show. And the magician’s key technique is sleight of hand – along with getting us to look one way rather than another, shifting our perceptions in a split second, and undermining our commonsense understandings. Designers and producers of Olympic ceremonies have become adept at such techniques, and London 2012 was no exception.

The London opening ceremony gave Oscar-winning movie director and northern Englishman Danny Boyle the opportunity to provide the nation and the world with a vision of British history and the making of an increasingly multi-cultural British nationalism. Its brilliant conceit was the green hillock up which the common people, the industrialists and the politicians could all climb, in times of turbulence and dramatic social and cultural change; the mound acted as a people’s platform, accessible to all at the different points of British history. Boyle’s people’s history also downplayed the city of London, cleverly avoiding the danger of a self-congratulatory smugly self-satisfying and solipsistic promotion of the host city itself. And after all the hoo-hah about who might light the cauldron’s flame – which Olympic veteran or contemporary superstar? Neither, instead Boyle had stayed faithful to the 2005 winning bid’s emphasis on youth, with a squad of six youthful athletes of the future taking the stage for this climactic moment. Nineteen-year-old athlete Adelle Tracey was one of these. A beneficiary of Dame Kelly Holmes’s mentoring programme, she recalled how ‘gobsmacked’ she was when Danny Boyle told them what their secret task was actually going to be: ‘The whole concept of ‘inspiring a generation’ really worked’.

Danny Boyle’s colleague, designer Thomas Heatherwick, had designed a cauldron that was integrated into the stadium – an echo of its placing at the 1948 Games, its gradual emergence serving to integrate it within the stadium, and helping to convey the feel of an intimate film set. The cauldron constructed itself on the spot, including 204 copper petals, symbolising each of the participating nations/teams, one to be taken home by each nation as a memento after the Games, a symbol of unity and the overcoming of difference. Sarah Crompton wrote of the ‘originality and breathtaking beauty’ of the cauldron: ‘The technical execution was equally stunning: the creation of each shape by traditional British craftsmen; the delicacy of the long, stainless-steel tubes holding each petal; the way the flame passed from outer to inner rings; the rise of the pieces upwards to make a rose of fire. The blaze appeared magically suspended in mid-air’.The tone was set. The opening ceremony became the perfect vehicle for a magical meaning-shifting excursion from the travails, tensions and demands of everyday life. Clive James wrote of Sydney 2000 that ‘the opening ceremony … had stunned the world and given Australia confidence in its new position as a mature nation’. Such are the big – and barely testable – claims that are made for these spectacles. In fact they are nowhere near as different from each other as the publicists and enthusiasts claim. The opening ceremony at Sydney shared much with London 2012’s opener: a people’s history; in-house national jokes and humour (in Sydney this was dancing lawnmowers, a tongue-in-cheek take on the tidiness of suburban Australian lawns); and the depiction of ethnic and multicultural diversity in the remaking of the modern nation. Olympic spectacle of this sort must balance regional (city- based), national and global interests. It is projected to the worldwide audience, but it celebrates much that is local and even peculiar to the host culture and city. I spoke to numerous young people from South Korea, China and the USA about the London 2012 opening ceremony, and most were baffled by its innate Britishness – a bafflement which turned quickly into boredom. But the magic was beginning to work for the UK audience, bonding an often disunited Kingdom into a united front that was soon to be cheering on its Stella McCartney-clad athletes and volunteers alike.


The messianic vision of Coubertin – Rénovateur of the modern Olympics – is rooted in a vocabulary of transcendence, and an aspiration to rebuild the youth of the world, both physically and morally: what he called the rebronzage (the burnishing) of his nation after the humiliation of defeat in the 1871 Franco-Prussian war: ‘I shall enlarge its vision and its hearing by showing it with wide horizons; heavenly, planetary, historical, horizons of universal history which, in engendering mutual respect, will bring about a ferment of international peace’. It is of course worth noting that such universalism is sometimes compromised by history, politics and human agency; and reactions to winning, hosting and staging the Olympics have altered over time. Expectation can turn to mistrust; agreement can escalate into euphoria; and forgetting can be superseded by nostalgia. In the case of London 2012, we entered the euphoric phase from the second Saturday of the seventeen days, when three athletics gold medals were won in just one evening. (At the Atlanta Games in 1996 the British team collected just one gold medal in the whole Games, won by rowers Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave. Euphoria? We never even got started.)

Even in London 2012 things started slowly. The publicity machine worked well in the build-up during the Olympic torch’s journey across the country. But at first the competitors did not seem to be meeting national expectations. World champion cyclist Mark Cavendish disappointed fans and commentators on the first weekend, finishing only twenty-eighth in the men’s road race. The gold medal went to Kazakhstan’s 38-year-old Alexander Vinokourov, banned for two years after testing positive for blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France. A bemused British media cast him more as cheat than champion.

But Olympic silver medallist rower Cath Bishop assured me that the picture would change very soon as the rowers were coming, and indeed they did. On the fifth day of competition, in Bishop’s old event, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning took Britain’s first gold medal in the women’s pair. Then Bradley Wiggins took gold in the cyclists’ time trial, and a trickle became a flood of home-nation successes. The nation/country was more than ready to party by the final weekend of the event, as it approached its greatest medal total since the more parochial times of its first hosting in 1908. And more events were to come – including the monumental triumph of Mo Farah in the men’s 5000 metres. But at this point Coe gave his preliminary overview of the event:

‘We have broken all records. We really have got the platform to inspire the next generation. It’s what we said we’d do. They are Games for everyone by everyone. People have been involved in their millions. It has been a unique opportunity to showcase this country. Coming off the back of the Jubilee weekend, we will look back on this and think there’s probably never been a time like this’.

Paul Hayward, in the Daily Telegraph the day after the closing ceremony, praised the energy of the crowds, a force that would become a dominant memory for millions, and called the Olympics ‘an almighty advertisement for collective effort and shared experience’, an expression of Britishness excluding no-one: ‘If there is a single word to describe the quality at the heart of London 2012 it may be “soul”. The Games had soul’. Boris Johnson boasted after the opening ceremony, ‘I reckon we have knocked Beijing – with all respect to our Chinese friends, and greatly though I admired those Games – into a cocked hat’; and, when the Olympics were over: ‘London has put on a dazzling face to the global audience. For the first time since the end of empire, it truly feels like the capital of the world’. But it wasn’t just the home-nation writers, journalists and politicians waxing lyrical and hurtling towards the extremities of hyperbole on London’s achievements. The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, complimented his London equivalent Johnson: ‘You just did the greatest Games ever. Everyone’s looking at London. This was already a great city and it became even a greater city so Rio will try to follow you. You did so great that we’re going to have lots of trouble, lots of work, but we’re going to deliver great things in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro’. (Mayor Paes was clearly practising the word ‘great’ for his turn in 2016.)

It was the custom of previous IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to fuel the expectations of hosts through a model of continuous improvement in the profile – and finances – of the Games and the IOC. It became a Samaranch tradition to comment on the Games in the closing ceremony speech. He called the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles 1984 and then Seoul 1998 the ‘best’ Games; and he called the Barcelona 1992 Games (staged in his own home city) the best yet: ‘Thanks Barcelona. Thanks Catalunya. Thanks Spain. You have achieved it. These have been, with no doubt, the best Games of the whole Olympic history’. There were exceptions to this tale of superlatives. In Atlanta 1996 Samaranch was more circumspect, telling the city ‘Well done’ for staging a ‘most exceptional Games’. But in this muted response he was probably responding as much to the bombing in the Centennial Olympic Park – and the woeful local transportation system – as to the athletic competition. But at his outgoing Olympics at Sydney in 2000, he was back on song, glorifying the event as ‘the best Olympic Games ever. They could not have been better … a perfect organisation’. In this he was writing a testimonial to his own achievements in the Olympic story.

Samaranch’s successor as IOC president, Jacques Rogge, changed the style, offering a more studied judgement than his predecessor; he avoided comparisons and superlatives, but he continued to frame the respective Games in an incremental developmental narrative. Athens 2004, his first Summer Olympics as President, received a carefully worded response: ‘You have won! You have won by brilliantly meeting the tough challenge of holding the Games. These Games were unforgettable, dream Games’. Beijing 2008 was acknowledged as a ‘truly exceptional Games’ which gave birth to ‘new stars’ and ‘true role models’, whose achievements were marvelled at, and whose ‘warm embrace’ of each other showed the world the ‘unifying power of sport’. At London 2012, Rogge’s last Summer Olympics as president, he thanked the Organising Committee which, ‘well supported by the public authorities, did a superb job’. The ‘wonderful volunteers, the much-needed heroes’ of the Games were praised for their smiles, kindness and support. Public and spectators were thanked for providing the soundtrack to a Games at which a festival spirit had characterised all venues. ‘The best of British hospitality’ had been shown to the world. Plucking words from the British national anthem, he dubbed London 2012 the ‘happy and glorious Games’. But never did he say that they were the ‘best’. They might have written ‘a new chapter in Olympic history’, but in IOC-speak that’s what all Games do. Their biggest legacy has now become the next Olympiad cycle itself, the next Games, the succeeding version in this sustained narrative of idealism and universalism.

Writing soon after the Games, Rogge added a little history: ‘The foundations for London’s achievements were firmly built on the knowledge and expertise of previous Olympic organisers. Massive urban regeneration projects undertaken by Barcelona in 1992 and Sydney in 2000, environmental and sustainability standards set by Lillehammer in 1994 and Vancouver in 2010, and programmes to encourage volunteerism and youth participation by the Beijing 2008 organisers are just a few of the success stories that London used as a springboard’. But while the IOC may have shifted away from this self- flattering strategy of comparison, Mayor of London Boris Johnson let it be known that he ‘wouldn’t dissent’ should it be put to him that the London Games were the best ever. In this he presaged a triumphalism that spread like an epidemic across the country, wholly inappropriate to the context of the Olympic spirit of mutual respect and inter-cultural under- standing. In September, after the conclusion to the Paralympic Games, Johnson upstaged Prime Minister David Cameron at the Victoria Memorial in London, thanking the people whom he’d joined for ‘one final tear-sodden juddering climax’, to salute the victories of the previous fortnight: ‘this was your achievement, you brought this country together in a way we never expected. You routed the doubters and you scattered the gloomsters, and, for the first time in living memory, you caused Tube train passengers to break into spontaneous conversation with their neighbours about subjects other their trod-on toes’. This was a host city party, with a lot to celebrate.

Meanwhile the sponsors were also counting their gains. To take just one example of the magic the Olympics bring for multinational companies, Proctor & Gamble, one of the eleven worldwide partners (elite sponsors), was proclaiming the success of its ‘P&G Family Home’. They had converted a 68,000 square-foot brick warehouse in London’s Borough Market to create their ‘Home’, which was host to thousands of visitors throughout the Games. It could hold 400 guests at a time, and staged 150 separate events, 100 of them specifically for National Olympic Committees. The idea had been launched in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics, when the company had offered luxury facilities to mothers and fathers of Olympians, and the repeat in London was judged a huge success: ‘This is really beyond our wildest dreams’, commented Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Global marketing and brand-building Officer.

P&G had refined its concept of boosting its various brands through offering them to athletes. It had its own beauty salon, with hair and nail care taken care of by Cover Girl, Pantene, and Max Factor products. Team GB members could pop in for a free nail job. And while the women were drawn to the salon, a ‘man cave’ – equipped with pool-tables, video games, table football, darts and big-screen TVs – offered barber services, ‘haircuts and shaves using Gillette razors and Old Spice lotions’. For Pritchard, Gillette was ‘one of our best brands to activate’. ‘They even created a special gold razor for this. We gave Ryan Lochte and the swimmers gold-plated razors with encrusted crystals’. And if you needed a quick freshen-up orally, the Family Home had Oral B and Crest toothpaste on hand. Two news rooms were also based in the converted warehouse, ‘pumping out press activities and huge social media and broadcast relations’. According to Pritchard: ‘We have a great relationship with NBC, Tencent in China, with BBC. We’ve created probably close to 1 billion impressions a day around here. It was a really good opportunity for us.’


There is now no shortage of candidates to pick up and run with the Olympic torch for the next round of Games, each blending their own national character with what has become an almost spiritual cosmopolitanism. The concluding statement in Istanbul’s bid-book for the 2020 Summer Games calls up historical, geographic, political, and religious themes: ‘Istanbul occupies a truly unique place in the world. Geographically, culturally and symbolically, it sits at the junction of East and West, representing the best of all worlds. In this secular Muslim society all people, regardless of race, culture, gender or religion, celebrate their nation’s enlightened approach to inclusiveness and respect for humanity. The potential to create harmony by celebrating differences through the lens of Olympic and Paralympic Games is profound, uniting all participants and guiding the way for the future’.

Madrid, defying the realities of economic crisis, persisted in staying in the race, bidding for a third successive time. Alejandro Blanco’s letter at the end of its bid book mobilised long-standing arguments to justify the candidature: ‘We propose an organisational concept responsible towards all stake- holders, society itself and the management of resources: financially sustainable and environmentally friendly Games. Madrid 2020 will enthuse the generation of today, showing the way to the future for new generations … Madrid is a peaceful, open and vibrant city, which guarantees a safe environment for athletes and for the entire Olympic Family, receiving everyone with open arms. Our firm will to host the 2020 Games is a proof of our commitment to the Olympic Movement, the interests of which we undertake to safeguard, as its development is also our development. We are ready to take on the honour and responsibility of delivering the Games. Games full of passion and enthusiasm, both inspiring and providing opportunities for a whole generation of young people and which will be the light of the future’.

Tokyo, bruised from its loss to Rio in the race to host 2016, and in the wider context of the national tragedy of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on its Pacific coast, stressed its progressive, global image and status: ‘Tokyo is committed and fully prepared to deliver on its vision for 2020: to bring together innovation and inspiration in the heart of the world’s most forward-thinking and safe city. We will unite the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the unique values of the Japanese people and the excitement of a city that sets global trends. And deliver a dynamic celebration that will help reinforce and renew the Olympic Values for a new generation – and so contribute to more young people worldwide sharing the dreams and hope of sport’.

So there it is, again. The local, the national and the global, all woven together into the same formula. None of these cities will be able to keep to costs; all are professing the same principles, ideals and commitments. All of them have designers and showmen and spectacle entrepreneurs for 2020; all of them are capable of dazzling an entirely digitalised world for the required 17 or so days. We know that, whoever won, this will happen, whatever the global or national crisis – it must happen, since to stage the Olympics is an imperative once the offer is accepted. It remains somewhat mysterious as to why such projects and promises continue to be made, and are given such degrees of credence. The victor in the race for 2020, Tokyo, knew that there would be controversies and protests all the way to the eve of the 2020 Games, but that’s where the magic comes in. And Rio, London’s successor, knows that the magic can work again when it stages the Olympic show in another time, another place; again, there will be protests, but the Games and the Olympic brand will still be peddling hope, still carrying on the same (though appropriately nuanced) rhetoric and ritual that has kept the modern show on the road for close to a century and a quarter.


Sport at its highest level embodies the principles of excellence, grace, beauty … but it’s still a form of magnificent trivia. Olympic excellence conveys splendour, and unrivalled and always aspiring human accomplishment, in the context of the strong appeal of the sporting spectacle – but it is a spectacle which also assures a consensual infantilisation on the part of the onlooker, who is open-mouthed in wonder, temporarily oblivious to the wider context and meaning of the spectacle. It is top-level sport’s abiding appeal that it can draw us into a Never-Never land, combining an escapist focus upon the action with a willed immersion in the magnificently trivial. Meanwhile the world changes little in substance: the armed conflicts continue, economic rivalries threaten global stability, Britain loses its triple A financial status/rating, and the multicultural conviviality of London 2012’s party fades as the moment of inclusive ecstasy recedes. Never mind. The Olympic show, for the sake of all who have invested so much in it, must go on, and move on. Next stop Rio.



The above draws upon:

Blake Morrison, ‘The Olympic triumph: astonishing, moving and magnificent’, Guardian, 11 August 2012.

Tom Clark and Owen Gibson, ‘Britons back the feelgood Games’, Guardian, 11 August 2012.

Tony Blair, quoted in Mike Lee, The Race for the 2012 Olympics, Virgin Books 2006, pxiv.

Norbert Muller (ed), Pierre de Coubertin, 1863-1937: Olympism; Selected writings, International Olympic Committee 2000, p532.

Adelle Tracey, ‘Eyewitness – The Opening Ceremony’, Observer, 19 August 2012. Sarah Crompton, ‘Thomas Heatherwick: A burning desire to change the world’, Telegraph, 31 July 2012.

Clive James,‘G’nightSydney’, Independent, 3 October 2000.

Pierre de Coubertin, quoted in Marie-Thérèse Eyquem,‘The Founder of the Modern Games’, in Lord Killanin and John Rodda (eds), The Olympic Games: 80 Years of People, Events and Records, Barrie & Jenkins 1976, p138.

The phases of Olympic build-up and wind-down were identified by Chris Kennett and Miquel de Moragas, on the basis of their research on the Barcelona 1992 Summer Games: Chris Kennet and Miquel de Moragas, ‘Barcelona 1992: Evaluating the Olympic legacy’, in Alan Tomlinson and Christopher Young (eds), National Identity and Global Sports Events, State University of New York Press 1996.

Gordon Rayner, ‘The Finale: We can’t slow down now, Coe tells Team GB: Games chairman urges athletes to keep on breaking records and finish on a high’, Daily Telegraph, 11 August 2012.

Paul Hayward, ‘London, you’re beautiful: These Games will be remembered as a triumph for warmth, civility, excellence and enthusiasm’, Daily Telegraph, 13 August 2012.

Boris Johnson, ‘London and Team GB – take a bow. You’ve dazzled the world’, Daily Telegraph, 13 August 2012.

Eduardo Paes, quoted in Gordon Rayner, see above.

Jacques Rogge, ‘Was London 2012 the best Olympics ever?’, Guardian, 23 November 2012.

Michael Savage, ‘One final tear-sodden climax’, The Times, 11 September 2012.

Ed Hula, ‘P&G sets standard with London home for Olympic families’,, 30 August 2012. Istanbul2020 Bid Book,Volume 3, p137. Madrid 2020 Bid Book, Volume 3, p128. Tokyo2020 Bid Book,Volume 3, p124.

Alan Tomlinson, Sport and Leisure Cultures, University of Minnesota Press 2005.