More Olympic headlines, stories and so on

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It seems the first post of headlines and comments hit Posterous’s limit, so for the final day of the games, closing ceremony and the post-Games press conference see below…
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12 August
  • The last day of the Games.
  • On the streets of London there’s a big turnout for the men’s marathon, which is the last event of the track and field programme. The warm weather probably helped – London has been blessed with some exceptional weather compared to what came before in June and July.
  • Listening to BBC Radio 5 live there’s a lot of discussion to review the Games, look ahead to the future and work out how to make the most of this surge in interest.
  • Daley Thomson makes the point that if sports clubs aren’t ready to help children and families they won’t get a second chance. Handball, Taekwondo and other minority sports won’t see this level of interest again, so they need to be able to do something with the attention they’re getting.
  • On the route of the marathon is Casa Brasil:
    • This is Brazil’s exhibition at Somerset House to show what they have in store for the world in 2016.
    • Lots of photos, colour and culture on display.
    • The legacy theme is present too, with projections on what’s going to change in Rio over the next four years – roads, venues, etc.
    • There’s a large section on the branding of the Games, both Olympic and Paralympic. The logos, colours, themes and message they want us to take away from our time with Brazil.
  • Out at the ‘BT London Live’ live site at Victoria Park there’s a lively atmosphere. It’s about a mile from Mile End tube, with limited number of special signs in place to guide you there.
    • What you see on the way are a few hand drawn and otherwise improvised signs directing you to local attractions: a floating market and other attractions. Some say they’re a short cut to Victoria Park, all are there to try and share in the spending power of the large number of people in this part of London.
    • There isn’t much to spend your money on as you walk to the park, the occasional pub along the way.
    • Once at the Park there’s a large area to gather in before you filter through the lanes. This is a handy place to eat your packed lunch as you won’t be allowed to take it in with you.
    • Once inside there’s a festival air, with stages, big screens, The Sun Pub, The Sunday Times for sale and places to purchase beer, food and so on. This is also the place that Boris Johnson got stuck on the zip wire.
    • It’s a place for families and friends – just about everyone is in a group or a couple, soaking up the sun. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of ‘making new friends’, so this tends towards bonding rather than bridging activities.
    • That said there’s still a lot of shared enjoyment at the sporting endeavours being shown on the screens: the men’s basketball final (USA beat Spain), the men’s volleyball final (Russia beat Brazil) and the women’s modern pentathlon (where a ‘Team GB’ athlete gets the silver).
    • There are many, many people heading that way in the late afternoon to get a good spot for the closing ceremony.
Speaking of which…
  • The closing ceremony lacks the cohesion of the opening, with pieces of narrative interspersed with pop and cultural performances.
  • As noted on Twitter the arrival of the athletes lightens the whole thing and makes for a joyous atmosphere. Others commented that this made it feel like someone else’s party, to which we’ve been allowed to watch from afar.
  • Highlights (either on artistic merit or sheer bizarreness) include the Spice Girls riding around on taxis, Russell Brand singing I Am the Walrus through a megaphone, Fat Boy Slim doing a short DJ set (miming, surely) from the middle of an inflatable octopus and of course Ray Davies – a lovely rendition of Waterloo Sunset.
  • The BBC’s coverage of the closing ceremony focuses on the performances, as well as picking out lots of athletes from the crowd, some now famous others still unknown to UK audiences.
  • The coverage was preceded by a long introduction featuring memories of the Games and thoughts about their impacts and legacies. This sets the tone for the following days where the media narrative switches to these themes.

13 August

Press conference: Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Seb Coe
  • Coe identifies three things needed to run a successful Olympic Games:
    • Partnerships
    • Vision
    • A clear idea of why you’re doing it
  • Coe on why he’s taking on a legacy ambassadorial role post-Games: the Prime Minister wants him to continue to lend his experience and expertise, working alongside others who are focused on making the most of the legacy opportunities.
  • Ethnic diversity question: while some sports ha
    ve clearly benefited from waves of immigration to the UK (athletics, boxing) there are others which don’t demonstrate such diversity (the sitting down sports, which happen to be the more expensive ones) – can this be addressed? Coe says track and field is a good representation of UK society, and maybe has lessons that can be passed on to other sports. Investment in these sports will continue to help break down barriers to participation. It’s not just participation though; administration and management should also be accessible to all.
  • Have the London games been better than Sydney? Boris says let’s not get into that; each games is special.
  • Legacy keeps coming up as a theme [note that Michael Johnson says London is the first games to have truly embraced this idea, while previous games had focused on not losing money].
    • Government seeking to use Olympics to push for more competitive sport in schools.
    • Venues to be re-used, given back to the community (eg Greenwich Park) with some still available if you’d like to bag yourself a venue.
    • Whose responsibility is paying for this legacy: state, philanthropists…? Hunt says governments can’t do it alone and that it’s not just about money – it’s also about culture and enthusiasm to create a lasting benefits.
  • Hunt feels that politicians have stepped back and avoided seeking the limelight. There’s some mutual backslapping between political parties: Johnson thanks Livingstone, Hunt thanks Jowell.
    • This has also been a perfect example of joined up government according to Hunt, despite journalist’s criticism that different government departs haven’t been working together to follow a cohesive policy.
  • Coe says he’s happy if others are happy, but even happier if the athletes are happy – they can only break world records if they’re physically and mentally ready, so the village needs to be right and the venues.
    • Coe believes you can’t put too much money into elite sport: elite success is the greatest motivator for others, driving aspiration and a desire to succeed and engage.
  • Coe and rest of senior team at LOCOG have been given the Olympic Order by the IOC – part of the trappings which the IOC grants itself.
  • £13 billion of benefits are expected: Cameron has pledged to achieve this figure, which was calculated by Lloyd’s [I think]. This is due through investment, deals done at GB House and other unquantified ambitions.
  • Funding for arts and culture: said not to be in line to miss out despite plans to pump more money Lottery into elite sport over the coming years to Rio 2016. Arts companies said to have been on show to great effect through the Games, Cultural Olympiad, Opening and Closing ceremonies.
  • Boris has some foreign trips lined up: China is on the list of places to visit to try and drum up more trade and investment:
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9473206/Boris-Johnson-Olympics-were-money-well-spent-as-tourism-boosts-business.html
  • http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/mayor-boris-johnson-thanks-london-2012-games-makers-8038304.html
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/video/2012/aug/13/boris-johnson-performs-mobot-video
  • http://www.demotix.com/news/1385940/final-press-conference-discuss-success-london-2012/all-media
Newsnight special on the impacts and legacies of London 2012:
  • Opening report:
    • Notes that there’s been lots of hyperbole, but good arguments for it?
    • As a sport event lots of records were broken and GB did well.
    • A third of medallists went to private school, part of an elite group of athletes.
    • Boris Johnson said to have more political capital than the government.
    • Marked a turnaround from early problems about security, etc.
    • Price tag: 3.4bn rose to more than 9bn a few years later… but it’s ok because Cameron says we’ll be reaping 13bn over the next four years.
    • An over corporate games? Notes choice of sponsors, empty seats, etc.
    • Volunteers: gave of them time, got lots of praise from Rogge and other top brass.
    • Said to have given the rest of the world a different vision of GB: opening ceremony and diversity of winners.
  • Interview with Jeremy Hunt:
    • We’ve welcomed the world, with a smile, and shown that we’re a confident nature and one that likes to win every so often.
    • So when did Britain stop being broken? Were we ever really broken or were there just pockets of problems, just as there are in lots of countries? Hunt says we still have problems to deal with, but the Games have shown what we can do if everyone pulls together and we tackle something big.
    • On schools, including scrapping the two hour target for PE: it’s not all about targets. Hunt says there’s a problem with the small number of pupils engaged in competitive sport… but has problem naming a school where there’s an ‘all must have prizes’ culture.
    • To tackle this in schools we should empower head teachers to be able to do something about this, to change a culture where schools don’t believe in the importance of competitive sport. Changing values and changing ethos.
    • Business of legacy of £13bn: analysis of potential contracts that might be won on the back of the Olympics – eg tourism strategy expected to bring in an extra four million visitors a year.
    • £1
      3bn figure from Oxford Economics, commissioned by Lloyd’s Banking Group (one of the sponsors): 70% of this, according to the report, is expected to come prior to and during the Games, leaving about five billion to come afterwards. Hunt: corrects information on the source of the figure, though it’s stated by Gavin Esler that Boris Johnson used the Oxford report… Hunt says the figure came from UK Trade and Investment.
    • Hunt: figure calculated from big deals made, investment in contracts, business won. (Therefore not at all guaranteed.)
  • On Stratford: what’s the impact been there (report)?
    • Local residents says the Games aren’t for them, that they fear only a small amount of the benefits will filter down to them, they don’t know anyone who’s got a ticket and been to see the events.
    • Seven years of looking forward hasn’t led to benefits: legacy doesn’t pay the bills.
    • It’s all nice… if you don’t come from round there. Looks good from afar, but if you live two miles away it ain’t nice, leaves a sour taste.
    • Regeneration = gentrification? That residents will become more marginalised, squeezed out, unable to afford their own homes?
    • Local council ambitions include ‘raising the aspirations’ of residents, but it’s said that the council doesn’t understand those residents, who are quite capable of following their own aspirations.
    • It’s clear that some local residents are optimistic: young people, who have gained experience through the Games, hoping that they can use the experience to further their own lives and aspirations.
    • Allotment holders (Manor Garden), who had been forced out during the development work, have been promised a place in the new park. They see this as an important link with the past for that site, a key to its history. Local community going back into the park, helping the local authorities understand how locals are going to go back into the area and resettle it. Raises spectre of other host cities, where the Olympic park has become a no go zone, without local support and involvement.
  • Discussion:
    • Good things: great infrastructure, shopping and transport, with lots of community spirit. But some feel this is at risk under current plans.
    • Mayor of Newham: there was a promise of improvement, with hopes that local folk will get those jobs, etc.
    • A sense of dislocation is a fear if the existing environment and community is pulled apart by force. Mayor says he is focussing on the people who already live there, but local resident say he fears marginalization.
    • General agreement in the idea of involving local community, local businesses: organic development.
  • British national identity on display during the Games:
    • Carol Ann Duffy reads from her poem.
    • Recognition that the Games showed a diversity of contributors: we are all in this together.
    • Have we changed? It’s too soon to say, but Jowell says it’s clear that lots of people have felt part of it. Also that lots of people would like the same spirit to continue, but it’s hard to know how to follow up on that.
    • Politicians: need to stand back and allow the public and agencies to play their part. Jowell says there was cross party support for this.
    • On the opening ceremony: gave the games a lift by demonstrating the new way of representing the country. We can poke fun at ourselves too, which other countries will not be able to do.
    • What of our sense of community and unity: would conservative ideals of the union and independence from the EU be trumped by multiculturalism? (As asked by Toby Young.) Through the athletes it was clear that although we may be multi ethnic, Britishness can still trump cultural identities: see Farah as proudly British.
    • A reflection of what we’ve become: a diverse city, very creative, but still encouraging people to retain their identity.
    • Jowell on presenting the bid: from the start there was a bid that reflected the diversity of modern Britain, not all beefeaters. But it’s too soon to say what this all means – different regions will respond differently, just as they responded differently to the torch relay as it came through.
    • Young on Alex Salmond: won’t have been cheered by the British identity displayed by Scottish athletes. Sir Chris Hoy can’t be claimed by the Nats.
    • What will the legacy be all about: having ploughed £10bn into the park, will it be for us, as citizens and taxpayers, or will it be sold off to private companies? Jowell notes the strong links to surrounding boroughs, which are currently closed off but will be opened up.
    • The volunteers: lots of support, with likelihood that more people will now want to volunteer as a result… But don’t forget that we need real jobs of substance, not just more volunteering opportunities.

14 August