Friday, April 20, 2012

Countdown to London Olympics 2012 - Brits are doing it the way they know best

Photo by Kevan Law

I recall marveling at Beijing's Olympics 2008's Closing Ceremony. With its neat formations made up of seemingly cloned performers, it seemed like a scene taken out from Jay Chou's Curse of the Golden Flower.

China has numbers on its side - both in terms of population and budget. An eye-watering $100 million was splashed out at just the Bejing 2008 Opening Ceremony alone, which 15,000 people took part in. Britain, on the other hand, have neither of this. In fact, to stand out in the matchup between London 2012 and Beijing 2008, Britain would rely on what it does best - the ability to laugh at itself.

Instead of being excited about London Olympics 2012, there seems to be a concerted effort to talk it down in the media. If indeed what gets reported in the news merely reflects what the general populace think, Londoners are bracing for the worse come July. It makes sense in a perverse way: if you expect the worse, things can only get better.

Betting that the Olympics will fail

The Brits aren't just talking down the Olympics, they're putting their money where their mouth is. Bettings shops across the UK are accepting bets on how London 2012 will fail in every conceivable way. There are odds provided for power cut during Opening Ceremony, Olympic torch failing to arrive on time, athletes late for their events. If you are going to grumble, you might as well earn something from that.

Health and Safety rules the day

It was meant to be a top secret plan to have a 170 rowers trireme, used in Athen's Olympics, carrying the Olympics flame down River Thames. Having refurbished the vessal and list of rowers drawn up, the London Olympics organising committee decided to scrape the event. The reason cited? Health and safety concerns as people might leap off bridges and river banks in a moment of frenzy.

A huge sand sculpture was put up at Weymouth Beach to celebrate 100 days to London 2012. It was meant to be a local family attraction. Instead, it was bulldozed almost immediately after the sculpture was finished and official photos taken. Was that simply a case of bad planning? Regardless, health and safety reasons meant that it had to be destroyed lest it "topple and injure someone".

Twenty Twelve - a satire

Only in Britain would you see a a TV satirical drama made just to laugh at the Olympics organising committee. Focusing on the absurd backroom dealings of the individuals, you can't help but think that it might very well be what is actually happening. To top it up, the show is narrated by none other than the former Doctor Who, David Tennant.

The Mayor who makes Londoners laugh

By his own admission, Ken Livingston, the main contender for London's Mayorship, the incumbent Mayor Boris Johnson's main appeal is that he makes people laugh. This is the man who walked down the red carpet at Beijing 2008's Closing Ceremony with his jacket unbuttoned in his trademark messy hair earning him the ire of the Chinese claiming him to be "disrespectful".

By all accounts, barring a low turnout that will distort the results, Boris Johnson will win the Mayorship challenge on 2 May and will be leading the charge at London 2012. If all else fails, we can all be assured of some laughs coming from the man himself.

London Olympics will fail, won't it?

In an interview with Mayor Johnson, BBC Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson asked with a straight face,"... tell us the truth, the Olympics is going to be a big flop, isn't it?". As if on cue, the Mayor leaned forward from the sofa and started his gesturing his hands wildly and protested to the audience laughter and delight "... of course not! It's going to be the most successful Games the world has ever seen!"

This interview probably would never had taken place if the Games are held in any other country. But you can count of the Brits when it calls for some self deprecating humour.

London Underground - best not to count on it

It was a gloomy day to begin with but I was blissfully unaware of it as I slipped into the DLR train at Bank towards Lewisham during the early morning hours on a weekday. The first signs of troubles came when the half empty train grounded to a halt just before Shadwell. The DLR staff of the train started to apologise citing signaling failure and having to steer the train manually. In the end, what could have take just fifteen minutes took over an hour instead. Reality ceases to exists in the DLR but this one takes the cake.

Besides my tips on how to survive on London Underground, take note: if the Tube staff sound bored when making announcements, you're probably fine. Be worried when they sound embarrassed. On that morning, the staff sounded like a student who forgot his homework, with a tinge of resignation.

Everyone turned up late at work that day. Everyone except a lady who cycles to work. "Wouldn't be surprised if I'm the only person at work during the Olympics. Ooh, I can't wait." She muttered later on.

Let's be honest, with the notoriously fickle English weather stack against us, the last thing we need is the hugely expensive London Underground, which is the main means of transporting millions of spectators across London for the Games, to fail on us. At least the cabbies will be taking it in, provided the main roads aren't sealed off for the Olympics officials and athletes.

One thing's for sure though. Whatever happens come July, Londoners will not be disappointed for they have imagined the worst.

Let the Games begin!

Check out tips for visiting London if you'd be in town for London 2012!

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