Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012 afterthoughts - what it meant to me

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Photo by jp3g

It is over already? I am beginning to miss the Olympics already. For one, the trains are getting crowded again with those skipping London to avoid the Olympics heading back home. It's hard to smile with an elbow pressed up onto your face.

I remembered reading watching the news and reading the papers the next day back home in 2005 when London won its bid to host the Olympics in 2012. There was a small tinge of pride that the small country isle of Singapore had played a part in the Olympics, and how cool it was to have Beckham and Prince William in town at the same time. Little would I know that I would actually be in London for that Olympics and actually catch a game live.

London 2012 vs Beijing 2008

Due to the time difference, I watched Beijing 2008's opening and closing ceremonies from my office's laptop with a couple of my colleagues in London. It was a massive display of raw power - tens of thousands of strapping youths of similar built drumming in unison made a spectacular impression. That was typical of a Zhang Yimou's production.

I recalled vividly how I was actually worried about London, the city that I was getting rather fond of. How could it possibly match the scale of Beijing 2008's ceremonies? The enduring image of London's Mayor Boris Johnson, with his trademark unkempt mob of hair and his jacket unbuttoned, walking alongside Hu Jintao didn't help things.

Things were looking bad for London 2012

Fast forward to 2012. Things weren't looking good either. London was preparing for the Olympics in way that perhaps only the Brits could appreciate. With the Olympics only weeks away, the news broke that G4S couldn't cope with the security of Olympian venues, the weather was threatening to turn August into the wettest month in recent memory, M4, which is the lifeline for vehicular transport from Heathrow, was going to be closed down due to structural defects, transport and customs workers and officials were going on strikes. Suffice to say that things weren't looking all that great.

Help came from unexpected quarters

Then all of a sudden, all the pieces started to all in place. I'm not sure exactly when but I suspect Mitt Romney was an unwilling accomplice.

"... There are a few things that were disconcerting...," quipped Romney in an NBC interview when asked about his impression on London's preparation for the Olympics. Big mistake. It rapidly became an "us against him" situation. Cameron quickly pointed out that London, unlike Salt Lake City where Romney successfully pulled of Winter Olympics 2002 is not "in the middle of nowhere". Mayor Johnson got a crowd of 60,000 revellers in Hyde Park chanting "we are ready!". Miraculously, M4 was no longer an issue, planned strikes were cancelled at the eleventh hour, the Army called in to back up the ineffectual G4S staff and the 70,000 volunteers were just amazing. Even the sun came out.

The people's Olympics

It was all up from then on. Danny Boyle's London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony was absolutely brilliant. Any "leftist" labelling on Twittersphere was quickly shouted down by multitude of tweets.

The three of us huddled in front of the TV that Friday evening watching every bit of it. I thought it spoke to me in a way Beijing 2008 never did. Who can forget the Queen's parachuting sequence, Mr Bean playing to Chariots of Fire, the symbolism behind the old guard passing on the torch to the next generation who then went to light the cauldron. Even the cauldron itself is easily one of the most creative if not the most till date.

In one segment, the voice of a girl cut cleanly through the Olympic stadium. A solo, which was soon followed by the entire choir. Unless I'm mistaken, her left forearm missing. The BBC commentators didn't make a big fuss about this. There was simply no need to as it was a non-issue; the crowd was mesmerised by her clear voice. In contrast, the young girl who was due to sing in Beijing 2008 was replaced because she had uneven teeth. Her replacement (Lin Miaoke) mimed through the entire piece. That pretty much sums up the difference between London 2012 and Beijing 2008.

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Photo from Evening Standard 13th August 2012

Many point towards the achievements of Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah as the highlights of Britain's sporting excellence. Who can forget Usain Bolt's showmanship both on and off the track? Certainly not the female volunteer that he joked with just before he started his 200m showdown with Yohan Blake.

For me, I can never forget what Samantha Murray said after she clinched silver at Women's Modern Pentathlon. "Honestly, if you have a goal, anything you want to achieve in life, don't let anybody get in your way, you can do it," she almost rambled through in between pants immediately after the race when interviewed by the BBC. I stole a glance at LO, who was waiting patiently by the window for the neighbourhood cat. She's obviously too young to understand that. I stretched over and gave her a hug. For that is exactly what I want my little girl grow up knowing - that she can be whatever she wants to as long as she puts her mind to it, and not let others put her down.

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Photo from Evening Standard 13th August 2012

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