The Week in Focus: Olympics flame reignites London passion

The Week in Focus: Olympics flame reignites London passion
By admin

Before I’m accused of being biased, I’ll be up front. I am. Pure and simple.

But seriously, is there anyone out there who can genuinely say, with hand on heart, that Britain has not wowed everyone these past two weeks?

And I’m not talking about the 25 (at time of writing) gold medals that Team GB has snaffled at the Olympics.

I’m referring, of course, to how Britain has presented itself to the world.

From the quirky, imaginative and very British opening ceremony to, hopefully, the equally impressive closing of the 30th Olympiad this weekend, the nation has been showcased in a way that VisitBritain tourism officials could barely have dared dream about.

The venues around the country, and most strikingly in London, struck a chord and stirred hitherto dormant pride among even the most cynical Londoners I know. You can only assume an international audience would have been blown away by some of the images beamed across the globe.

Apart from the spectacle of a jumping Olympic Stadium and neighbouring venues in the Olympic Park, many other locations in London and surrounds have reminded us – reminded me – of just what a wonderful city it is.

I watched 24 crazy but tremendously courageous women swim for two hours in the Serpentine last night. It was not only the nature of their achievement that captivated me but Hyde Park itself, bathed in sunshine – yes, the sun does shine in Britain – and packed with spectators.

The equestrian at Greenwich Park, beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade and rowing at Eton Dorney were also stand out venues while the cycling through rural lanes and towns, and the marathon which took us past so many London sights showcased Britain at its best.

Even our vandals caught the Olympic bug. A post box painted gold in the home city of Jessica Ennis to mark her Hepthalon achievements was defaced not with the usual four letter expletives, but with the words “Go Jess”.

The mildly terrifying mascot, Wenlock, he of the giant one-eye, even grew into an endearing character as the games wore on, even though his intense, unrelenting gaze continued to unnerve me.

Last summer, London was the scene of serious rioting when areas of the capital became no-go zones and “London burns” headlines circulated around the world. Not a great image as VisitBritain prepared to launch its pre-Olympic “you’re invited” marketing campaign.

The only flame burning this year has been the Olympic one, in a city that has embraced the Games with a fervour not many us were expecting. What a difference 12 months makes.

The run up to the Games was pockmarked with security issues, transport worries and – as is the norm at any major sporting event – stories of ticketing fiascos. But when the action started, seven years after London was awarded the games, Britain came to the party.

Traditionally, tourism has stagnated in host cities in the aftermath of major sporting events. But VisitBritain has been given a gilt-edged opportunity to buck that trend and capitalise on the extraordinary publicity generated by the Olympics.

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