The only city to have hosted the Olympics three times, London has pulled out all the stops to put on a spectacular show for its 300,000 international visitors, and estimated 5.5 million English day-trippers. Amid concerns over budget over-runs, traffic congestion, and the last minute deployment of thousands of soldiers for security, it seems London has redeemed itself and all is forgiven. As Canadians got excited about the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the Brits are waving their Union Jacks with pride.
The Opening Ceremony encompassed ‘all that is British’, from James Bond, to the Queen parachuting into the stadium (nice touch!), to the Beatles and to the highlight of the show, Mr Bean. For the first time ever, all 204 countries represented have female athletes – a huge step forward for equality! The country teams filed past – Bhutan, the only country to measure Gross National Happiness; the Italian team outfitted from head to toe by Giorgio Armani; Jamaica, led by the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt; and a few countries that most people have probably never heard of. The British team, looking a little like astronauts in their gold and white outfits, actually outnumber the American team this year with 542 athletes and, competing on home turf, they naturally have high hopes for medals. Lighting the cauldron was the event’s most closely guarded secret. Only five people knew who would be lighting it, including the Prime Minister. The flame was dramatically transported along the Thames, with David Beckham at the helm of the speedboat, and then handed over to Sir Steve Redgrave, the only Olympian ever to have won five Golds at five consecutive Olympics in an endurance sport.
Of course, every Olympics is not without its issues and controversies. Raising the South Korean flag when the North Korean ladies soccer team was playing, was a huge political ‘oops’. Other hot news items include the Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou, who became the first twitter victim, as she was removed from the team for a racist tweet; the Argentinian President who boycotted the Opening Ceremony over the Falklands issue; and the IOC’s decision not to include a few minutes of silence for the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre.
However, there are lots of inspirational stories out there, including Missy Franklin, 17 years old, who goes to school in Aurora, Colorado, where the recent ‘The Dark Knight Rising shooting’ took place, and who is dedicating her Olympic races to the victims of this tragedy.
The Games are now underway and we have seventeen days of excitement and speculation. Will China or USA win the most medals? Will Bolt ‘go where no man has gone before’ and successfully defend his 100m and 200m title? Will Phelps win three more Golds and become the greatest Olympian on earth?
Canada now has its first medal – Congratulations to Heymans and Abel for winning a Bronze in the 3m Synchronized Diving. Look out for the following Canadian athletes: Paula Findlay in the triathlon, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in track, Mary Spencer in Boxing (Ladies Boxing – new Olympic event!), Adam van Koeverden in Kayaking and Dylan Armstrong in Shotput, among others.