Sick As A Paris

Try as I might to reign in my enthusiasm with the thought that seven years is a long time, I can’t help but feel swollen with British pride at securing the 2012 Olympics.

This morning was nerve-wracking. I struggle to recall a time when my heart has pounded in anticipation for something I have not been personally involved in. It’s been a strange few years. I started rather nonchalantly believing we had an outside chance but expecting the bid to go the way of the Dome. In many senses it started badly (I got a real feel for this from a Five news report on Monday evening) and we were some distance off the mark until we got to the first elimination. From that point onwards the public awareness and professionalism of the bid team has accelerated ahead (it’s difficult to avoid sporting puns).

London won for several reasons. We displayed a genuine and admirable moral focus on the youth and sporting legacy of the games. This is what makes Australia great at sport and what made their games so extraordinarily successful. London put in place a real strategy for the venue legacy too – a criticism of Athens and just about every Olympics to date. London captured the public’s imagination with great sporting achievements in Athens (Kelly Holmes, the coxless four) and engaging world famous sporting and political support (Nelson Mandela, Cathy Freeman and our own sporting legends). We showed how our transport system would be improved and how we would regenerate as well as recycle to provide the facilities we’d need.

Today we avoided spin. Tony Blair applied text book diplomacy, pressing flesh and talking passionately about the people who the games would effect. Maybe even the effect of G8 and Live8 has shown us to be a nation with a truly global perspective. We benefited from the French bids weaker presentation, their recent mud-slinging and the negative feeling toward France felt by ejected candidate cities New York and Madrid. It would be easy to get jingoistic and talk of the Trafalgar anniversary and so on but frankly this year also see the 60th anniversary of the end of WW2 – an example of us fighting together. Had Paris won the Olympics I would have been proud to say a great city won and would have been in the front of the queue for the Eurostar in 2012. Would we have booed in Trafalgar square? Possibly, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to hear it from the centre of Paris today. I followed the announcement on BBC online and Five Live and I read with interest that journalists had crowded round a self-congratulatory French team moments before the announcement. Only a handful stood with Britain. Seb Coe had run on the shoulder of Paris until the final bend, but no-one knew until the photo finish.

The Olympics in London is years away but the benefits will begin in months with the creation of jobs, the buzz of enterprise and the ambition of athletes in training. The political wrangling, the tax implications and the soaring budget are all things we’ll have to cope with. But when the flag is passed to us in Beijing and the torch is lit in London, who in this country won’t stand up and be proud to say we won?

Lots of links to be added to this article later.

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