The London Olympics 2012: A Look Back

Legend has it that the first Olympic Games were founded by Heracles, yet the first Olympic Games for which there are still written records were held in 776 BC. It was most notable for a naked runner, Coroebus. This cook from Elis won the sole event at the Games, the stade, a sprint of approximately 192m. This made Coroebus the very first Olympic champion in history. Fast forward to the London 2012 Olympics. I wonder if Heracles could have imagined what the Olympics have become.

By Ray Bigger, Think 8

 
 
So what have the Olympics become? Some say it is an event that has lost the ethos of what the Olympics were
all about, namely amateur sportsmen competing for the glory of representing their country and being crowned the best in the world at their respective sport. Some claim the Games have been taken over by commercial interests and are just another vehicle for making money. While there has been an exponential increase in the commercial side of certain sports, whether this is all bad is still up in the air.
 
Since my days as a referee with the English Football League and Premier League, the sport has become a huge business. Whether the money that has been poured into the game has been good for football is debatable, in my opinion, and refereeing is after all about the referee’s opinion—then again, I am a purist.
 
Why do cities compete to host major sporting events? The first reason is an economic one, followed by the glory of hosting the event. Thirdly—you can’t get away from it—ego. Host countries rarely profit from the Olympics, but there are those who argue it depends on how that is measured. 
 
The London Olympics cost approximately £13 billion, against an original budget of £4 billion. Quite how you can get it so wrong escapes me, so that is perhaps where the ego comes in—the equivalent of a newspaper editor’s mantra of “print and be damned, because you’ll be damned anyway.” That said, during the bidding process, there was strong emphasis on what the winning city could offer beyond just the event itself, namely a legacy. London promoted sports for youth, plus the regeneration of East London, so the payback is spread over a number of years.
 
The one area that probably hasn’t changed greatly is the mindset of the athletes. For the overwhelming majority, having a shot at being selected to represent their country in their chosen sport involves many hundreds of hours of dedication to a multi-faceted regime of overall physical and mental fitness. Their motivation is being able to compete with the best in the world. Some prepare in sparse regions or dilapidated facilities at ungodly hours, with expenses coming out of their own pocket. At the other end of the spectrum are the juggernaut nations with the branded stars, state-of-the-art facilities, and an entourage of trainers, coaches, nutritionists, sleep advisors, psychologists, just to mention a few. 
 
To the winners from low-profile sports, the glory is all that matters, with maybe a small financial reward. But to the winners of high-profile events, such as the 100m sprint, there’s the glory, of course, but also millions of dollars of sponsorship money. 
 
Now that the Games are history, this rather British spectacle saw thrilling victories, new records and personal bests as well as dramatic comebacks. Usain Bolt once again cemented his legendary status on the track, Michael Phelps reigned in the pool against Ryan Lochte, poster girl Jessica Ennis’ dreams came to life, Mo Farah became one of Britain’s greatest track and field stars of all time.
 
Let’s not forget the inspirational Paralympians who set new personal and Games records. As one young Paralympian said, “If these Games will help millions of people to view disability in a completely new light, that is another gold medal.”
 
All that seemingly endless British success in rowing and cycling can only say one thing: London, one of the great cities in the world, put on an awesome display of comradeship and sporting excellence, qualities that embody the Olympic ideals—Heracles would have approved.
 
 
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