The London Games


July 16, 2012

“Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, I’ll show you something, to make you change your mind,” wrote Ralph McTell in his famous song Streets of London.

In just a few days, thousands of competitors, millions of spectators, and billions of viewers world-wide will be involved in the 2012 Olympic Games, the biggest sporting event on our planet.

The last time the Games were held in London was in 1948, soon after the end of the Second World War. They were known as the Austerity Games, because of the difficult financial circumstances after the war. This time, the UK and much of Europe is still experiencing financial challenges, but the investment made in East London in order to host the Games has been enormous. Since the Games were awarded in 2005, previously run-down Stratford has been transformed with new stadia, accommodation, transport infrastructure and landscaped parks.

In 2010, I was studying a writing course online and an e-mail came through suggesting I apply for a role at the Games. A few months ago I found out I had been chosen as a ‘Flash Quote Reporter’ for the Olympic and Paralympic News Service. All I know about my role so far is that I am tasked, in a team of eight, to get quotes from the participants at the football tournament at Wembley Stadium, and to get the words to journalists all over the world within 15 minutes of the end of each game. This sounds like a lot of fun! I am working there, as a volunteer, almost every day of the Games.

I am being trained at the stadium on Friday of this week, and on Saturday I am collecting my Olympic uniform. I have a ticket for the rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony on Monday, so I hope to see some of the changes to Stratford when I go there. The development plan for the wider area continues for another 20 years, completely re-vitalising a large part of East London.

Being a Londoner, I hope the both the Olympic and Paralympic Games prove to be fitting showcases for this great city. I hope also that they are free from political interference or action.

I know that we will see participants excel in their chosen sports. I trust that we will not see a repeat of the episode at the St Louis Games in 1904, when the winner of the marathon, a New York bricklayer, retired after nine miles, but was picked up by his trainer and driven a further 11 miles. The car broke down so he finished on foot to the stadium, where the crowd proclaimed him the winner by a full 15 minutes! The prank, however, was soon discovered.

I hope to share some of my experiences of the Games with you when Wordsmith returns in September. Until then, I hope all of you enjoy watching the elite of sport compete at the highest level. The commitment, attitude and skill needed to win the medals are to admire. For some, the streets of London will indeed soon be paved with Gold.