Olympics Aftermath

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

             I remember, during the days leading up to the Olympics, taking the attitude of “Well I can’t wait to see the backside of THAT,” but a lot of my attitude was based on having been in an Olympic host city before, and anticipating the worst of what an influx of a million people could bring. Sure, it’s a big to-do having the whole world descending upon your home town, but many of the negatives that I worried about in 1984 in LA and again in London this year turned out to be non-issues. I remember espousing some of the same views that, forgive me, MITT ROMNEY spoke of regarding organization, but London took what he said to heart and made real DAMN sure that this whole ceremony would run without any screw-ups. Congrats, London, ya pulled this sucker off!

              The signs at the beginning were ominous. Remember that England’s euphoria over being granted the host status on July 6, 2005 was dashed less than 24 hours later when the city was assaulted by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers on tubes and buses. Over 50 people were killed in a series of public transit bombings that were as meticulously co-ordinated as the notorious 9/11 bombings, of which we have just commemorated the 11thanniversary. As an example of the resiliency of this country’s people, one of the members of Great Britain’s Paralympic team was a victim of the 7/7 bombings, losing both of her legs that fateful day. Reality TV would (possibly literally) kill for a story with even a modicum of what this young lady inspired.

              What I remember most from ’84 was how LA got its shit together BIG time within the few weeks before the Olympians arrived. LA Airport had always been an unfathomable mess, with long lines for EVERYTHING, whether it involved transport or not. By the summer of ’84, a second level for ground transport had been added, allowing one level for arriving flights and another for departing, and suddenly the nightmare that was the LAX experience didn’t exist anymore, and except for the chaos in the aftermath of 9/11, the airport has continued to run relatively smoothly. So what the visitors saw was a relatively stress-free arrival to America’s third-largest city, not the insanity that most of us locals had had to deal with in the years prior.

               London had its problems, e.g. the Olympic traffic lanes on the M4 that caused further congestion on the remaining lanes, but this turned out to be a temporary setback that eased once everyone was settled in. With the Games over and done, and that lane given back to normal traffic, Londoners can return to the road, and re-savour that daily commute they appeared to be pining for. What was a repeat of ’84 over here was that, while the Games were going on, there was virtually NO traffic on the main roads. In ’84 I had to drive from Santa Monica to Downtown LA (Can’t remember for the life of me WHY, as I only went into that area maybe 10 times in 20 years of living there), a distance of about 15 miles, on a Friday at 3:00. On a normal Friday afternoon, this could easily take 60-90 minutes, but on this Olympic Friday, I made it in 20! Though I didn’t have to face any similar situation this year, I knew people that did, and their experience was very much the same, as people were either at the Olympic venues or out of the city entirely. 

                  The only person I have any bone to pick with would be London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, who relished all the attention he and his city were getting, while covering up the fact that he had virtually nothing to do with London being granted its host status. That came from a coalition led by David Beckham, Sebastian Coe, and then-Mayor Ken Livingstone, whose name seemed to be conspicuously absent from the proceedings, much the way the Republican Convention ignored the names of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. But even Boris had his moment at the opening ceremony, when he chided Mitt Romney’s criticism of London’s readiness. Ironic too, in that many of Boris’s policies veer further right than Romney would willingly go.

                  That aside, the Olympics made household names out of the right people, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, and Victoria Pendleton among them, as well as Sarah Storey and Ellie Simonds from the Paralympics. Britain actually finished ahead of the US in the Paralympics in total medals as well as gold. Best savor that moment, for it may not happen again, at least not until another European city hosts.          

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