On The Brink Of The Olympics: Decisive Moment For London 2012:

“Let the moaning end and the Olympics begin”: That was the headline in the “Independent” newspaper on Friday 13th July. Their columnist, John Walsh, pointed out in his article that there isn’t one aspect of the Games that hasn’t been disparaged. The “bullying sponsors”, Visa’s “credit card monopoly”, the alleged “ticket sales fiasco”, the “excessive security”, the special traffic lanes reserved for competitors and IOC (International Olympic Committee) VIPs, property owners hoping to rent out their homes to Olympic visitors, and especially “The Cost Of It !”  have all been fiercely criticised. He seems convinced, though, that this negative attitude will begin to change now that the “flood of striving humanity”- athletes, boxers, divers, horsemen, cyclists, gymnasts, javelin launchers, shot-putters, jumpers, vaulters, sprinters – are “coming over the horizon”. Many of them have already started to land at Heathrow Airport – which is why the Government was so desperate to re-open the M4 motorway by the beginning of this week. “Now it’s here”, proclaimed Walsh “We are probably going to love it”.

Not all Walsh’s fellow-journalists share his optimistic view. In the latest edition of the “Spectator “ magazine, the left-wing writer Nick Cohen was scathing about the “authoritarian and fanatical mentality” of LOCOG (the Organising Committee) towards protecting their brand and those of their main sponsors (Coca-Cola, Adidas, Dow,Samsung & Visa). He cited the case of a flower-shop in Stoke-On-Trent told by trading standards inspectors to take down floral Olympic rings. In Dorset, “offending sausage rings” had to be removed from a butcher’s window and LOCOG have apparently stipulated that “only official sponsors” are allowed to decorate cakes with Olympic symbols. For Andrew Gilligan in the same publication “The London Games give the overwhelming impression of being run by people with no taste, no imagination and no idea how to have fun”. He doesn’t much like the Olympic colours of “hot purple, lime-green and aqua” and the logo is already “a well-known disaster”. The Olympics, he asserts, “with their surface-to-air missiles protecting their sponsored fast-food bubble, are locked into a world of fences and control”.

The increasing “militarisation” of the Games has indeed received extensive press coverage over the past few days: the 17,000 British soldiers (about 7,000 more than currently in Afghanistan) so far drafted in to protect the Games (another 1,000 are on standby), the Tornado jets and Puma & Lynx  helicopters ready to shoot down any aircraft that enter the 13-mile “no fly zone” over East London, the missile batteries on the roof of an apartment block in Tower Hamlets and the naval vessels patrolling the Thames are seen as not quite in keeping with the ideals espoused by Baron de Coubertin (who inaugurated the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896) – namely “joy, good fellowship and enhancing friendly understanding among nations”. On July 11th, the “Daily Mail” queried whether the Games are “a celebration of the peak of human physical achievement or a corporate jamboree?”. They particularly had in mind the “vast” two-floor, 3,000sq ft McDonalds restaurant – the “biggest on the planet” (Moscow’s is the second largest) right in the middle of the Olympic Park. It will have 20 cashier points and 1,500 seats. It will also be the only one allowed to sell  just chips: Following pressure from McDonalds, “Olympic chiefs have banned all 800 food retailers at the 40 Games venues across the UK from offering chips – unless they are served with fish”. This, (says the Daily Mail), represents “ Corporate control gone too far”.

If so much of the British press is so sceptical, what is going to be the reaction of the thousands of overseas journalists , television & radio commentators now arriving in the country? LOCOG, the British Government and London Mayor Boris Johnson are all acutely aware that it is the foreign media that will ultimately pass judgement on whether (or not) the Games have been a success – and so have gone to great lengths to provide these correspondents with all the communications facilities they could possibly require and to ensure they enjoy their stay. Johnson has declared (as quoted in “The Hollywood Reporter”) that “An inquisitive army of reporters, camera crew and photographers are migrating to our city to see not only sporting history in the making but also everything that makes a host city tick”. ‘London & Partners’ (the official promotional agency for London) estimate that around “20,000 international and UK media professionals accredited by their National Olympic Committees will be eligible to use the 4-floor, 27,600 square metre Main Press Centre (MPC) and the 52,000 square metre International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in the Olympic Park – and that they will consume 480,000 meals and 1.8 million cups of tea during the Games.

In addition, over 6,200 media representatives have registered with the London Media Centre (LMC) which opened up at One Old George Street (“a few minutes walk from  the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey”) on 9th July with two press conference rooms, workspace for 250 journalists and “free highspeed IT connectivity”. According to “The Hollywood Reporter”, 832 media organizations from 66 countries have registered there  – the largest contingent (600+) being from China. “London & Partners” statistics indicate that 12% will come from Latin America and that Brazil will have the third highest presence of all foreign media at the LMC after China and Japan. The LMC programme includes visits to (among many others), the Oxo Tower, the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the Abbey Road Recording Studios, a tour of the Tower of London, a debate on the Olympic Torch and “What Design Defines Britain in 2012?”, afternoon tea at the Cavendish, Athenaeum & Capital Hotels, a “Champagne Media Breakfast to watch the Olympic Flame Holder crossing Southwark Bridge” and a “German Evening” at the “Tower Hill” Bavarian Beerhouse.  Boris Johnson knows that if the foreign journalists have a good time in London, it will be reflected in the favourable reports they send back home.

 

 

 

Filed under: Media, Sports | Posted on July 16th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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