Unless you are a fugitive hiding in the middle of some far flung country, you will have noticed that a wedding of astronomical proportions took place recently. Whether you are an ashamed republican or a proud advocate of the royal family, the marriage of Prince William and Katherine Middleton in April 2011 was undoubtedly a chance to show Britain off to the world. 24million people watched on either the BBC or ITV, and with figures reportedly reaching 2.5billion worldwide, one in three television sets were tuned in to watch the procession through London.
For everyone watching, London was a sea of white, blue and red as people draped not only themselves but their children, pets and houses in Union Jacks. Thousands of street parties took place throughout the UK whilst many sipped on a Pimm’s and made use of their memorabilia, which ranged from the rather simple Kate and Will masks to the ridiculous Prince William condoms. We united as one to celebrate the marriage of our future King, restoring a sometimes forgotten national pride and boosting our sociability and neighbourliness.
The world was watching then, just as they will be in twelve months time when national pride will hopefully sweep Britain once again when the London 2012 Olympics begin. It is another chance to show billions of people the wonders, and average-to-poor climate, of this kingdom as we host the world in our back garden.
Or perhaps not. Just 240,000 people have applied to be a Games Maker (a 2012 volunteer); that’s only 1 in 254 people, which doesn’t seem much compared to the record-breaking 560,000 applicants of Beijing 2008 – although perhaps we need to bear in mind the relative size of the countries. Ticket sales have also been met with mixed reaction. Whilst more than 20 million applications have been received for just 6.6 million tickets, meaning that the overall event is more than three times sold out, these applications come from just 1.8 million people. Perhaps people aren’t as excited as organisers hoped.
These figures seem a little low. Maybe people could have had difficulties with the ticket application system which will now see oversubscribed events go to a ballot or people may have been limited by needing to have adequate funds in their bank account between 10 May- 10 June to pay for their tickets, but even so, where is our sense of national pride? Maybe we’re not convinced that the expense involved in the Olympics is completely worth it.
Speaking in 2008, Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Olympics at the time, claimed that had the country known a recession was round the corner when London won the right to host the Games in 2005, we would not have even bid.
Additionally, to rouse the interests of any lover of comedy and Mock the Week, Frankie Boyle infamously commented on the cost of the event that “The 2012 London Olympics were supposed to restore British National pride. £20 billion to restore British National pride? For £20 billion, we could have written ‘Fuck off Germany’ on the moon!” Other than the fact that the budget for the Olympics is £9.3bn with the actual anticipated final cost being £7.3bn, Boyle makes a good point.
For some, this is a suicidal amount of money and poor value considering the recent recession, believing we should instead be pumping money back into job market security and building new businesses, rather than constructing stadia within which we can host one super-sized sports day.
And perhaps that scepticism is correct. When Athens hosted the 2004 Games, they built an efficient, modern tram system (on which I’ve travelled, and let me tell you, it was a damn good tram) and revamped their airport to cope with the huge intake of people. Four years later, however, they were forking out £500 million annually to maintain various Olympics sites. Little wonder then that their economy fell apart quicker than Charlie Sheen’s mental health.
On the other hand, the estimated revenue from the Olympics is around £12bn, meaning the whole event could see the country put firmly in the black. Sydney received AUS$6billion (£3.9bn) from tourism in 2001 alone, one year after they held the 2000 Olympiad, proving that hosting the biggest sporting event on earth can actually be financially rewarding in the aftermath as well.
London 2012 is having positive effects for businesses across the UK too. In the same 2008 interview, Jowell claimed that 98% of the companies working on the Olympic Park were from the UK, with over half of those located outside London.
So what does this mean for Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands? In June 2009, Japan agreed to prepare themselves at Loughborough University, a deal strongly negotiated by the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA). That should drum up some competition and local pride as the world’s second largest economy grows used to life in the East Midlands.
Although Nottingham isn’t particularly close to London, with internationally acclaimed sites such as the Beeston hockey club pitches and the National Water Sports Centre, athletes will undoubtedly flock to the city to prepare themselves in our world-class facilities, and as such, the benefit of the Olympics will be felt this far up north.
EMDA have also helped to set up a Talented Athlete Mentoring Programme, in which past Nottinghamshire Olympians and Paralympians are training young Nottinghamshire athletes to improve and have a chance of making the Games.
Swimmer Katherine Wyld, who studied law at Nottingham from 2005-2010, said: “I would love to [compete at London 2012] but have had constant injury problems over the last two years.”
“I’ve applied for tickets, and I definitely feel really proud Britain is hosting the biggest sporting event in the world. It will be incredible to show the world what we’re capable of.”
Asking people in the ever-scorching Hallward, it seems that students are excited about the event too – though many have allowed the ‘VISA of Dad’ to take the hit when it comes to applying for tickets.
My dad quickly hit the £900 mark, but being a bordering-on-the-unhealthy sports fan, I went and added £200 on my own card. My housemate also applied for tickets himself, choosing the rather refined sports of the modern pentathlon and Greco-roman wrestling.
This highlights an interesting point, as some of the less well known sports are worth a watch, simply because you may never see them again. Even just visiting London for the day to absorb the atmosphere, the surroundings and the buzz the Olympics promises to be a spine-tingling experience.
Unless by some magic Pippa Middleton goes weak at the knees for Prince Harry’s natural charm and Big Name In Buckingham Palace status, the next big royal wedding may be a way off, meaning the Olympics is a rare opportunity to expose our culture and national identity to the world.
People lost themselves in the moment of the Royal Wedding, gathering with friends, family and even strangers on the street to rejoice in a moment of national union and social togetherness. It was a chance to feel that spiritual tonic that unites the nation every time the England football team partake in a World Cup.
The Olympics has that power ten-fold, and unlike our failed footballers, our athletes promise to excel after a record breaking 4th place finish in Beijing. Instead of doubting the value for money (and whether or not the logo looks like Lisa Simpson performing an untoward sexual act) we should be excited about hosting such a massive event. We should enjoy the build-up, lose all inhibitions during the event and work together to build the ultimate Olympic legacy.
The 2012 logo is already starting to manifest itself everywhere, from UPS delivery trucks to shop windows and television adverts as Olympic-fever grows. This is an once-in-a-lifetime chance to relish the opportunity of opening our doors to the world and letting them fall in love with our Great Britain, and our United Kingdom.