The 2012 Olympics: Out Of Dark Comes Light

Chris PotterCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2009

Finding great photos for articles—a dilemma that many fellow Bleachers share I am sure. 

You have researched the article, prepared your angle, structured the article, and finished a finely tuned piece of writing with a cunning title.

What's missing? A really great photo that is suitable, symbolic, striking. 

Since B/R introduced the photo search engine, this has not been as big an issue thankfully, and it was with glee that I stumbled upon the above photo, which perfectly encapsulates and symbolises the thoughts that I wish to express in this article. 

Here's hoping that although a picture is often worth 1,000 words, words can also be powerful and meaningful to different people in different ways in their own right.

Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell lit the blue touch paper recently when she suggested that London would "probably not have [bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics]" had British authorities been aware of the extent of the pending economic recession.

Now, more than three years on from the joyous bid victory celebrations, the Olympic outlook is decidedly more bleak.

The estimated cost of the Games is now £9.345 billion, more than quadruple the original figure. The £2.7 billion contingency fund is being whittled down each day. Major tier one sponsors are probably wishing that they had not put their money where their mouths were.

Today, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the economic recession would be more brutal on the pleasant pastures of Britain than in any other developed country worldwide.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has an uphill struggle ahead.

It will look to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and acknowledge the praise heaped upon the Chinese for a green, safe, and, above all, exciting Games, but it will take heed from expert predictions that the Beijing legacy will be indiscernible, the economic and social impact of the event, negligible.

It will look to replicate the success that Greek authorities enjoyed in transforming beyond recognition the infrastructure of Athens' transport system, but will hope to avoid letting its venues fall into a similar state of disrepair, which is costing Greek taxpayers £500 million per annum.

This lack of foresight is unlikely given the fiasco of The Millennium Dome, for many years a costly and embarrassing ''White Elephant'' for the British government.

The committee will also find inspiration in the Barcelona success story.

Before 1992, Barcelona was a grey, industrial city struggling to recover from the Civil and World Wars and the repressive policies of General Franco, which robbed them of their identity, the Catalan culture and language, for many years.

The Olympics was a catalyst for the regeneration of the city's infrastructure, the rejuvenation of Catalan culture, and the relocation of Barcelona on the world map—from a drab industrial sprawl to an exciting tourist hot-spot.

Led by JA Samarranch and President of the Generalitat (local government) Joan Maragall, Barcelona recreated itself and redefined its image.

Authorities endeavoured to open up miles of stunning beaches and coastline on the southeastern side of the city, give the city a port to be proud of, and focus the attention of the world on Barcelona's thriving modern culture and architecture and proud sporting history.

This impact was not ephemeral: Barcelona was, all of a sudden, a serious player.

In fact, economists estimate the overall economic impact of the '92 Olympics at a figure greater than that effected by contemporary host cities Seoul and Atlanta combined.

Barcelona also profited from a general feel-good factor that was borne out of the end to Apartheid and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. 1992 was also, incidentally, the first time in 20 years that the Games had not been boycotted. The Games seemed to inspire unity.

London is, unfortunately, in a different boat. There is little prospect of favourable political or economic circumstances propelling the Games forward. 

London will have to do it the hard way.

In a recent article for The Economist's annual preview "The World in 2009," mayor Boris Johnson spelled out the problems facing Londoners, in particular expressing his fear that the government's fiscal policy and regulation of the banks may deter FTSE 100 companies from keeping their headquarters in—or moving them to—London.

Importantly, Johnson also noted that a legendary British resilience in the face of adversity will be vital to the success of the Games.

London still has a lot going for it, British athletics even more so.

The success of British athletes in Beijing—where they achieved a record medal tally—has stimulated enthusiasm and interest in many disciplines, a phenomenon that the British government has encouraged with numerous local and national schemes and training programs for young children and aspiring athletes.   

2012 offers an opportunity to regenerate the ailing London Docklands and East End and to build world-class facilities and amenities for the city's ever-expanding population.

So, back to the photo.

Will the sun set on London as a prosperous and vibrant modern city or will the light from the Olympic torch dispel the encroaching darkness and with it the doom and gloom that 2009 may bring?