Almost a billion people around the world will watch the Olympic opening ceremony in East London tonight. 80,000 will be watching it inside the stadium (some of them having only gained their tickets today as politicians vie to give up their tickets to troops guarding the Games).
Some of those in the crowd may remember how Stratford looked 7 years ago. It’s a stark contrast. Stratford has been transformed and London as a whole has also gained two Olympic size pools, a velodrome, an athletics stadium, another huge shopping centre and over a dozen pedestrian bridges.
Over the next few weeks, the papers will be full of the winners, the losers, and the Twenty Twelve style gaffes that are inevitable with a Games of this scale, whether it’s the army filling in for absent security guards, bells nearly injuring innocent bystanders or organizers mixing up two flags that, of all the flags, really shouldn’t be mixed up.
And afterwards will come the inevitable soul searching. Was it worth the money? Was it worth the hassle? (and the regular, slightly startling recordings of Boris telling people to ‘get ahead of the Games’ that echo around tube and railway stations across London at the moment). And will not just London but the UK as a whole reap the benefit?
Just after London won the bid, the Centre published a paper about the Olympics legacy, so it won’t be a surprise that just after the Games we’ll be publishing a short paper that considers how London can learn from previous Olympics in order to ensure a lasting positive legacy. Making the most of the physical infrastructure – the houses and sporting venues – as well as the business opportunities generated will be key. And Boris might need to re-think his pledge not to spend any further money on legacy…
But that’s for later. In the meantime, whatever your view of the pros and cons of the project, today is a day to be proud of one of the most complex and diverse cities in the world hosting one of the most complex sporting spectacles in the world. The rest – the post opening ceremony analysis, the angst or joy about how many medals we have won – can wait, at least until tomorrow.