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Tuesday, 14 August 2012


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Not for me to claim to speak for the UK, or to infer that I had any part of it at all, because I did not, but as an ordinary Brit, many thanks for your very generous comments Mike.

It has been a truly magical two weeks. We started out with big worries about some crazy contract let for security and there not being enough guards (government - it can reliably be relied upon to screw something up, which I think is universal and not especially British). We had a very unusual opening ceremony, which despite themes you would not think are likely to go down well or even be understood around the globe ("socialised healthcare! It's part of the UK!") was a real success, we failed to win medals for 4 days, inviting all sorts of despondency, and then we were mining gold medals on a scale not seen before. The queen's grand-daughter won a medal for riding, and a mixed-race girl from a poor district in Sheffield (that's rust-belt equivalent to Americans) proved herself to be the best multi-sport athlete in the world. A Somali immigrant wearing British colours is the best middle-distance runner in the world, and a Briton competing in the 800 metres came last of 8, but still set a time that would have won gold in the last three Olympics. Astonishing.

I was delighted to find that as a result of some obscure Olympic rule, the bikes on which our cycling team had such great success have to be publicly available for sale. Yes, you can buy one, and thousands of middle aged fat men will no doubt do so. But these are special carbon fibre machines, and cost £20,000 each. See http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/road/article/2011-GB-Cycling-Team-Bike-Sale-0 Youch!

The cost of the Games - some £9.2 billion - works out at around £14.69 per Briton per year since London was awarded the Games. I'd have happily paid some multiple of that.

(I'd personally add, as a supporter of the monarchy which not everyone is, that in conjunction with the Diamond Jubilee Britain is going through a moment of good feeling and happiness that I have never before felt in my 47 years - never mind, we'll settle back with a cup of tea and get back to feeling miserable about something by the start of September).

If only juries wouldn't always help athletes of the host country...

I dream of sports without the necessity of having juries.
Will software be able to help us more in the future?

Speaking as a Brit sceptic (and avid TOP reader), I went through a whole range of emotions.
Starting four years ago with horror at what was being proposed, "It'll be a disaster". Changing in the lead up "I'll ignore it and enjoy the peace and quiet".
Then there was profound relief that the opening ceremony went OK, followed by building enthusiasm as I got caught up in the wave of excitement that swept across the country; tempered by disappointment that I hadn't bothered applying for tickets.
And finally a sense of pride in what has been achieved.
Somehow, "jolly good show" seems appropriate!

You're most welcome :-)

Depending on age one might more likely say "wikkid".

The only bit I caught was Boris dangling around... I think he should've done a Riverdance impression.

Kind of you to say so.

Incidentally, Boris kept up his outstanding performance throughout the Olympics, culminating in a gold for "dangling"



You're welcome.

Really, you are. Drop by for afternoon tea someday. Maybe a beer too, if you like - we'll even put it in the fridge for you first!

We have plenty of decent galleries and museums, and some brilliant architecture.
And if you avoid Oxford Street, get to Trafalgar Square early enough, stay just off the tourist trail and bear in mind that London is actually two cities in one, then you'll get some great shots.

Pop over anytime, neighbour.

Sorry. I meant neighbor. It's OK - you can buy a decent phrase book to handle the language. It'll be... *flicks pages*... cool.
(I say! "Cool". What a strange way to say "perfectly acceptable"!)

I agree! Hip Hip!

too bad NBC only let is see a little bit of it...

Thank you for your generous unbiased comments, I think the success of the 2012 games was a pleasant surprise for us Brits too.

Mike Thanks for your tribute - as a Londoner,who was born in Central London and having lived there all my life - I have to say many of us as well were surprised at how great it was.

Boris appears to be a bumbler but is quite the opposite, a very clever man [ born in New York !] and a very good Mayor.

We are trully sad it's all over [ although we have the Paralympics coming up in a couple of weeks !]

A Jolly Good Show is a term from the past and we would just say all the things most Americans say.



You're welcome. And yes, it is a cliche.
What did we do to deserve Dick Van Dyke?

Hey, thanks to you guys too! Your heap of gold was similarly impressive. At least the lab that runs the Michael Phelps swimming robot can finally have a break... ;)

Another Brit, also initially sceptical. Started watching the opening ceremony and stayed until the end, at that point I was wondering if we might actually have got it right. Winning so many medals and seeing our frothing right-wing tabloids celebrating non-white people and those of non-British origin was a shock.

They are now talking about ensuring there will be a lasting legacy. I hope they mean it and are not just trying to deflect criticism of the cost. If this can be a successful Games and also a Games that changes things for the better then it will indeed have been a jolly good show.

I may be missing the shades of meaning a native speaker grasps, but I think another applicable expression comes from cricket: (said with politely muted enthusiasm) "Well played!"

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comments on the London Games, which we have enjoyed immensely, despite the lack of very much to moan about! Thanks also for providing me with something to moan about - you conflated the English with the rest of us. It was the United Kingdom, otherwise known as Great Britain, that put on the games, not the bloody English which us Welsh delight in beating at rugby football!

I would also like to thank James B. for giving us a laugh. To blame the shortfall in security guards, which a private company had contracted to provide, on the government requires a seriously weird political outlook. This abject failure by private enterprise had to be remedied by the government resorting to its public service i.e. the British army.

Just another reason why we shall never turn over our National Health Service to private enterprise!

Best wishes,
Pat Bennett

Do you all still say "jolly good show" over there—or is that a cliché now?

Yes... and yes.

To get a good idea of we speak, just watch the episode of Family Guy where the bar gets taken over by an Englishman and is turned into a British public house.

Thank you.

Years ago, my accountant here in England, himself the epitome of an English Gentleman who's run his own business for forty years, told me after he learned that I paid my taxes well ahead of time, that now I was a "proper English Gentleman". So I'll use that as credentials to accept these accolades on behalf of my fellow gentlemen who actually did the work.
(I'm Danish, but have lived now in England for a decade.)

I was a sceptic about the whole event and very concerned about the vast amount of money being spent. I am now pleased that it all went so well and feel proud to be UK and British.
Just one point - Boris had very little to do with starting the whole process some 6 or 7 years ago and little in the past 4 years - he is just very good at grabbing the limelight.

I posted this on The Guardian on Monday:

Congratulations, you Pommy bastards. Top job, top show. I got up at 4am and watched all of the closing. It was great!

I admit I was a doubter. All those pre-games troubles had me worried, but it was all right on the night. Even the weather played the game.

Well done, from a proud Aussie. Proud of my English heritage, even from 7 generations ago, and proud to be an Aussie as well. Geez, I'm gettin' a bit emotional.

If only I could summon the cash and the strength to come to London now. I bet the atmosphere will be fabulous for the next few months. Ya never know, ya might see me in my shorts and T shirt yet. Say G'day if you do.

Many criticisms over here (US) about the time difference, what with knowing the results before the events started. But, really, the British did everything they could have done. They ran the whole thing at universal coordinated time, right?

Struggling to find a photography link, but here's what happens when Mo Farrah meets Photoshop!



Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is nearly always far from deprecatory, although self-deprecation is one of the few things we Brits do best. We've long since given up on making things, so as a nation of project managers and middle-men, staging the Olympics was perhaps ideally suited to us.

Nice of you to say so - looks like we pulled it off and had a laugh at ourselves too.

I'd endorse most of what James B says, until he reaches the bit about the monarchy. Of our two big parties this year, the great thing about the Olympics was how it celebrated hard work and meritocracy - not inherited privilege and snobbery.

I add my hearty congratulations to the UK, in general, and to London (and its environs) in particular. I very much enjoyed the Games and can appreciate what an imposition preparing and hosting such an event must make on a city.

Watching Rio do its inviting piece for the closing ceremony I could only wonder what in the world we (Chicago) might have performed had we won our (brain-dead, politically-charged) bid to host the next summer games. Perhaps Michael Jordan would have sung and danced...in a thong?

As a half a Brit (and proud of it, man!), I'll just say "You're welcome" on behalf of the citizens of Old Blighty...

We might occasionally still say "jolly good show", but unless you're Boris Johnson nobody calls table tennis "wiff waff". I find it very scary that some folk seriously think he should be our Prime Minister.

"Boris Johnson". Never, ever, did I imagine encountering the name of this loathsome buffoon on TOP! Still, I guess that these un-subtleties are perhaps lost on US citizens. Faux-buffoon might be more accurate but risk engendering even more misunderstanding.
Now the British Army, more of whom were deployed in East London than in Afghanistan, anticipate that it will take 2 years for normal service to be resumed.
Bread and circuses: it works every time.

Thanks Mike,

it certainly has been a swell couple of weeks :) From slight nervousness beforehand the whole thing went so much better than any of us thought it would; it certainly put the pride back into Britain. Looks like the Paralympics is sold out too. Utterly brilliant, the whole thing. Even the rain held off!



In response to Milo: I think the UK were on the receiving end of more than their fair share of harsh judging, e.g. 4x100 relay, relegation and disqualification for 2 of Victoria Pendleton's events, and others.

As a Brit, I am overjoyed that the Games were almost universally praised and enjoyed by the world, and that there was excellent coverage of even the more obscure sports, at least in the UK. Although the credit for this is partly on the recent popularity of online video streaming and digital TV, I know the organisers wanted to promote all the sports.

I worked as a gamesmaker (volunteer) for a week, and being a part of the event was one of the most rewarding and emotional times of my life, especially with the athletes, coaches, colleagues and spectators all being friendly, gracious, enthusiastic. I'm feeling drained from Olympics withdrawal, lack of sleep, all the emotions, and the massive hangover after an afterlarty I've yet to recover from...

Along with my fellow Brits from all corners of the isles, I have to admit to a sense of relief that turned into disbelief and then (depsite my better judgement) euphoria as we ended up doing well (though we didn't do a bad job in Beijing before anyone starts thinking this was a fix up).

And I have to say it was all perculiarly British, in the complex and multi-faceted sense that is modern Britain, as opposed to the dead stereotypes we seem to live with the rest of the time. And finally, we seemed to remember that we are, and always have been, a sporting nation (in both senses of the word).

Of course, the euphoria won't last for ever and the glow of residual smugness will fade as soon as the next international soccer competition gets under way. But hey, it was nice while it lasted, and parts of London's derelict East End got a nice and much needed makeover, courtesy of HMG.

From what I can gather from the foreign media, it was seen as friendly, well run and fun. From where I sat, it was a pretty inclusive event on the whole. My friends and I all piled into the local "sports pub" to watch Rudisha in the 800m final, as well as Bolt in the 100m and 200m finals. If anything Rudisha's performance was the outstanding one of the games.

From the reaction in the bar, you'd assume Bolt lived in Kingston, Surrey not Kingston, Jamaica (OK he lives in Sherwood Jamaica, but that doesn't work quite as well).

But my "home team" highlights were many. Jess Ennis, Mo Farah, cycling and rowing were all up there. Mo Farah's double in the 5k and 10k was the culmination of a life story that would make a great biographic novel. I want the movie rights to that one...

*southern drawl* Why thank you kindly, sir!

It has to be said that about the only people not anticipating an heroic failure of near Biblical proportions were Lord Coe and his team of organisers. Every time he appeared on TV to answer the latest round of moans nobody thought that his apparent confidence was anything other than putting on a brave face before the inevitable global humiliation. Of course, he knew what few others knew and he had good reason to be confident.

And the transport system didn't go into meltdown. The moaners stayed away (mostly) and even the sun (eventually) co-operated. And our athletes exceeded expectations. From start to finish, wow, what a show!!

Sorry if this sounds a bit un-British. Things will be back to normal by the end of the week… :o)

Hey we aim to please and you just have to love Boris. Good job the weather picked up.

Thanks, Mike, for thanking the Brits. They and the athletes who competed put on a great show, with drama, humor, inspiration, disappointment, and triumph. I watched it several hours every day on the many NBC-related channels (NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports Channel, and maybe one or two more). I lost track of how many different competitions were on offer (someone said 36 sports, many with multiple sub-disciplines), but I am pretty sure I saw all of them over the two weeks. Some seem only to be seen on USA TV once in four years -- field hockey, modern pentathlon, water polo, team handball, heptathlon, badminton, taekwondo, judo, table tennis, speed shooting, canoe/kayak, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized diving and swimming, etc. In most cases, that's often enough for me, but I can still appreciate the dedication and skill of the athletes and coaches who ready themselves for performance on a world stage.
In the end, I found I cared most and cheered strongest for Misty and Kerri, for the women's soccer, road and track cycling and for the swimmers. Those Olympic events were, without exception, riveting.
Well done, Great Britain. Well done, Olympians.

James B: I feel much the same as you do. But when you say "government - it can reliably be relied upon to screw something up" I think you are being unfair. It's because that attitude is so prevalent that we subcontracted the security to a particularly inept private company, who did indeed screw it up. It was left to the publicly owned Army to fill the gaps.

The Olympics were great fun here, and they really have lifted the national mood, although this is how a friend of mine saw the closing ceremony: http://i.imgur.com/xcp8Z.png

The Britts have much to be proud about regarding the Olympics. NBC on the other hand should make the VP in charge of schedualing the programs do a dive off the ten meter platform into an empty pool. It was scandalous.

We do say 'Jolly good show', but in an ironic, post-modernists way. And that's been the best thing about the last two-and-bit weeks: for once, we've stopped being ironic and knowing, and have simply enjoyed the fact that we can mount a world-class non-traditional spectacle, and then do well in the events.

What's worthy of consideration is why we find it all so surprising.....


Thank you for comments - It was great fun and I think everybody here in the UK is more than a little surprised that it went so well. The athletes made it though. Their performances were something special.
We were lucky enough to get some tickets to the Velodrome and enjoyed a great day out at the Olympic Park as well as watching some amazing cycling.
I don't know if it came over in the TV abroad but the park is beautiful. See some photos here:
Best of all we get to do it all again in two weeks for the Paralympics. And we have tickets for the Stadium - hooray.
If any TOP readers are inspired to visit London in the near future Tate Britain have a great exhibition of London Street photography by visitors.
"Another London"
Thanks again for the praise

"Wikkid"? "Cool"? I'm far from down with the kids myself, but I believe that if one wanted to show full appreciation for the wonderful events of the past two weeks, the appropriate phrase for the younger generation these days might be "bare sick".

Well, as Brit expat, let me just say that while the opening celebremony had a few redeeming features (though Mr Bean and Lord Paul of McCartney were dire), the closing celebremony was utter tosh.The Old Spice Girls - give me a break! The best of British culture???

The gold medals for BBC punditry went to Michael Johnson (USA) and Ian Thorpe (Australia). In addition to their obvious expertise, as non-Brits, they also avoided getting caught up in the general jingoistic gush-in going on around them.

"...We've long since given up on making things..."

Ben, this Yank is rather fond of Ilford film and paper! Hope they continue making them for a long, long time. :-)

Does this mean that the farcial circus is finished for another 4 years? I'm so glad it's finally over.

BTW Brits, whose idea was it to trot out Sir Paul to warble a 50 year old song, poorly? I did see that bit of the opening ceremony (was visiting me Ma) and I felt quite embarrassed for the poor old guy.

Anyway, let's return to photography, the real noble sport. :D

Brilliant summation, Eric. Nothing I can add. Well said.

"Many criticisms over here (US) about the time difference, what with knowing the results before the events started."

Holy smoke! Are you serious? The rest of the world should alter our schedules to suit the USA?? We get a little tired of the USA, to be frank. Just a little.

I find it very scary that some folk seriously think he should be our Prime Minister.

I would vote for him.


I'm not a true believer in the Anglosaxon way of conducting business in which stakeholder value is put before all other objectives of the management. The financial crisis in my view is the direct result of this way of doing business, since it entised excesive risk taking and even fraud (as we can all read to our amazement) in banks we once trusted.

But I must say the Olympics have shown me that that style of doing business has to be seperated from the ideals and ideologies of the ordinary Brittens.....they have shown themselves to be capable of organising well organised, but always freindly games. And even in the opening ceremony were in some sence critical about some of there achievements (the Black Country played a prominent role, as did classes etc.) and proud of others (The National Health Service is something some US folk (and indeed Dutch folk) could take notice of).

And hell, even the Spice Girls have decided to stop scratching each others eyes out and are thinking about reunion tour....now that is truly an Herculian achievement (to stay withing the olympic metaphore).

Greets, Ed

Thanks Mike

The Olympics were truly outstanding; full of drama, heartache and genuine emotion. It is impossible not to look up to these individuals from across the world who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of excellence and achieved it, regardless of whether they won a medal or not.
I hope that the lasting legacy is that people learn that this level of excellence is achieved through hard work and dedication, not by appearing on some god-awful reality show. The cult of celebrity is ridiculous in the UK, as I'm sure it is across the pond, so it was great that air time was given over to those who truly deserve it.
I'm sad it's over: it's not often I get up from my sofa and start shouting at the TV, but Mo Farahs victory in the 5000m had me doing just that, and that was just one moment of brilliance amongst many

Looking fwd to Rio - I'm sure it will be just as fascinating and exciting :)


Eric and James, and Pat (yes, I'm one of the bloody English, as proud and pleased as you are at being Welsh)

I wasn't concerned when I heard that the army were going to be doing some of the security at the games. I've worked on a building site at a government property; the army was on the gate and they couldn't have been more helpful or polite. They didn't need to be, being the guys with guns, but they were.


Thank you for your kind words.

@ Pat Bennett,

you are of course correct in identifying G4S as being completely delinquent bin making good their contractual obligations. However, it takes two to tango and the Government really should have been more rigorous in checking they could do so, and ultimately, were responsible.

Having spent nearly 20 years in the British Army myself, I'm as delighted as you clearly are that the boys and girls in the Army had the capacity to step in when told to do so, and be wonderfully cheerful and efficient ambassadors for what a well-run "public service" can and very often does do.

(Better not get any more specific or detailed - I know Mike does not want TOP to be anyone's political vehicle, and he's the boss on this website)

It was the most magical 2 weeks in the 20+ years I've lived in London.

Amazing, from the torch relays to the incredible volunteers, the fantastic public transport, the soldiers, the wonderful opening and closing ceremonies - which managed to be theatrical - musical - and most of all humorous and never meant to be taken seriously (which perhaps wasn't obvious to non-Brits), the stunning BBC HD coverage of every single event live and simply brilliant commentators wonderfully lead by Gary Lineker, and OMG the results!!

I even managed to get tickets to something I wanted to see and my wife and girls 8 & 4 loved the day out.

Staggeringly brilliant job; against all expectations.

I've been trying in vain to get tickets to the Paralympics.

"The cult of celebrity is ridiculous in the UK, as I'm sure it is across the pond"

It is. Recently, NBC (which televised the Olympics here) has figured out a way to combine celebrities and our drippy sentimentality about all things military, in a show in which celebs join military units. Bonkers.


Very relieved there was no terrorist attack on what was the biggest target that has been available for a long time.

I'm sure a lot of skilled, quiet work went into keeping the games safe.

Aside from those great movies that Ealing Studio churned out in the 1950s, I think the 2012 Olympics serves as another reason why so many Americans are Anglophiles.

I have to second Eric's comment (although I am not as old as him, and have not experienced so much British history). However the Olympics was most definitely a success.

It is certainly the first time I have ever felt proud to be British. The Royals, and the military parades don't really do it for me. But a splendid opening ceremony celebrating what Britain has really done well (music, welfare state, cultural diversity) most certainly does :)

p.s. "Jolly good show" is still said, although often with the awareness that it is slightly posh or cliche (at least among the younger generation)

They made the trains run on time!

Oops, sorry, meant to write...

They made the games run on time!

Dear Mike

THank you. Bizarrely I've had three weeks holiday this year.1 week for the Queen's Jubille and 2 during the Olympics... During all this period i was in Greece and missed it ... but I saw the opening ceremony and i loved it ....

The funniest moment for me was Mike Romney wading in doubting the Brite ability to do the games justice. He only did this after following the relentless doom merchants in the press. Imagine the poor guys surprise in being hounded on by the press who had been saying just what was saying ... for months!!!
Point is of course i can be rude about my family ... but you??? I don't think so!!

Call me Mr Picky, but in your leader there you talk of the UK, GB and the English as though they are one and the same thing! They most definitely not! but never mind.
Love and kisses Graham

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