Victory parade to end golden Olympic Summer

Athletes enjoying the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games © Getty Images

A million people are expected to line the streets of London today, as the athletes of Team GB gather for one final victory parade. The Games of London 2012 are over. What will their legacy be?

Yesterday evening, the Olympic Stadium in East London played host to the final ceremony of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Closing Ceremony, described as ‘a festival of flame’, was a last triumphant spectacle in what has been a truly spectacular summer of sport.

The mood in Britain is celebratory. Before the games began, many around the country had had doubts. Could a two thousand-year-old city with its narrow streets and ageing transport system handle the vast crowds of visitors and keep everything running smoothly? Could a recession-hit nation put on a good show? The answer, to the surprise of the critics, has turned out to be yes.

Even more unexpectedly, the men and women of Team GB managed to come away with an almost unprecedented haul of 65 Olympic and 120 Paralympic medals, coming third overall in the medal tables – a real achievement for a country which is only 22nd by size of population. Today, the jubilant medal-winners and their teammates will parade through London, cheered on by a million fans.

But there may be a certain mood of melancholy among the audience. Soon, the last remaining Olympic visitors will have trickled back to their home countries. The Olympic Village – home, for the last two months, to thousands of the finest athletes on the planet – will be deserted. The party is over. Is the hangover about to begin?

In other Olympic cities, shining new facilities built for the Games have often gone from sources of pride to being a major headache. In Athens and Beijing, expensive sports venues are decaying and deserted; expensive and underused.

The organisers of the London Games hope to leave a better Olympic legacy. The stadium could become the home of West Ham football club. The Olympic site, once a patch of polluted industrial land will become a beautiful park and, it is hoped, bring new wealth to one of the poorest parts of the city. Elsewhere in Britain, thousands of coaches and teachers will be hoping to use the national surge of Olympic enthusiasm to inspire a new generation of sporting stars.

A sporting chance

Perhaps the Olympics was really the easy bit. Putting on a good party is one thing. Turning that fleeting success into a long-term, solid foundation for sporting life in Britain is quite another. This, some critics will say, is when we really find out whether London 2012 is a success or a failure.

Others will disagree. Hosting an Olympics is not about long term cost-benefit analysis, about making your money back off tourism or any such mundane concerns. The point of the Games is to create a stage for the short-lived but dazzling blaze of sporting glory. On that score? Mission accomplished.

You Decide

  1. What sacrifices, if any, would you be prepared to make for the chance at an Olympic gold medal?
  2. CaneveryBritish person feel proud of the London 2012 Games, or just some?

Activities

  1. What is the point of an Olympics? In groups, decide the top three things a successful Olympics should do.
  2. The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro. Choose one city from around the world that you think would be a good candidate to host the 2020 Olympic Games, and write a 200 word pitch explaining why.

Some People Say...

“It is immoral to spend millions on sport while people in the world are starving.”

What do you think?

Q & A

So some athletes ran about a bit. How inspired should I really be?
Olympic competitors work incredibly hard to reach the top levels of their chosen sport. A few become stars, but few are very well paid. They keep going through hard times, injury, pain, failure, just so that, every four years, they can get to the Olympics for their one chance at glory. It is an almost heroic struggle.
Nope. Still not feeling inspired.
Well, many Olympic visitors were impressed not just by the athletes but by the thousands of volunteers who made it all possible. People of all ages, from every background and from all over the country, came together to keep the Games running, a titanic effort, with no financial reward. If such an amazing display of generosity doesn’t move you, nothing will!

Word Watch

Two thousand-year-old
Although the area of London has probably been inhabited for many thousands of years, the first important settlement here was built by invading Romans in 43 AD, growing to become the biggest city in England during the Middle Ages. Little of the mediaeval city survives, however. Much was burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and other huge areas were destroyed by Nazi bombs during the Second World War.
Recession-hit nation
Fears over Britain’s ability to afford the games were intensified by the spectacular (and very expensive) show that was put on in the Chinese capital, Beijing, back in 2008. The London budget was significantly smaller.
22nd by size of population
Britain punches above its weight compared to other countries with a similar population. Critics might point out, however, that the UK puts more money into sport than most other countries, and that there are rather a lot of Olympic medals available for sports in which Britain has a long tradition, like rowing or sailing; expensive sports in which people from poorer nations find it hard to compete.

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