The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, also known informally as London 2012, are scheduled to take place in London, United Kingdom from today when the opening ceremony will be held later today, until August 12 2012. The first event, the group stages in women’s football, began on Wednesday. Slightly under 15 000 athletes from 200 nations, including Namibia, have converged on the city of London to compete in the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics.
After a bid headed by former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe and the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, London was selected as the host city on July 6, 2005 during the 117th IOC Session in Singapore, defeating bids from Moscow, New York City, Madrid and Paris.
London has become the first city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and 1948.
This current Olympics will see about £700 million worth of sponsorship deals for the multi-sport Games, divided worldwide, from tier one to tier three classifications. The first Games hosted by London in 1908 had a meagre budget of 80 000 pounds, which increased tremendously to 761 000 pounds in 1948.
However, this time around, the costs of hosting this mega-sporting event have escalated to a staggering £9biillion. In a record 3rd time, the host city, London, will showcase top athletes, while Team Great Britain (GB) (the much buzzed collaboration of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England) will make its maiden appearance at the Games.
On this particular day, the British High Commission in conjunction with the Janine and Suzelle Davin Trust will plant an olive tree as part of the Olympic Truce at the Windhoek High School (WHS) to celebrate the opening ceremony.
A three-minute “Ring all the Bells” ritual throughout the Namibian capital Windhoek will emphasise the opening of the Games. New Era Sports Editor Carlos Kambaekwa caught up with the British High Commissioner to Namibia, Her Excellency Marianne Young and put her on the spot.
NE: Most people are eager to find out how Team GB will perform. Which countries will compete under the Team GB banner and will it be in all the disciplines?
MY: “There are 542 athletes qualified right across the different sporting disciplines. Athletes under the Team GB banner are based in the United Kingdom and exclusively include Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. We are looking forward to this episode of the Olympics, especially since we are hosting them. Last time out, we (England) achieved 19 gold medals, 13 silver and 15th bronze, leaving us 4th on the medals table. We’re particularly excited about Chris Hoy who was the first British cyclist in 100 years to have won 3 gold medals. While we also have a 100-metre blade runner in the Paralympics Jonnie Peacock, who will probably face off with Oscar Pistorius (South African blade runner) at one point or another. We hope that TEAM GB will build on its outstanding success in Beijing and win more medals than ever before!”
NE: Having said that, which governments were involved in the planning of these Games?
MY: “It was a joint effort by the Games organiser and mayors involved in the planning. Moreover, UK-based companies have won more than £6,5 billion worth of contracts and it is also worthwhile mentioning that for these Olympics, 75 percent of every pound spent on Olympic construction has gone towards regeneration.”
NE: In a speech earlier this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned a lot about tourism and its anticipated contribution toward the economy. What contribution will go towards small businesses, considering another statement he made outlining focus on school development and club-sporting development among others?
MY: “The Games can ignite that vital spark of enterprise and things like start-up loans, nurturing the next generation of British business backed by Regus, who have offered to assist 30 000 young entrepreneurs by giving them office space free of charge to start their businesses. The Prime Minister is confident that Britain can derive over £13 billion of benefit to the UK economy over the next four years as a result of hosting these Games. They can boost tourism to the UK, bringing in more than 4,5 million extra visitors and that is £2,3 billion worth of spending over the next four years. That alone will contribute to the creation of an extra 70 000 new jobs.”
NE: What was the actual budget allocated for this event by the government and how many of the aforementioned jobs are targeted for the youth?
MY: “One billion British Pounds (£1 billion) will be pumped into youth sport, including a massive expansion of after-school clubs for children who don’t think sport is for them.
“There are already 3 000 secondary and 4 500 primary sports clubs underway and the Prime Minister hopes to see 13 500 by 2015. The allocated budget was nine billion British Pounds (£9 billion).
NE: In recent weeks, there were numerous articles that surfaced with regard to security concerns ahead of the Olympics preparations. Could you please explain what that was all about?
MY: “It is important to emphasise that the security of the Games has not been changed by the events of the last two weeks. We identified a possible shortfall which has been filled by well-trained members of Britain’s Armed Forces. More broadly, thousands of people are involved and we are satisfied that we are in good shape.”
NE: Countries that normally host major events seldom prepare for, or if they have, the outcome is always the same: infrastructure ends up ill-maintained, surplus, degrading and somewhat of white elephants. Considering there is no model, what have the Brits done to avoid a recurrence of the abovementioned?
MY: “When London won the bid in 2005, the promise was to use the Games to transform a derelict part of east London and to leave the city with better transport, new homes and busy venues. With a mixture of permanent and temporary facilities, Britain will only be left with what they can use. We really meant it when we said no white elephants!”
NE: Finally, there was much hype about the possible inclusion of football icon David Beckham in the Great Britain football team, how will his absence affect attendance at football matches?
MY: (David) Beckham will be a key figure for the Olympics. He will definitely have a big role to play during the Games in a yet to be defined capacity but people can rest assured that he will be part and parcel of the TEAM GB.”
NE: How do you rate Namibia’s chances at the Summer Olympic Games?
MY: “The fact that Namibia has nine athletes who qualified from a relatively small population of 2 million people is fantastic and says a lot.”
NE: Finally, will there be an Olympic Park where the general local public can view some of the Olympic Games?
MY: “Not an Olympic Park in Namibia … but NBC and Sky will broadcast highlights of the Games that can be viewed by the broader public.”