Handed Down from 2012

In December each year I post a set of photographs that sum-up the year for me. It started many years ago, before cameras on phones were commonplace, because it struck me how differently pictures taken on a phone represented the year in comparison to those on a traditional camera (which only ever gets taken when you think you’ll need one). If you look back at the pictures from the end of 2012 you’ll see a collection that features the Games of the XXX Olympiad, or London 2012 as I knew it.

Tower Bridge Olympic RingsOn Friday night, I imagine quite late London time, the opening ceremony of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (Rio 2016) will take place at the Maracanã Stadium and Rio de Janeiro will have the honour of hosting the most recent games. As memories of London fade, perhaps only appearing in words like mine – when I summed up the feeling of being there for the opening ceremony rehearsals – the beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema will be the newest images of the Olympics, replacing in the mind, perhaps, images of the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge. Time, then, to wonder what we are left with in London.

Back in the bid phase for the London games, Tessa Jowell, then Secretary of State for Culture, and Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London at the time, argued for the games because they believed in the legacy. As Tony Blair notes,

They argued strongly that the Games would have a twofold legacy: the regeneration of the East End of London and helping build sport into the lives of a generation of children.1

I’d argue that the games were worth it for the atmosphere, enthusiasm, national pride and the spectacle at the time, but did we get a legacy? The Guradian recently suggested that we did not, particularly of the sporting kind,

For all the golden memories of July and August 2012, already tinged in sepia, and the continuing debate about the success or otherwise of the other legacy aims it is hard not to conclude that a prize Jowell once called “the greatest in a generation – faster progress towards a healthier nation” is not already close to being squandered.2

But, recognise anybody in the photograph? Perhaps you can’t because the picture is too small and they were moving too fast for me. They are the elite men cyclists in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic passing through Parliament Square on their way to the finish line. It’s part of an annual two-day cycling festival that sees almost 100,000 people cycle around the city on roads cleared of traffic for the day and hundreds more leave the Olympic Park for the Surrey Hills on a route not dissimilar to the one taken during the 2012 games. An event started as a direct result of the popularity of the cycling events in 2012.

All those cyclists in London in the year that Bradley Wiggins, who was an Olympic gold medalist on 2012, won this year’s Tour de France.

I think there’s a legacy right there. Perhaps cycling is the sport to take events at Box Hill & the velodrome forward to inspire a future generation of athletes.

But what about this single example? Thousands of young people who have a new gymnastics club as part of the legacy? Without it, “possibly 5,000 kids wouldn’t have a venue,” said a recent report on ITV News.3 And I could call out the reported 50,000 season tickets West Ham have sold for their new ground in the former Olympic Stadium (apparently the second highest season ticket sale in the Premier League).4

You can see regeneration in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as both a public & event space. This summer there are sporting activities for kids with ‘Fit For Sport’ as well as the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide and the whole aquatics centre for swimming and diving. And if Olympicopolis comes to fruition, London will have a new cultural hub in in the heart of an area regenerated by the London games.5

And don’t forget Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe are on our televisions every week thanks to the legacy of the Paralympic television coverage.

We may not all have taken up more sport as a result of The Games but I think there’s plenty of things we can be proud of that are part of the legacy of London 2012.

Last Sunday, watching both the ammeter and professional riders pass buildings representing our great institutions – Parliament, Westminster Abbey & the Supreme Court – there was also something else happening. A little of the spirit of the games came back with the cheering crowds and even those with limited interest in the sport of cycling searching for somebody who knew who was in the lead. That positive, optimistic and friendly feeling that 2012 brought us returned, even for just a moment in our post-Brexit malaise.

Perhaps, it’s not just the infrastructure or the number of people taking part in sport we should be looking to as the legacy of the games. The games brought out a spirit in almost everybody. We should hold on to that. I believe that would be the greatest legacy of all.

About BEWA 2016

This is the first entry for 2016’s BEWA (Blog Every Wednesday in August). The introductory post was written in July but you might want to read it anyway. All the BEWA posts will be tagged and you can follow @curns on Twitter to see the hashtag every Wednesday.

1 The Office of Tony Blair: Tony Blair on the legacy of London 2012
2 The Guardian: Olympic legacy failure: inspiring London 2012 message has become a millstone
3 ITV News: 2012 Olympic legacy means gymnastics club is used by thousands of young people every week
4 The Guardian: West Ham sell more than 50,000 season tickets for Olympic Stadium
5 The Guardian: London Olympicopolis culture hub plan gets £141m funding


What’s Your Moment of 2012?

At the end of the year it’s customary to look back: and this year it’s easier than ever. Have you reviewed your Year On Twitter or Biggest Moments on Facebook yet? Last month I posted my 12 of 2012: one photo taken each month in my phone’s Photo Stream. It’s one way to review the year. That came from a conversation where I asked “what moment will you remember from 2012” and I ended up looking at pictures from the year.

Of course those 12 photographs don’t answer my own question. Normally, I would find answering that difficult but this year it’s easy. There’s one moment that really sticks in my mind from 2012: unlike most years I do not have to think or delve into my memory banks: it’s just there. One moment in – as the cast of Rent might say – “Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes”.

Opening Ceremony RehersalIt’s Monday 23rd July 2012 and I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Olympic Stadium rehearsal for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. It was all very last minute but it was a glorious evening in London and I made my way across the city to Stratford and the Olympic Stadium. Entering the Olympic Park and seeing everything ready was a special moment but the best was still to come.

Sitting in the Olympic stadium awaiting the rehearsal we were all urged to #savethesurprise (and that was perhaps the cleverest Twitter hashtag of the year, allowing the audience to use social media and share the moment by using a reminder not to over share). The centre of the stadium had been converted into England’s green and pleasant land (there were 40 sheep, 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese and 3 sheep dogs are involved). Fluffy clouds were being walked around what, underneath the greenery, was the athletics track. It was tranquil, a little odd and most intriguing.

Scenes of the Olympic Stadium
Rehearsal For The opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

There was a real sense of anticipation as the excited crowd both wondered what was about to happen and, most of all, if we were going to be able to do something that would live up to a nation’s expectations. We knew that most of the 7,500 taking part were volunteers and they’d been rehearsing for months but we’d no idea if London could pull off something memorable. The pastoral scenes in front of us, while fascinating and – perhaps – uniquely British, were not quite a spectacle.

Then about 10 minutes into the event Isambard Kingdom Brunel ushered in a celebration of the Industrial Revolution in a section entitled Pandemonium which lead to the casting of the Olympic rings and one of the iconic images of the games.

At the start of Pandemonium 965 drummers accompanied the non-stop beat on The Underworld soundtrack. Sitting in the audience, the drums began behind you as the musicians marched into the stadium. The television soundtrack doesn’t do the noise justice: the beat reverberated around the stadium and right through you; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was the moment; an amazing moment – the crowd erupted and it was the point when we realised that London could and would deliver. It was the second the crowd knew that it would be an incredible year.

And it was.

My 2012 In Pictures

Back in 2004 cameras were not at all as commonplace on mobile phones as they are today. Back then, browsing through my phone’s images I realised I had a rather unexpected, somewhat candid, summary of the year in blurred low resolution photographs. I wrote about it, collated 100 of the pictures here and posted the pictures on Flickr. To me, the most interesting thing about that collection is that it’s made up of many of the small moments that I’d otherwise forget. Genuinely, my 2004 was reflected though the everyday. Of course, cameras on phones were of low quality and it’s likely that pictures of the most important events in my life that year were taken on a better camera. Happily, Flickr provides a way to see the year through all the photos I took but there remains something fascinating about the photos I chose to take on a mobile phone camera.

I recall creating a similar collection for 2005 but I can’t find it anywhere. I created a list of 50 images that summed up 2005 and curated another 100 mobile pictures on Flickr in 2006 (and a 36 for 06 collage), a reduced set in 2007 and, randomly, 176 in 2008 when the camera on my Nokia didn’t seem to be that much better than the 2004 Palm.

In 2009 I relied on a computer, dopiaza.org’s set manager and Flickr’s social features to automatically generate the most interesting 36 images for that year – mobile or not – and you can see them on Flickr. It’s a different way to look back on the year and – because it relies on other people’s selection – it’s inherently less personal. Looking back on them now, after 3 years has passed, you’d be forgiven for thinking the only thing to happen to me in 2009 was snow.

I don’t appear to have curated (or automated) collections for 2010 and 2011. I could set the machine to do it today but I think that moment has passed. I guess I was reviewing the year in other ways at that time.

Olympic Rings at Tower Bridge

Now, the cogs in the machine have been doing the same for 2012 and the 36 most interesting of this year’s pictures are collected on Flickr. Pictures surface to other users on Flickr for a wide variety of reasons and these collections change. The most popular of my 2012 photographs, as I post this on New Year’s Eve 2012, is a picture (not snapped on a mobile phone) taken at the end of June of the Olympic rings hoisted high on Tower Bridge. If you’re reading this at a later date that might not be the case.

Stumbling across that collection, as I did earlier, made me wonder what I would choose for 2012. This has been a memorable year and I wondered how my chosen pictures would differ form the machine’s collection. At first I considered using Instagram as a way to view the year yet, despite the recently-added ability to view the pictures on the web, there didn’t seem a way to collect a group for the year.

So, I went back to my phone and decided to quickly collate a set; for speed I opted for a simple rule: one photograph from each month that appeared in my phone’s Photo Stream from the year. So, I have “2012 Year In Review: The 12 of 2012“. As you would imagine, both sets feature the London 2012 Olympics often, and there are a couple of over-lapping pictures, but they are subtlety different. I imagine to an outside observer they may be remarkably similar but I can tell the different at a glance.

Both Twitter and Facebook have provided me with an alternative way to review my 2012 via my Year On Twitter and my 20 biggest moments according to Facebook but, somehow, the 12 photographs below work better (also on Flickr). Of course, the full London 2012 Olympics set on Flickr brings back a lot of memories but these 12 put the year into a little more context.

Preliminary Vote

Hold Your Breath …

In all the excitement I had missed the fact there was a preliminary vote and we weren’t certain of making it this far:

There are a few gasps in the press room as Madrid exits the vote, as some Spaniards at the back had earlier given some noisy support during its bid presentation. We now have the London-Paris finale that the whispers in the past few hours had indicated [source].

Aggghh … the tension.

What Have You Done Today?

I have two countdowns on the go right now.

Today is the day for one of those countdowns to reach 00:00:00.

Rachel Stevens and Melanie C will be performing live in Trafalgar Square later today (see here) as we wait to find out the result of the race to host the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Watch the London2012 videos and keep your fingers crossed for us. I’ll be updating later.

The Final Push

The Prime Minister has arrived in Singapore to join the London team ahead of the crucial vote to elect the Host City for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games

Back The Bid PosterOlympic Countdown: The Prime Minister has arrived in Singapore to join the London team ahead of the crucial vote to elect the Host City for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games [Source] and England Football captain David Beckham has arrived in Singapore to join the London team hoping to secure the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games [Source]. The BBC has a summary of the final push to the big announcement.

Fleet Street editors Back the Bid

Newspaper editors coming together in support of the bid for London 2012.

the uk editors back the bidSo, while counting down to Silverstone, there’s another countdown that I am watching now – the London Olympic bid. I’ve mentioned before that it would be brilliant for London to win the Olympics. I’d think I might volunteer if we win and I’ll say that now so that it doesn’t look like I am jumping on any bandwagon! Watch the videos and hold your breath! In the meantime it’s time for some bid news as I watch the countdown: The editors of ten national newspapers have united to sign a good luck message to London 2012 [source]. Has that ever happened before?

Back London’s Bid For 2012

I think the Olympics would be a great thing for the UK so I am backing London’s bid.

back the bid for londonI signed up to back the London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics because, when all’s done, I think it would be fantastic for London and the UK as a whole. So, right now, I selected The Gerkin is my computer’s desktop image. I thought it was appropriate after having wandered The City earlier in the month to see the fantastic Swiss Re tower.

I put my name to the bid earlier – particularly after watching some of these fantastic videos they’ve put together. I really think these should be given a wider audience they’re superb and they are a little hidden on the site too. Why don’t you sign up?

Olympic Dreams

Went to see Jonathan Edwards and the Olmpic torch today

jonathan edwards and the olympic torch in wandsworth 26 june 2004This morning PY and I went into Wandsworth to watch the Olympic torch make its way across our part of south London. It had started the day at the Wimbledon tennis tournament with Tim Henman and Sir Roger Bannister. By the time it made its way to us, Jonathan Edwards was the bearer. The whole thing was actually over in a moment and it was somewhat sad to see that although there were plenty of people braving the rain to see the torch they were somewhat outnumbered by officials, police and media people – which made me think the whole thing was not really for the people but for the sponsors and the coverage. The torch itself made its was off by taxi (it seems to be being transported by all forms of London transport today – including the tube) but Jonathan Edwards stayed around to talk to people. Although the moment was brief, the weather damp and the steel band hidden under-cover it was still a great moment to see this part of the chain.

A couple more pictures from the day. Jonathan Edwards CBE stays around to talk to fans, the Olympic Torch relay is a fully sponsored media event and then the torch left by taxi for the next stop on the route to The Mall where a concert was held in the evening.

jonathan edwards cbe in wandsworth 26 june 2004the olympic torch comes to london 26 june 2004the olympic torch left wandsworth in a black cab