Saturday, 30 July 2011

Opening Ceremony dramas

Danny Boyle wants athletes to play a big part in the Opening Ceremony. This has caused controversy according to some news reports and I can see why. And yet it’s a huge privilege to even be there, at this, the world’s most watched event ever – with one third of the planet’s population estimated to be tuning in.

All of the countries of the world are represented – although not all attend if they are competing in the following days immediately after the ceremony. In Sydney, I remember our Canoeists didn’t get to go because they were still at a training camp on the Gold Coast, thousands of miles away.

Then there’s all the standing around – I’d know because I was one of the volunteer ‘field marshalls’ who had to ‘fence’ the athletes in for close to 3 hours, with no toilet trips allowed. So I can see why athletes might be reluctant to get started even earlier when the preceding ‘show’ takes place. That’s a long evening directly before competing.

The good news for the rest of us though, is that on last week’s Olympic Debate on BBC1, Boris Johnson announced that volunteers are being sought now to take part on the night. So if you fancy doing a bit of ‘athlete guarding’, now’s your chance…

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The best ever games yet?

It’s all happening today. I’d planned to get down to Trafalgar Square tonight for the One Year to Go celebrations – I was there in 2005 so it was important for me to be there again today. But alas, the curse of the dreaded nursery bugs. So I’m home sick and will be an armchair viewer later when Lord Coe and Mayor Boris Johnson take centre stage at 7pm on BBC One.

Magic FM broadcast from the top of the BT Tower this morning, with Daley Thompson and fellow BT Storytellers present. Several Twitter names were put in lights at the top of the tower and more content is to follow at

Also, the international press were briefed earlier this week ad so far the feedback has been positive from around the world. John Coates, the Australia Olympic Committee president had some kind words this week about London 2012:

“I think we’re all pretty proud of Sydney (2000) and many people say that Sydney remains the benchmark. But from where I've been sitting London has been six months to a year ahead of us in their preparations all the way through since they were awarded the Games six years ago." He adds, " ... these Games now have the very British stamp to them and I think there's every prospect of them surpassing our Games."

And although British star Tom Daley was dethroned at the Diving World Championships in Shanghai, he will be the first to dive into the new Olympic pool later today. Expect to see him front page of papers tomorrow...

PS – if you’re going down to Trafalgar Square tonight, have a great time!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Dreams for tomorrow

Now I’m a mum, it’s great to see so many strong role models for my little cherub to aspire to in the future. In my day it was huge news when Sally Gunnell picked up gold for the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. But now there are so many more female athletes to be proud of, we’re almost spoiled for choice – and I’m certainly not complaining.

Dame Kelly Holmes’ double gold in Athens 2004 was remarkable but now it begs belief whether every single female athlete who won a medal at Beijing will be made a Dame, there were so many. Remember the ‘three birds in a boat’, Rebecca Romero and Nicole Cooke? I struggled to recall their names – but that doesn’t mean their success is any less than say, Rebecca Adlington or Victoria Pendleton.

So it’s no wonder articles are popping up like today’s 'Win the medals or else, warns Britain warns top athletes', in the Saturday Times, saying athletes are under more pressure than ever to perform at London 2012. It’s a real shame to think that sports won’t get funding if London’s athletes don’t bring home the medals and the 'kudos' effectively. What happened to the saying ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ (and other well verses phrases we tell our children)? We’ve become such a results driven world and this is the side of the fairy tale that won’t help the girls and boys of tomorrow. Take away the funding and you take away the possibility of dreams.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The allure of the golden arches

A small column caught my notice in the Evening Standard last night on my way home from work. It announced McDonalds’ intentions to open their largest ever restaurant yet during the course of the Olympics. So far, lots of people, (including Olympic athlete Amir Khan), have been questioning whether it’s appropriate to have a fast food giant supporting the world’s greatest sporting event (particularly given the worrying levels of obesity around the globe).

What interested me however, was the fact that there would be a McDonalds in the athletes’ village and media centre. Now back when I worked in the Sydney athletes’ village, a few things struck me as remarkable – and one of these was the endless queue for the McDonalds outlet in the dining hall. In spite of the fact that there was quite simply every single type of cuisine that you could ever want or need, McDonalds still proved the most popular meal at whatever time of the day you walked in there. And given that most people there were supposed to be finely honed athletes or their management, this really surprised me.

I also noticed that many of the third world nations seemed to like going there the most – although maybe that was more to do with the novelty factor? Either way, I don’t expect London 2012 will be any different. And when you consider 50,000 Big Macs, 180,000 potions of fries and 30,000 milkshakes will be served over the 29 days of the Olympic and Paralympic Games across the four announced venues, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not: McDonalds has cast its spell.

Monday, 18 July 2011

BT Storytellers 2012

So this is my first post on my shiny new blog to celebrate becoming one of the BT Storytellers for London 2012. I’ve been enlisted, along with 100 others, to help put together a creative legacy that people can look at in the years to come and see what it was like to be a part of the London Olympics in 2012. It’s going to be an exciting year, that’s for sure – although am slightly apprehensive at Lord Coe’s mention of Chaucer in the same breath as BT Storytellers – but hopefully we’ll do the London Olympics justice.

I’d just like to add that I never thought I’d get up close to one Olympic Games in my life time, nevermind two (Sydney 2000), so I will probably end up comparing the two experiences, as well as documenting what it’s like to work in an Olympic city in the months before the greatest show on earth gets going. Wish me luck…