Fri, September 20, 2013

Gloom may loom for post-Olympics London

By THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency


Gold medal-winning British cyclists Laura Trott and Jason Kenny laugh while watching the women's beach volleyball final at Horse Guards Parade during the London Olympics Wednesday. Their coziness has sparked plenty of gossip in the British press. (REUTERS)


LONDON - Great Britain cyclist Laura Trott has discovered at least the first part of the Olympic legacy.

Interest in who’s she’s ‘snogging.’

These Games have long been promoted not just on their competition and organization but also on what will happen after they end.

Will the Games inspire chubby little British kids — among the fattest across Europe — to stop texting and go running?

Or create lasting opportunity in London’s east end, where a good amount of the $14 billion in infrastructure has been spent?

That remains to be seen.

But if there’s one certainty after every Games — not just here but around the world — the first Olympic legacy is celebrity.

For Team GB, that’s meant Trott has been all over the local press, thanks to pictures of her kissing fellow British double gold medal cyclist Jason Kenny as they watched Olympic beach volleyball.

The papers have even tracked down her last boyfriend, who Tweeted he may one day write a book.

“Laura, her new golden boy and the cyclist she left in her tyre tracks,” was the headline in the Daily Mail.

“Double gold cyclist Laura Trott snogs 2-gold winner Jason Kenny,” the UK Sun newspaper noted.

Trott appeared Friday in downtown London to unveil RideLondon, an annual weekend of cycling, including a 100-mile road race, that will begin here next year.

Mayor Boris Johnson, taking a seat next to her, believes: “Our challenge is to ensure that 2012 is just the start, not the end of the benefits of hosting the Games.”

The mop-haired mayor wants to create long-lasting opportunities for the 560-acre Olympic Park that will be remodeled into family-friendly playgrounds and mixed-income housing. He also looks to attract more visitors, create jobs, and capitalize on the success they’ve had here.

RideLondon, kicking off next August, will use the public momentum created by athletes like Trott to promote a premiere cycling event — as well as advertise bikes as a means of commuting in a city where every five minutes you’re being run over by one.

But there are real financial barriers to get around after Sunday’s Closing Ceremony.

Slashed spending has trimmed the budgets of local community sporting organizations by a third. And Britain’s central bank has just issued a dismal forecast for the coming months.

Every Olympic host city of the modern age has tried to capitalize after bringing the world through their front door.

Some do better than others — Beijing having more gains than either Athens or Sydney — but no one has found the magic fiscal elixir to mix for real long-term gains.

But Iain Edmondson, head of the major events team at London and Partners, says Britain has a real chance to make the best of the post-Games rush.

“It’s our job to find opportunity in the legacy,” he says, adding it’s not just lip service.

Londoners will just have to wait and see.

But as for double gold-medallist Trott, she’s already felt the legacy begin.

As I talked with her about finding inspiration in past Olympics and what these Games will mean to the country she loves, the Fleet Street press wanted to change the subject.

To her boyfriend and those snogging photos.

“No one warned us there would be a camera there,” she explained.

“David Beckham and Prince Harry were there. We assumed the photos would be of them.”

The front pages of the London papers is not how she wanted to announce the relationship to Britain, she added.

But these are golden days for her.

Something she hopes Britain will be able to say for some time to come, thanks to what they’ve pulled off here.

Thane.burnett@sunmedia.ca

@thane.burnett