Fri, September 20, 2013

London Games a true joy

By REJEAN TREMBLAY, QMI Agency


British athletes did well, British fans had fun and that made the London Olympics the most enjoyable Games to cover, writes Rejean Tremblay.

So you know where I’m coming from, I want to tell you I reported on the Montreal Games.

The year was 1976 and the Stadium lacked a head.

Four year later, I was in Moscow for the Iron Curtain Games. Canada and the United States, among others, didn’t join me. We were a total of five Canadians, without an Olympic committee, without anything to cover the Games.

Even the Canadian Press had stayed home. Zero radio and television coverage.

As unique as the 1936 Nazi Games, I suppose.

If I tell you the London Games were the most difficult yet the most enjoyable to report on, you now know I speak from experience.

Because of their astounding scale. They were gigantic Games, costing billions of dollars. Games that allowed TV and social networks around the world to spin an Olympic web on the whole planet.

You, in your living room, were treated to all the sports in which your favourite athletes were competing. But you could not for a second grasp the incredible enormity of these Games. The magic of TV made you jump from event to event instantly. Despite your passion, you just had to stay seated in front of your screen.

But when you fight for a personal or absolute victory on the field, you live the Games from the inside. You do not see them, you feel them.

This is part of the reason why the London Games were the most enjoyable to report, out of all those I went to during the last 36 years. Because the English and the Londoners were cool. God were they cool. Even the machine-gun-toting policemen. Security staff everywhere were smiling and discreet. The job was done without Salt Lake City’s awful paranoia or Vancouver’s annoying zeal.

Obviously, the atmosphere in the stadiums, pools and arenas was warm. When the hosting country reaps medals at great speed, fans are always happy. They become partisans. In Montreal, Greg Joy was Canada’s sole medallist in track and field. We were absent from the great events. We applauded but being partisan was difficult.

In Moscow, there was no real contest, the Americans and West Germans were not there. It was a fight between brothers, not very rewarding. In Los Angeles, which were boycotted too, it was pure chauvinism. In London, the British athletes were part of highly contested events and when they got eliminated, people would back another favourite and applaud.

On the evening, I met thousands of tired yet happy people exiting the stadiums. They would wait a few minutes, jump in the Javelin Train and it would start all over again. The transportation system never flinched. For the media and fanatics, these were the easiest Games to cover and attend.

The English will wake up with a hangover. They took part in a formidable party. Everything could have gone to hell, and the Games’ opponents were planning for that since the beginning. On the contrary, everything went better than expected. These Games were exceptionally well organized. The Americans, who completely failed with their know-it-all attitude both in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, should have taken notes, a load of notes. In case they get to organize Games again.

In the meantime, the next Summer Games will take place in the Americas. Southern America this time.

It is hard not to be condescending about how we think the Brazilians will organize the 2016 Games. Maybe we ought to remember that Brazil’s economy is faring way better than that of Europe and North America. The Rio leaders will get a chance to rehearse during the 2014 World Cup.

And they will face a tough choice regarding where to set up the beach volleyball competition. Copacabana or Ipanema? When I was in Rio, Copacabana seemed less windy. But the thongs were thinner, which will force U.S. TV networks to censor images.

My God! It is already very complicated.