The plain text version of my article “Going For Gold: The London 2012 Olympic Games” is copied below – but please follow the link to read the full version in the July 2012 issue of Ukraine International Airlines’ Panorama magazine, with photographs, additional information and useful links.


Jonathan Campion

Panorama magazine, July 2012

This month, the world’s most illustrious sporting spectacle will begin in one of its biggest and most iconic cities. From 27 July until 12 August more than 10,000 outstanding athletes will compete for 204 nations in the 2012 London Olympic Games. London will also host the world’s 4,000 finest disabled athletes in the Paralympic Games, from 29 August to 9 September. Their achievements will grab headlines across the globe – but it isn’t only in the stadiums where the adrenaline will be running high. There is Olympic-themed fun to be had all over Britain this summer and autumn, so your next visit is sure to be a personal best…

 The Olympic City

England has been getting ready to host the Olympics since 2005, when the games were awarded to London for the third time. Since then, almost £11 billion has been spent to ensure that the 2012 Olympic Games are the grandest and most memorable ever, as well as the safest and most enjoyable for visitors. The epicentre of the action will be the new Olympic Park, a lavishly-assembled site in the district of Stratford, which is home to the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium, as well as the futuristic Aquatics Centre and Velodrome. Hosting the Games in Stratford has turned East London, once among the city’s scruffier areas, into one of its most modern and fashionable. High-class apartments have been built, replacing downmarket, and its transport links have been rejuvenated to become the best in the country. Next to the sporting venues is the luxury mall Westfield Stratford City, which, upon its opening earlier this year, became the largest shopping complex in Europe. David Beckham – one of the Olympic Games ambassadors – is certainly impressed, saying while collecting the Olympic Torch from Athens: “For anyone who has been down to the Olympic Park and seen what it’s done to the East End of London, it is incredible what’s been created”. And who better to judge East London’s sporting and style credentials than its own football and fashion icon?

 Going For Gold

Those lucky people who have tickets to watch the events live will be treated to mouth-watering rivalries. The two fastest men in the world – Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell – will go head-to-head in the Olympic Stadium in the 100 metres, while 16-time gold medal-winner Michael Phelps will swim against fellow American Ryan Lochte in the Aquatics Centre. In the football tournament, the next generation of superstars from Spain, Brazil, Great Britain and other nations will play at Wembley Stadium, Manchester’s Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And tennis’s  master quartet of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andrew Murray will continue their battles on the famous courts of Wimbledon. Two of the stars of the Paralympics will be South African runner Oscar Pistorius (the world record-holder over 100, 200 and 400 metres), and wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer from the Netherlands, who has won all of her last 454 matches. These are occasions that no-one should miss: fans who do not have tickets will be able to watch the BBC’s television coverage on big screens in Potters Fields (next to Tower Bridge), Victoria Park and Hyde Park, where there will also be music and refreshment tents. In other parts of London, city landmarkswill be turned into sporting venues. The triathlon and 10 kilometre swimming race will be held in Hyde Park, while Horse Guards Parade in Westminster, where Queen Elizabeth II marks her birthday each year, will become a beach volleyball arena (a makeover involving 5,000 tons of sand).

The London 2012 Festival

You don’t need to love sport to enjoy the occasion.The London 2012 Festival, which partners the Olympic Games, encompasses art, dance, theatre, music and comedy. This Cultural Olympiad of 12,000 events runs from 21 June until 9 September and will feature 25,000 of the world’s most imaginative performers – at least one from all of the 204 Olympic nations. They will appear at 900 venues across Great Britain. Many of the cultural events will be based around fire, representing the Olympic Flame that is a symbol of the Olympics. The French troupe ‘Compagnie Carabosse’ will bring their show “Fire Garden” to Stonehenge on 10-12 July; Northern Ireland will also heat up, as the “Land of Giants” event blends pyrotechnics with acrobatic and musical performances on 30 July.Fire will be replaced by water on 21-22 July: the “River of Music” event will feature singers from all over the world, representing their home continent on stages next to the River Thames (each continent has its own stage). Artists set to appear include Scissor Sisters, Jules Holland, Ludovico Einaudi, Penguin Café, Aurelio Martinez, Zakir Hussain, Budapest Bar, Naturally 7, Soul Caribbean, and The Noisettes. The highlight of the dancing events is the Big Dance in Cardiff (15 July), which will try to set a world record for the biggest ever performance by Bollywood dancers. Among the theatrical shows, New York choreographer Elizabeth Streb will tell an adrenaline-fuelled story of 24 hours in London in “Extreme Action: One Extraordinary Day”. And in their comedy show “Playing the Games”, national treasures Stephen Fry of England and Australian Tim Minchin will take the stage at London’s Criterion Theatre to present their very different take on the Olympics (26 July – 12 August).

 Taking a Time-Out

London is a buzzing place, and the city, especially its underground, will be even busier during the Olympic fortnight. But as the crowds travel to Stratford, visitors in search of a cultural kick may well find that they have the capital’s museums almost to themselves. Each of the rooms in the Museum of London, close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, is dedicated to a different chapter of the city’s history. The first room displays artefacts from the prehistoric age; a small cinema shows a gripping 3D film about the Great Fire of London in 1666, and a round room with a 360 degree video display catapults you into the middle of a Victorian tea party. Until September 2012, the museum is hosting the exhibition “London and the Olympics”, which tells stories from when the city previously hosted the Games, in 1908 and 1948. Across London in South Kensington, the Victoria and Albert Museum contains hundreds of collections of art & design from every continent and historical era. This museum is the perfect place to take refuge from the sporting crowds; it is one of London’s most beautiful buildings, and the exhibitions of classical statues inside display as much gold, silver and bronze as the Olympics Medal Table!

 Inspiring a Generation

With only a few days to go until the Opening Ceremony, preparations for the Games are almost complete. But there is still time for the organisers to give these Olympics an unmistakable British identity. Some of the events could change their rules to include some English idiosyncrasies: competitors in the fencing competitions could earn extra points for saying “oops, sorry!” each time they are tapped. Instead of energy drinks, marathon runners could sip mugs of Tetley’s Tea at refreshment stops. And some events could be held outdoors, whatever the weather: nothing says “English Summer” like playing badminton in the rain. In any case, athletes from the host nation are tipped to have a big impact on their home Games. Many of “Team GB’s” medal hopes have already become household names and media personalities. Athletes such as swimmer Rebecca Adlington, diver Tom Daley (competing in his second Olympics and still only 18), runnerMo Farah, dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin, long jumper Phillips Idowu, heptathlete Jessica Ennis and cyclist Mark Cavendish have been entrusted to “INSPIRE A GENERATION”, the motto of these Games – and by being such good role models for Britain’s sports-mad children, they have been doing just that. Alongside the familiar names in the national squad are some more exotic ones: the stars of Great Britain’s wrestling team, Oleksandr Madyarchyk and Olga Butkevych, were actually born in Ukraine!

If a taste of the Games inspires you to start training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a tour around Great Britain is a fine way to get in shape. While in London, why not take three friends on a 4×400 metres relay run from Trafalgar Square to Knightsbridge, passing your baton (or a Pret A Manger baguette) in St. James’ Park, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. But take your time – if you go at world record pace you won’t appreciate the views. And as you travel around the country practice your long jump on the sandy beach at Bournemouth, try rowing in a punt on the River Cam in Cambridge, or perfect your breaststroke in the sea in Cornwall (or, if you’re feeling especially brave, the West of Scotland). Whatever your plans for this summer, find time for a trip to Britain, and be inspired by the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Read the full article in Ukraine International Airlines’ Panorama magazine

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