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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Info Post
(Published in The New Indian Express, School Edition, on 1 February, 2012, retrieved from ttp://

NOTE: This contains very little opinion. It's a summary of the events leading up to the London Olympics, 2012.

From 27 July to 12 August 2012, London will play host to the 30th Summer Olympic Games. The city won its bid in 2005, through a process that would become one of the many controversies plaguing the Games. The bid was led by former Olympic champion Sebastian Coe, who heads the organising committee for the games.
Despite concerns such as security cost, risk of terror attacks, and even devaluation of property once the Olympics are over, the committee has tided over most of the issues that have cropped up. The one that continues to cause tension is the £ 7 million sponsorship by Dow Chemicals, the parent company of Union Carbide, held responsible for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984.
How did London win the bid?
By 15 July 2003, nine cities had submitted bids to host the 2012 Olympics:
·         Havana
·         Istanbul
·         Leipzig
·         London
·         Madrid
·         Moscow
·         New York City
·         Paris
·         Rio de Janeiro
Of these, London, Madrid, Moscow, New York, and Paris were shortlisted. Even though the visit of the inspection team from the International Olympic Committee coincided with riots in Paris, the French capital was considered the favourite to win the bid. On 6 July 2005, London squeezed past by a narrow margin. The French media blamed then President Jacques Chirac’s statement that the British had the worst food after the Finnish, when two members of the IOC were from Finland.
How is London organising the Olympics?
After the success of the bid, two bodies were created: the London Organising Committee to oversee the implementation and staging of the games, and the Olympic Delivery Authority to get the venues and infrastructure in place. The government appointed a unit, the Government Olympic Executive, to supervise the £ 9.3 billion of public sector funding, among other things. The IOC’s Coordination Commission has already made 9 visits to London to check on its progress, and is due to make a final visit in March.
A mixture of old stadiums and new venues will be utilised for the Olympics. Most of these fall into three zones within Greater London: the Olympic Zone, the River Zone and the Central Zone. The football matches will be held in stadiums across the UK, and some competitions, such as sailing, will be held outside London.
A 500-acre Olympic Park has been built. This caused some hullaballoo for a while, as several companies and families were forced to relocate for acquisition of this land. Despite several campaigns, the protesters eventually lost out.
The transport system is being given a boost too. Since public transport was one of the areas that London scored low on during the bidding process, Transport for London has set about expanding some of London’s underground and overground lines, introducing a new bullet-train service called Javelin, and making improvements to the Docklands Light Railway. Plans for constructing a cable car link across the River Thames, at a cost of £ 25 million are under way.
Who are the mascots?
On 19 May, 2010, the mascots for the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics were unveiled simultaneously – they are Wenlock and Mandeville, animations representing two drops of steel. They are named after the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, which held a forerunner to the current Olympic Games, and Stoke Mandeville, a village in Buckinghamshire, which staged a forerunner to the Paralympic Games.
What are the controversies?
The BiddingIn December 2005, IOC official Alex Gilady, claimed there had been a voting error, which had given London the winning bid, but his contention was dismissed.
Ticketing: Though only 6.6 million tickets were made available, more than 20 million tickets were sold, and then withdrawn. The fact that money had been taken out of bank accounts before people knew what tickets they were being given didn’t sit well with consumers, but the LOC stood by the system.
Scheduling: As the duration of the Olympics nearly coincides with Ramadan (20 July to 19 August), there are concerns that Muslim athletes who are fasting may be at a disadvantage. Calls for rescheduling have not been heeded, though.
The LogoThis has been at the Centre of several controversies. Created by brand consultancy Wolff Olins at a cost of £400,000, the logo triggered off ridicule and protest when it was unveiled on 4 June, 2007. Some said it looked like a distorted Swastika, while Iran claimed it spelt ‘Zion’ and temporarily threatened to boycott the Games. The organisers insisted it represents ‘2012’, but some people thought of some rather naughty interpretations. Animated footage released along with the logo was reported to have triggered epileptic attacks in people suffering from photosensitive epilepsy.
Social Media GuidelinesThe IOC’s guidelines seem to prevent athletes from commenting on other participants, promoting their own sponsors, or using the word ‘Olympic’ except under certain circumstances, on their websites and other social media. This has been criticised for hindering their freedom of speech.
And the biggest controversy: Dow sponsorship
Late last year, it was revealed that the Dow Chemical Company is one of the partners of the Games, having signed a deal for £ 7million dollars. The sight of the specialised decorative wrap it was commissioned to produce for the Olympic Park set off protests across the world.
Thousands of survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy burned Sebastian Coe in effigy, and blocked several train lines on 3 December, 2011, the 27th anniversary of the disaster, in protest. Coe refused to budge, and as some sort of defence, said his maternal grandfather was Indian!
In addition to its purchase of Union Carbide, Dow Chemicals is notorious for manufacturing Agent Orange and napalm, which were used during the Vietnam War.
Protesting the sponsorship, campaigner Meredith Alexander, one of the volunteers on the Olympics’ watchdog body, the sustainability commission, resigned last Wednesday.
On Sunday, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan demanded that India boycott the Olympics if Dow Chemicals remains a sponsor, and said the Centre should speak to the organisers in London.
Despite fears of a boycott, though, so far the Indian Olympic Association has said there is no question of India doing this.
  • London will become the first city to host the modern Olympic Games three times – 1908, 1948, 2012.
  • It is expected that 204 nations will participate; 146 have already qualified.
  • More than 10,000 athletes are expected to take part in 302 events in 26 sports.
  • 4700 medals, each 7 mm thick and weighing about 400 gms, will be minted for the Games. Designed by David Watkins, each will have the sport and discipline engraved on it, along with a representation of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike.
  • The Opening Ceremony has Danny Boyle as artistic director.
  • The Olympics will showcase renewable energy, though the percentage of green energy to be used has been docked from 20% to 9% for safety reasons.
  • All food packaging will be made from either recyclable or biodegradable material, including starch and cellulose-based bioplastics.
  • Special online technology is being developed to stream highlights of the Games.
  • 30 stamps have been released, featuring an Olympic sport along with the logo, to commemorate the Games. Incidentally, 1908 and 1912 are the only years when no special Olympic stamps were issued.
  • Prices of tickets range from £ 20 to £ 2012, and about 8 million tickets are expected to be available.
  • For the first time in Olympic history, sailing events will be ticketed.  The marathon, triathlon and road cycling remain free events.
  • Military personnel, as well as survivors and families of victims from the 7 July 2005 London tube bombings, will receive free tickets.
  • Security arrangements include 13,500 members of the armed forces, and 10,000 police personnel, in addition to naval ships, Eurofighter jets and surface-to-air missiles. The cost of the security arrangements is estimated to be £ 553 million.
  • A digital clock in Trafalgar Square has been set up to count down to the London Olympics.
  • On 27 July 2011, a special event was held to celebrate the one-year-to-go theme.
  • For the first time, the same logo design will be used for the main Olympics and the Paralympics.

  • £ 5.3 billion for building venues and infrastructure
  • £ 2.7 billion for a contingency fund
  • £ 600 million for security
  • £ 800 million for VAT
  • £ 400 million for elite sport and Paralympic funding
  • £ 2 billion for staging the games


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