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Bummer

One of the more downhearted groups in the world must be the 2012 London Olympics organizers after watching Beijing's opening ceremony. China's big show had astounding scale, precision, balance, intimacy, and surprise. It was an expression of national purpose, with all the money and manpower an economically triumphant nation of 1.3 billion people can bring to a single task. Worker drones on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) must have thought, There's no way we can top that.

Worse, from London's perspective, is the fact that the one billion people who saw China's opening ceremony will remember. The images of that night will stay in their minds like Ali standing over Sonny Liston, like Babe Ruth's farewell at Yankee Stadium, like American soccer defender Brandi Chastain, who scored the fifth penalty-kick to win the 1999 Women's World Cup, then tore off her jersey, slid to her knees, and gave us a perfect moment of exultation.

Those images are a part of the hive's collective unconscious, now joined by Beijing's opening-night production. What the opening ceremony was before August 8 is succulently described on gawker.com: "The Olympics' Opening Ceremonies: Totalitarian Gay Pride Parades." But that was then…now we have a new art form: made for TV gigantesco coupled with the intimacy of street-corner performance art.

London will say they don't regard China's opening ceremony as a new standard; their opening ceremony was right for them. And Britain has a different culture, and 2012 is a different time. Nobody will care. The world will watch London's opening night on TV and compare it to Beijing's, fair or no.

So, what are LOCOG organizers doing? Their "About us" Web page is an unfortunate beginning.

"We need a powerful brand to help us achieve our ambition. A brand that combines the power of the Olympic rings and the city of London together.

"The number 2012 is our brand. It is universal and understandable worldwide…. Our emblem is simple, distinct, bold and buzzing with energy. Its form is inclusive yet consistent and has incredible flexibility to encourage access and participation…. It feels young in spirit. Full of confidence, certainty and opportunity. Not afraid to shake things up, to challenge the accepted."

Those are 89 false, cynical words about nothing. Verbal mush. Telemarketing to dummies.

"But by the time of the 2012 Opening Ceremony around 100,000 people will be working on the Games — including 3,000 staff, and thousands of volunteers and contractors."

At first you think they've got the scale about right — 100,000 workers and "one of the largest construction and engineering projects in Europe."

Sounds like LOCOG is in the game or at least knows what the game is. Their Olympic park is located in an industrial slum in East London. Local organizers, like previous Olympic organizers, have taken the Olympic opportunity to tear down a slum, clean it up, and sell it off.

Which describes Lower Lea Valley in East London. Or in their words, "The area in and around the Olympic Park is contaminated, derelict and abandoned. The waterways in the area have suffered from years of neglect: water quality is poor, river walls are in a bad condition and the landscape is scarred with rubbish strewn along the river channels…. We also have to demolish more than 220 buildings…[and build] over 4000 new houses, schools, parks, schools, health facilities, shopping, new roads, bridges, footpaths and cycleways".

A chicken in every pot.

The stadium was sold as part of the "Greenest Olympics ever" and touted to be the next wave in sustainable development.

This gets one's attention. Not because energy efficiency is anything other than important, but because the terms "green" and "sustainable development" have been captured by the world's biggest polluters and no longer have meaning to the general public.

"The London Olympic Stadium will be the centerpiece of the 2012 Summer Olympics."

Okay, good. The cost is expected to be 469 million pounds (891 million dollars), which seems to be the going rate, albeit the cheap going rate. The HOK Sport–designed beast will have a hemp façade, which is groovy.

The stadium will seat 80,000; 25,000 seats on the lower level, 55,000 temporary seats on the upper level. After the games, the upper level will be torn off, leaving behind an 891-million-dollar 25,000-seat stadium to be used for wholesome activities.

The stadium will have no food stands inside, but "party concourses" outside. This is planned, no doubt, in the service of sustainable development. But many critics believe the stadium is merely ugly and wasteful. The Times architecture critic, Tom Dyckhoff, said the stadium is "tragically underwhelming" and the "architecture of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics will, in years to come, be seen by historians as a cunning indicator of the decline of the West and the rise of the East."

Or not.

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One of the more downhearted groups in the world must be the 2012 London Olympics organizers after watching Beijing's opening ceremony. China's big show had astounding scale, precision, balance, intimacy, and surprise. It was an expression of national purpose, with all the money and manpower an economically triumphant nation of 1.3 billion people can bring to a single task. Worker drones on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) must have thought, There's no way we can top that.

Worse, from London's perspective, is the fact that the one billion people who saw China's opening ceremony will remember. The images of that night will stay in their minds like Ali standing over Sonny Liston, like Babe Ruth's farewell at Yankee Stadium, like American soccer defender Brandi Chastain, who scored the fifth penalty-kick to win the 1999 Women's World Cup, then tore off her jersey, slid to her knees, and gave us a perfect moment of exultation.

Those images are a part of the hive's collective unconscious, now joined by Beijing's opening-night production. What the opening ceremony was before August 8 is succulently described on gawker.com: "The Olympics' Opening Ceremonies: Totalitarian Gay Pride Parades." But that was then…now we have a new art form: made for TV gigantesco coupled with the intimacy of street-corner performance art.

London will say they don't regard China's opening ceremony as a new standard; their opening ceremony was right for them. And Britain has a different culture, and 2012 is a different time. Nobody will care. The world will watch London's opening night on TV and compare it to Beijing's, fair or no.

So, what are LOCOG organizers doing? Their "About us" Web page is an unfortunate beginning.

"We need a powerful brand to help us achieve our ambition. A brand that combines the power of the Olympic rings and the city of London together.

"The number 2012 is our brand. It is universal and understandable worldwide…. Our emblem is simple, distinct, bold and buzzing with energy. Its form is inclusive yet consistent and has incredible flexibility to encourage access and participation…. It feels young in spirit. Full of confidence, certainty and opportunity. Not afraid to shake things up, to challenge the accepted."

Those are 89 false, cynical words about nothing. Verbal mush. Telemarketing to dummies.

"But by the time of the 2012 Opening Ceremony around 100,000 people will be working on the Games — including 3,000 staff, and thousands of volunteers and contractors."

At first you think they've got the scale about right — 100,000 workers and "one of the largest construction and engineering projects in Europe."

Sounds like LOCOG is in the game or at least knows what the game is. Their Olympic park is located in an industrial slum in East London. Local organizers, like previous Olympic organizers, have taken the Olympic opportunity to tear down a slum, clean it up, and sell it off.

Which describes Lower Lea Valley in East London. Or in their words, "The area in and around the Olympic Park is contaminated, derelict and abandoned. The waterways in the area have suffered from years of neglect: water quality is poor, river walls are in a bad condition and the landscape is scarred with rubbish strewn along the river channels…. We also have to demolish more than 220 buildings…[and build] over 4000 new houses, schools, parks, schools, health facilities, shopping, new roads, bridges, footpaths and cycleways".

A chicken in every pot.

The stadium was sold as part of the "Greenest Olympics ever" and touted to be the next wave in sustainable development.

This gets one's attention. Not because energy efficiency is anything other than important, but because the terms "green" and "sustainable development" have been captured by the world's biggest polluters and no longer have meaning to the general public.

"The London Olympic Stadium will be the centerpiece of the 2012 Summer Olympics."

Okay, good. The cost is expected to be 469 million pounds (891 million dollars), which seems to be the going rate, albeit the cheap going rate. The HOK Sport–designed beast will have a hemp façade, which is groovy.

The stadium will seat 80,000; 25,000 seats on the lower level, 55,000 temporary seats on the upper level. After the games, the upper level will be torn off, leaving behind an 891-million-dollar 25,000-seat stadium to be used for wholesome activities.

The stadium will have no food stands inside, but "party concourses" outside. This is planned, no doubt, in the service of sustainable development. But many critics believe the stadium is merely ugly and wasteful. The Times architecture critic, Tom Dyckhoff, said the stadium is "tragically underwhelming" and the "architecture of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics will, in years to come, be seen by historians as a cunning indicator of the decline of the West and the rise of the East."

Or not.

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Is all this really worth the money?

Aug. 17, 2008

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