Brits are an orderly lot, they queue politely and wait their turn to be served. And so it is with the Olympics. One of the major worries for Olympics organisers has been that the British will not get excited about the London Olympics, and until now that fear has been true. But the Brits were just waiting their turn.
Now that the football season is finished and Andy Murray, Britain’s best hope in years for a tennis win on home soil in Wimbledon, has played and lost to Roger Federer, it’s the Olympics’ turn for attention. With the Games now just two weeks away, and 21,000 accredited media expected to cover the world wide event, Steve Ahern reports from London on the final preparations.
The Olympic mascot (pictured) is a curious one eyed creature. It stands proudly outside the stadium construction-site waiting for visitors to pass through the gates. The same worries that plagued the lead up to the Sydney games are evident here in London – will the sites be finished in time and will Londoners put up with transport disruptions and the massive influx of visitors with good humour, and turn out in force to support their athletes? And there is one other wild card, the London weather. Forecasters are predicting the wettest summer in years for London, and if this week is any guide, then moments of clear skies and summer sun will be interspersed with afternoon rainstorms and overcast conditions.
The main London games site is in the east of the city, in the suburb of Stratford. Unlike Sydney’s Homebush site, Stratford is in the middle of a bustling commercial and industrial area and to get to the main stadium patrons must walk through a massive Westfield shopping centre, which will make a killing from the millions of visitors who will browse its shops and restaurants on the way to and from the stadium.
Other venues are scattered around the city, with many sites for smaller sports right in the heart of London. Special pink games signs have now been added to the standard maps in all the tube stations near event venues and announcements are being given at each tube station warning locals to plan for the big influx of extra tube passengers during the games.
The most intriguing venue is the Horse Guards parade ground at Whitehall, just behind Number 10 Downing Street, which will see its traditional red coated mounted guards displaced to accommodate a bed of sand so that athletes can play beach volleyball in the famous square.
London’s international broadcast centre, constructed especially for the thousands of journalists who will cover the Olympics, is located just up the river from the main stadium and will supply universal sounds and picture feeds to accredited broadcasters such as the ABC.
ABC Radio Sports chief technical specialist Scott Whyte is already in London organising things, and the ABC commentary team will progressively arrive next week.
The ABC radio coverage team is staying at Russell Square in London. One of the ABC team, Tim Gavel, has told radioinfo about the challenges of covering such a big event and the how he prepares for his commentary:
“This will be my 6th Olympics, my first was as a commentator with Barcelona in 1992. Each games presents its own challenges whether it be problems with information systems or transport.
In London, transport appears to be one of the probable hurdles although it is often easier to navigate after the kinks have been ironed out within the first couple of days.
I am calling rowing and sprint canoe/kayaking with 1992 Olympic Rowing Gold medalist Peter Antonie at the Eton Dorney course close to Windsor Castle. The initial challenge will be getting to the course with a couple of hours to spare each morning. In the afternoon I will be calling sports such as tennis off tube as we don’t have broadcast positions as some sports such as tennis, sailing, archery and shooting because of the cost.
In terms of studying up for the events I am calling. It is akin to studying for a major exam. Every piece of information is digested, every minute of available footage is analysed and I have regular contact with people involved in the sports I am calling. Rowing in particular is an unusual sport to call because the start is 2 kilometres away. So the first part of the race is called off television at your commentary position at the finish line.
Each Olympics has its own unique qualities and I am sure this one will be special given the history of sport in London.”
Austereo’s team of broadcasters in London for the games will begin arriving on July 27. Although the network does not have live commentary rights, it will not prevent personalities, listeners and clients from drinking in the atmosphere by being in London during the big event. Melbourne Triple M’s Eddie McGuire is the exception. He is arriving early and has commitments for other media as well as Triple M, which will give him more event access than other Austereo personalities. Austereo publicist Lisa Schillaci will be on hand in London to maximise publicity opportunities for the Austereo crew.
The International Broadcast Centre will accommodate 21,000 accredited media communicating the Games to a potential worldwide audience of 4 billion people. The specialist media venue has 52,000 square meters of studio space over two floors up to 10 metres high, plus a further 8,000 sq m of offices over five floors at the front of the building.
Catering at the IBC will operate round the clock, serving 50,000 meals to hungry reporters and commentators. The opening ceremony will take place on 27 July and the closing ceremony will take place on 12 August. London expects to reap commercial and tourism benefits from the games for years to come. The Paralympics and a series of regional festivals will follow on after the closing ceremony, keeping Olympics fever alive in London until September.