Tales From Earth:The London 2012 Olympic Bid
Midday on Wednesday 6th July, and on Earth many people are staring at TV screens as International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge steps up to a podium to declare the winning country in the contest to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. Opening the envelope and quickly reading the answer, Jacque Rogge declares, 'And the winner is ... London!'
Huge cheers erupt from the London bid supporters in the audience, in London, and around the United Kingdom. This is the finale to a two-year bidding process involving huge amounts of time, money and hard work. And the Games themselves aren't for another seven years.
The Olympic Games are held on Earth every two years, alternating between winter (cold climate) and summer (warm climate) games, and is a tradition dating back to the times of the Ancient Greeks. The Ancient version of the Olympic Games is said to have been partly a religious affair, with only male athletes, who performed naked in celebration of the human form. The Olympic Games were then reborn in modern times, starting in the late 19th Century, and have grown in size each year, with more and more athletes and countries now taking part. The only times that the Olympic Games have been suspended are in times of the two World Wars taking place in the mid-twentieth century.
To be given the right to host an Olympic Games, a country must formally submit a bid to the International Olympic Committee, formed of 115 members from many countries. Countries are generally very keen to host the games, as it draws media attention and tourists from around the world and can boost the local economy. Hosting the games can require a huge initial cost outlay though, as specialised stadiums need to be built, as well as other Games infrastructure such as transport links, athlete accommodation and media centres.
Before the London bid, the UK had submitted bids from other cities (Birmingham and Manchester), but neither city made it into the final shortlist. After these bids, it was widely thought that only London was a well known enough city internationally to stand a chance of actually winning. This caused some controversy however, as many British citizens felt that the north of the country would benefit more from hosting an Olympics Games than London, which is already widely perceived to receive more than its fair share of national resources.
The London bid does, however, involve one of the poorest areas of the UK - East London. Home to a diverse but fairly poor population, East London is an area that the government has marked for 'regeneration' - transforming derelict and run-down locations into new businesses and facilities for local people. The Olympic Bid ties into this regeneration strategy by creating jobs for local people and by leaving behind a legacy of sporting facilities.
The core location for the 2012 Olympics will be in an area that is currently an industrial wasteland on the banks of the Lea Valley. Housed in this area will be the Olympic stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies are held, as well as most of the track and field athletics events. There will also be an aquatics centre for water-based sports (such as swimming) and a velodrome for cycling events. Some of the other olympic sports will take place in famous locations around London, such as the archery taking place in Lord's Cricket Grounds and beach volleyball taking place by the Horses Guards Parade. Gymnastics will take place within the infamous Millennium Dome, built at huge expense to commemorate the year 2000 on Earth.
One of the biggest criticisms of London's 2012 Olympic bid was over the provision of adequate transport. Whilst London already has a fairly extensive network of underground railway lines (the 'Tube'), suburban train lines and a large fleet of buses - these often run at capacity already. With the Olympics typically bringing millions of extra tourists into the city, there were questions over whether the transport infrastructure would cope. The bid team responded to these concerns by pointing out that the main Olympic Zone in East London was already well connected to tube and train lines, and that by the time the Olympics is held, there will be a new fast-speed line between Central London and Stratford (near where the games will be held in the East End). Special 'Olympic Javelin' trains will run as a shuttle service between London and Stratford over the course of the games, taking just 7-8 minutes to arrive.
By tradition, an Olympic torch is lit on the site of the ancient Olympics in Greece, several months before the games are scheduled to begin. The torch is then carried in a relay by runners around the world. For the 2012 Olympics, the torch relay is planned to include the countries of Nobel Prize winners (awarded to those who do work to advance the cause of international peace). After having been carried by hand from person to person, across great distances, the torch is used to light a caudron, which burns for the duration of the games.
Since London was declared the winning city, most of the preparatory work has been the formal processes of setting up committees and acquring the land on which new stadiums will be built. Before the 2012 Games takes place, however, there will be the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, a wholly different country. Citizens of London will no doubt be following these games with interest, wondering what they have let themselves in for...