Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Legacy of London 2012

Most of us could not have expected this.  In the months leading up to the 2012 Games there was so much skepticism and cynicism about the city’s capacity to host the event and doubts about whether it could match all of the expectations that had built up over the last seven years.  In a quintessentially British style Londoners proclaimed their intention to avoid the impending hassles and to “keep calm, and carry on”.  Although there was definitely some level of anticipation and excitement about hosting one of the biggest and most global events in the world, there were probably few of us who could have predicted the degree of enthusiasm and passion with which we would embrace London as host city to the Olympic Games once things really got started.  
After a powerful Opening Ceremony which celebrated some of the most pivotal moments in Britain’s modern history people’s minds were changed and a sudden, rare display of national pride swept over the city.  London suddenly transformed into a massive festival that would not stop for the next two and a half weeks.  Countries from all over the world invaded every corner of the city and set up hospitality houses which would serve as cultural outposts and host parties, providing an excuse to venture to a new neighborhood everyday if so desired. 

Open spaces and parks were turned into outdoor viewing parties, complete with food stalls and beer gardens, filled with crowds of spectators enjoying some of the greatest displays of athleticism.  Every pub in the city turned into a live sports bar with Union Jacks adorned alongside flags from all nations.  Although I was wrong about the degree of hassle the Games would inevitably cause, I was right about at least one thing; we could not escape the Olympics and they permeated every aspect of life in London, making it a truly amazing two and a half weeks.   
The Tube ran perfectly, better than usual actually.  After a summer of almost constant rain the weather turned warm and sunny, for the most part, and people everywhere were jubilant.  This was my first time living in an Olympic host city, so it was not possible to predict the outcome, but it did not disappoint.  Global and unparalleled in diversity on any normal day, London cosmopolitanism was amplified during these two and a half weeks with open shows of national pride and sportsmanlike rivalry everywhere.  Even Team Great Britain’s seemingly ambitious goal of finishing fourth in the medal count was exceeded when they finished third overall, just after the powerhouses USA and China.  The Games truly beat everyone’s expectations in almost every way possible.    

Personal highlights undoubtedly included attending the Women’s Qualifying Gymnastics, watching the USA Women’s Football team win Gold in Wembley Stadium, and watching the USA Men’s Basketball team win gold in the North Greenwich Arena.  But they also included the emotional highs of cheering for Team GB and Team USA in events that we did not attend, and cheering for more unknown athletes from countries in which we had no ties just because their personal stories of triumph in the face of adversity were so inspiring.  It is the dozens of remarkable stories that come out of the Olympics that define the spirit of the Games.  Now that they are over, it is natural that we all feel some sort of a void left by their absence.  

London 2012 was always a personal time marker for us.  Transitioning to life in the UK back in 2008, the Games still seemed like an eternity away, but now they have come and gone.  Now all of us need to look forward to another point in the future, redefining the next major stage of anticipation.  As London settles back into some semblance of normality and the focus now turns to the Paralympics and then to finally defining the “legacy” of the events of this summer, we can’t help but to reflect on what it meant for us personally and the legacy it will leave on our own lives.  London 2012 set out to “inspire a generation”.  Reflecting back, we have lived in London in what may be viewed later as one of its most historic periods in modern times.  From once in a lifetime celebrations like the Royal Wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to less positive memories such as the London Riots and the Eurozone Crisis, we can perhaps say that we have lived here during a time that reflects the city’s extraordinary historic narrative.  

Since the early Roman days of Londinium, this has always been a global metropolis and a destination for the intrepid, an outpost for those seeking adventure and opportunity.  London is always celebrating, constantly growing, sometimes facing insurmountable threats and challenges, reinvigorating, and always rising again to new heights, defining the generation at that period in time.  The London 2012 Games have once again demonstrated this great city’s ability to arouse and to show the rest of the world the greatness confined within, hopefully inspiring each of us in the process.  There is no telling what the “legacy” of these Games will be, or what lasting impact on this particular generation it will produce, but for now we know that it was another exceptional moment in London’s expansive and dramatic history.  We were so fortunate to be here to experience it and for now that may be the only legacy that really matters.    - KV 

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