As Beijing parties, London gets a hangover

August 9th, 2008 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Aug 9 (IANS) A day after Bejing hosted what was hailed as the greatest Olympic opening ever, the response in London - the next hosts - has been a slightly bemused, ‘cripes, what are we going to do now?’ If nothing else, said the Times newspaper, the jaw-dropping opening at the Bird’s Nest Stadium “has raised the bar dauntingly high for the organisers of London 2012”.

But British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said London can match Beijing in 2012.

“We should not be intimidated,” Jowell said. “We will do something just as wonderful and just as extraordinary.

“Beijing has done something absolutely stupendous that everyone there will remember for the rest of their lives. It is our turn now and we look forward to it. It is a huge challenge but it is one that we will rise to and emulate.”

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was in Beijing Friday, said the opening was possibly the “greatest show ever put on in history of mankind” and didn’t think London should bother with trying to outdo the Chinese spectacular.

One major difference, Livingstone said, was that London organisers didn’t have the money to put up a matching display.

Another key difference, said Livingstone and other commentators, was that London lacks that sense of political purpose that Beijing had in hosting the 29th Games - the need to engage with the world and show your best face.

“Every decade or so an Olympics will capture the spirit of the age. It is difficult to imagine what London will stand for in four years time when the world gather in Stratford (in east London) for the celebration of the 30th Olympiad,” said the Daily Telegraph.

“The credit crunch Games anyone?”

Even before Friday’s opening ceremony, the head of the London Organising Committee of the Games (LOCOG), had dismissed any talk of competition.

“I am not sure how many countries would have either the resources or indeed the controlled resources to put on an event like this,” Paul Deighton said last week.

“I doubt we will have 20,000 people doing things in unison in our opening ceremony. That’s just fine. That’s the beauty of the contrast.”

“In other words,” commented the Daily Telegraph, “if you can’t beat them, don’t bother.”

When the baton is officially passed to London at the end of the Beijing Olympics, London Mayor “Boris Johnson and his team will celebrate … and then feel the pressure,” said the foreign editor of Sky News.

“Beijing spent a mind-blowing amount on the opening ceremony - almost 3,000 pounds per second - which is a sobering thought for all those London council taxpayers. Will 2012 top that financial outlay?”

Finances remain a problem: London has already overshot its initial public-sector budget of 3.4 billion pounds, raising it to 9.3 billion pounds and declaring it will not spend any more than that.

But the credit crunch, say commentators, will put further pressures on the organisers of the London Olympics.

“With this cap in place and costs rising, compromises look likely,” said The Economist magazine.

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