The 2012 host faces numerous challenges, including tight budgets, security concerns, and a dearth of homegrown Olympic champions in many sports.
Follow that! Even before Beijing passed the Olympic baton to London on Sunday, British officials were gearing up to face a formidable challenge in matching the 2008 Games. The Chinese have raised the Olympic bar and some 2012 Games organizers are already trying to manage expectations.
Boris Johnson, the London mayor who received the Olympic flag on Sunday, has stressed that although “dazzled” and “blown away” by the Beijing Games, he is not intimidated. But Mr. Johnson and others who will preside over Olympic preparations face three challenges that the Chinese had less trouble with: security, homegrown Olympians, and cash flow.
The first was underscored hours after London was awarded the 2012 Games in 2005, when the July 7 bombings startled Londoners into realizing that they, too, were on the front lines in the battle with Muslim extremists. The Olympic site is positioned in the middle of one of Britain’s largest Muslim communities in the east London neighborhood of Stratford.
But the authorities don’t want the metallic grip of security to squeeze the joy out of the Games. According to Games minister Tessa Jowell, “The key thing is that the security is effective and keeps people safe, but it is not oppressive.” A security blueprint is expected at the end of the year. The aspiration is to enable people to soak up the atmosphere inside the Olympic park, even without tickets to venues – a bit like Wimbledon.
When it comes to the competitions, however, the hope is for anything but Wimbledon-like performances. In the tennis championship, Britain hasn’t won a medal in men’s or women’s singles since 1977. There are concerns that the British won’t come up with home champions to grace the 2012 Olympics. Only 12 years ago in Atlanta, the team won just one gold and failed to make the top 30 nations.