By Boris Johnson
I am not going to count my chickens. I fully recognize that there are all sorts of pitfalls in the days ahead. But here are just 20 reasons to be cheerful and proud about the way our London 2012 Olympics are going so far—and the first is ...
1. Yaaay! Team GB has won some medals, as Lizzie Armitstead gets silver in the cycling road race and Rebecca Adlington wins bronze in the 400 meters freestyle. There must be every chance that we will win a few more in the next couple of weeks—in cycling, rowing, sailing, and riding, all sports at which British athletes seem to excel and all of which involve sitting down.
2. We are also pretty good at events that involve actually running around and jumping over things, so we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of medals there either.
3. And even if we don’t, the main thing is the taking part, playing the game, etc.
4. It did NOT rain on Friday night. Contrary to the predictions of the BBC (and others) there were NO thunderstorms, NO hail, NO lightning. The temperature was balmy. The visibility was perfect.
5. We have just stunned the world with what was the best opening ceremonies ever produced—and by quite a margin. Danny Boyle’s filmic mixture of Blake, Dickens, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, etc. etc., has confirmed London’s status as the global capital of art and culture. Right-wing critics should be reassured that the meaning of the Mary Poppins–Dementors clash has been widely misunderstood. I am told by one figure close to the proceedings that the bellicose nanny figure was intended by Danny Boyle to stand for Mrs. Thatcher in her struggles with the NUM and other militant trade unionists. So that’s all right, then, eh! In any case, the queen has made her first cinematic appearance—in the Bond movie segment—and deepened the admiration in which she is held in Britain and around the world. James Bond and the monarchy—not to mention “The Eton Boating Song” … How can anyone call that lefty propaganda?
6. We certainly didn’t spend the Beijing-style sums on fireworks—since the Chinese blew roughly the same amount as the British defense budget—but we unquestionably had the same global éclat.
7. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, made a truly excellent speech, in which he paid tribute to the role of Britain in either inventing or codifying the sports we celebrate at the Olympics. Only a small proportion of his speech was in French.
8. Jeremy Hunt has introduced a new sport to the Games, to go with the discus, shot put, javelin. It is bell whanging. He shows his class on YouTube. The rules have yet to be codified—there is still a dispute about whether you get extra points for hitting a spectator—but you can be sure they will be codified in London.
9. Unlike some other Olympic cities I could mention, the London venues were built on time and under budget—and represent a great global calling card for British construction and engineering. The athletes’ village is being hailed by all who bunk up there—including Tessa Jowell, who takes her duties as deputy mayor of the village so seriously that she actually pernoctates in the village, sharing the life of the young men and women on whom we pin our hopes.
10. The traffic in London has not—touch wood—been badly affected by the Games, or certainly not as badly as some people were predicting. As things stand, there have been plenty of times when we have been able to allow all drivers to use the Games Lanes—though you should always check the signs at the side of the road.
11. The Tube has performed pretty well so far.
12. Buses are running more or less on time.
13. Tens of thousands of people are attending the BT Live Sites in Hyde Park, Victoria Park, and elsewhere. They are being treated to sensational rock and pop acts, as well as zipwires, zorbing (which involves large plastic balls), and other entertainments of all kinds: hog roasts, tumblers, chaps painted silver and making jerky movements—and it is almost all FREE!
14. The Emirates Airline cable car from the North Greenwich Arena (O2) to the Excel, both Olympic venues, carried a record 26,000 people on Saturday. It is London’s newest and most successful tourist attraction, and was built to time and to budget by TfL, and very largely with sponsorship cash. We are still awaiting a visit from the great man after whom the project was named—Vince Cable himself.
15. The military is doing a fantastic job. Colossal numbers of people are being moved through the search areas and into the park speedily, efficiently, and with great friendliness. They are working well with the excellent G4S staff. They are showing leadership and generally are entrenching the affection with which the armed services are regarded. In fact, the whole thing looks like a brilliant MoD anti-cuts maneuver.
16. The Olympics are proving to be a boost to tattoo parlors. Plenty of people seem to want their thighs inscribed with “Oylimpics 2012” and other ineradicable misspellings.
17. No single athlete was able to swank about having the honor of lighting the cauldron, since that went to a collection of young athletes. This was a typically brilliant and diplomatic decision by Seb Coe.
18. In the heart of the Olympic Park there are riparian meadows of wildflowers whose color and glory are heartbreaking. There are cornflowers and vipers bugloss and rare and delicate orchids that are being neither trampled nor picked—but simply admired, by vast crowds, as evidence of our national genius for gardening.
19. As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalized by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is splashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.
20. Everywhere I go I see volunteers who are caught up in the excitement of the biggest thing this city has done in our lifetimes. They are happy and proud—and so, by the way, are all the spectators I have met so far.