Jolly Old Olympics
"I run to see who has the most guts." Steve Roland Prefontaine, American Runner, 1951-1975
The Olympics are all about sports. sportsmanship, pure competition -- and national pride. Sure they are. Just like the IOC is an objective collective selection body. And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you, along with an un-built stadium in Queens.
So when it came to choosing a venue (the quintessential Olympic-centric word) for the 2012 Games, the IOC easily determined that Moscow and Madrid didn't stand a chance. Madrid showed up without a video presentation -- they just used slides, for cryin out loud. Oh, and they brought Queen Sofia. Moscow ... well, Moscow ... you know what I mean.
That left as the front runners London, Paris, New York. What a dilemma. World class capitals. London and Paris with history and culture and sights and scenery and tourism galore. New York ... well, New York ... you know what I mean.
In London they speak English--sort of--which is a plus. And they've got Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Parliament, Tower of London, Big Ben, Wimbledon and even the Queen, just for grins. Plus, American television likes the relatively small 5 hour time difference.
But Paris, in addition to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triumph, Champs Elise, Montemarte and the whole Left Bank, also has that je ne sais quoi -- a certain something not easily described -- but you know it when you see it. And let's not forget the food, and the wine.
By the way, "Je ne sais quoi" literally means "I don't know what" -- which is how I feel--not about Paris--but about Parisians. The French people in other cities and in the countryside are lovely and welcoming -- but in Paris, Zut, alhors! Les gens sont horrible! (If you didn't get that, roughly translated it means Oy vey, the people suck.)
Parisians are, to be blunt -- rude. Arrogant. Nasty. Especially to Americans. Somehow they've mistaken culture worship for patriotism -- if it's not French, real Parisian French, it's worthy of nothing but scorn. Their attitude is one of such entitlement and superiority that President Jaques Chirac felt comfortable remarking to his G-8 colleagues, "the only thing the British have ever given European farming is mad cow." And he savaged English food as the worst in Europe.
Well, pardonnez-moi! (Chirac made the food comment to Russian President Putin, whose country is of course known for it's superb cuisine. Mon Dieu!)
Truth be told, Parisians are basically New Yorkers with Peppi Le Peu accents. Which is one of the reasons New York lost the bid. Two others were pure politics -- unhappiness with US foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq, and a feeling that the US has had more than its share of Games. Yet another factor, denied, but undeniable, was raised by a Syrian IOC member, who wanted to know if Syrians and other Middle Eastern nationals would be allowed entry into New York.
Yes, New York is arguably the greatest city in the world. Yes, New Yorkers rallied with astounding grace and dignity to the 9/11 tragedy. Yes, New York is New York, there's no other place like it. And the New York delegation went all out, mounting the Big Sell as only New York can. But in the end, it came down to politics, deal making, maneuvering for votes, and last but not least, Image.
Neither New York nor Paris could cut the mustard like London. In stunning last minute lobbying by Prime Minister Tony Blair, London pitched the ultimate trifecta in the Image Games: inspiring the world's youth, rebuilding distressed areas and holding ceremonies and competitions at existing venerable, world famous "venues" -- Wimbledon, Wembley Stadium and Hyde Park.
Paris is devestated, and confused. The French sports minister said, ''I have the impression that we do not speak the same language."
Okay, repeat after me -- and millions of Englishmen -- the London win was "brilliant."
London 2012 Homepage
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