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Yesterday was, as you may be forgiven for having missed, an auspicious day.

Why? Yet another Olympic milestone was passed as it was 200 days before the start of the Olympics, marked by what will no doubt be an extravagent and impressive Opening Ceremony.

The white elephant in the room?

The Olympics are starting to look a little out of place amid unrest in the middle east, Government cut backs closer to home and sluggish economic forecasts.

So, have the Olympics become an uncomfortable reminder of the boom before the bust? You tell me.

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On the 22nd of November Benji Lanyado who works as a travel writer at The Guardian was kind enough to take us on a tour of the paper’s headquarters near Kings Cross in central London.

During the tour we spoke with three editors; Joanna Geary, Digital Developments Editor; Ian Prior, Sports Editor; and David Shariatmadari, Deputy Editor of Comment is Free . They gave us some very informative advice and I was inspired but if I’m honest I also left the building a little scared.

Becoming a journalist is going to be hard. Really hard.

I can hear the voices of an assembled crowd of beleaguered working men and women ringing out across the internet even now “what did you expect you fool? Of course it’s going to be hard. Life is hard.”  But blissful ignorance is a wonderful state to be in and as a 17 year old boy I have something of a monopoly on the market for it. So, despite the fact that it was a little immature, I was rather enjoying holding an aspiration to write based mainly on the end goals as opposed to the means, without taking my thoughts very far beyond “I’ll do a bit of blogging” and “I’ll do something with lots of writing in at University”. Clearly I was in serious need of some frank advice.

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Last Thursday, 20/10/2011, Fran, Charlie, Bianca, Claudia, Kaspian and I were lucky enough to visit the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, a beautiful town on the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. This post was written towards the end of a wonderful day.

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Today has been something of a whirlwind; up at 3:30 am, on the plane for 6:45 am and on a private tour of the museum by 10:30. The Olympic Museum has been open for eighteen years now, which almost seems like quite a short amount of time considering the hundreds of years of history that is encapsulated within the spiraling four walls of the building which also hosts the International Olympic Committee whenever they convene.

So, what can be taken away from today?
First and foremost today has confirmed to me that the Olympics can be a force for change and not only can they be, they should be for it is these principles and others like them upon which the modern Olympics are based. Equally it is clear that the Olympics past and present are full of contradictions. Avery Brundage, an American athlete and President of the IOC from 1952-1972 ,outlined his vision of the games;

“The Olympic Games must not be an end in itself, they must be a means of creating vast programme of physical education and sports competitions for all young people.”  Avery Brundage 

A vision which holds true to this day, we won the games in part because of the focus that was placed on the inclusion of young people. Yet Brundage was vehemently opposed to female competitors saying “I am fed up to the ears with women as track and field competitors… her charms sink to something less than zero.” 

Clearly two views which don’t tally up with each other in 2011 but the fact that the Olympic Museum , run by the IOC is perfectly happy to expose its own failings was a real breath of fresh air. In the same room as Usain Bolt’s 100m final jersey is an entire wall dedicated to the issue of doping and the games. To me this seems to be a clear message from the IOC to the countries it gives the games to; everybody makes mistakes, including the IOC and host countries, what’s important is that we face up to these mistakes whilst celebrating our triumphs. Sentiments that some would do well to take note of.

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On Wednesday last week the rest of the SMJ’s, some of the guys from A New Direction, Chris Skinner , Benji Lanyado and I were lucky enough to go on a tour of the Olympic park, private mini-bus and all! I had a flipcam with me, however the good old British weather and bumpy road surface combined led to some pretty shaky footage which I had assumed I wasn’t going to use. What I’m trying to say is that it’s no masterpiece but it gives a good feel of how far along the park is and some nice facts I picked up on during the tour which was narrated wonderfully by our tour guide Andy.


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Here at Headstart we’ve been busy and today I was lucky enough to interview Nathan Hanson, a fellow member of the Social Media group and a young athlete. We spoke about what he thinks should be done with the Olympic  Park after the worlds media, spectators and athletes have packed up and gone home.

An audio preview of the interview.

Nathan believes that the key part of the Parks’s and the Olympic legacy as a whole is making sure that the space is used  for community projects and sports.

For many Londoners, Nathan included, ensuring that the Olympics help to foster the talents of tomorrows as well as todays aspiring athletes for  many years to come is what will truly make the games a once in a lifetime event.


As you may have heard the Olympic Stadium is up for sale, with two bids for LOCOG to consider, one from Totenham Hotspur and the other from West Ham.

So, what are the issues?

  • West Ham say they ‘want to create a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use.’
  • Totenham Hotspur argue that their bid is more financially viable than that of West Ham’s who may face relegation this season.
  • Totenham’s bid involves reducing capacity to 80,000 , and removing the running track. Some say this runs counter to the comitments made by London of a strong legacy and space for athletes.
  • Totenham’s instead propose renovating crystal palace running facilities to ensure a legacy.
  • Finally Leyton Orient, an historic east London club have voiced their concerns over the effects of any club taking over after 2012, they say :

“The impact on Leyton Orient will be huge. The prospect of excess capacity leading to discounted tickets and the broader appeal of the floating fans of a more high-profile club threatens to swamp us.”

This map shows just how close Orient is to the Olympic Stadium.


As per Benji Lanyado’s helpful advice I am now going to try to make sure all my blog posts are as good-looking and well layed out as possible. To start a nice video showing just how much has already been built and prepared as of winter 2010, and also a reminder to get signed up for tickets.

A second expert of the blogosphere who has been working with the 10 of us is Charlie Tims who has dedicated a blog post to us and asked some really interesting questions which will certainly help with our own projects.

One of the questions Charlie brings up is ‘Where do all the clothes, building materials and sporting equipment come from? Do they have their own story?’

To my mind the answers to that question are perhaps far removed from the glossy, welcoming and classless ideals behind the Olympics, sure Usain Bolt’s shoes help him run quick but what about the people living below the poverty line in developing countries across the world who produced those and other’s fancy-footwear?

Sad really that those who to a large extent facilitate the games can’t even afford the privilege to watch it on a cheap television set let alone come to London in two years time.

 

About Me

As a part of a project with youth charity 'A New Direction' a group of young Londoners and I blog about the London Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012. Check out my twitter feed bellow and return here for updates on what ever Olympic or Paralympic issues have got me going each week!

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