Guest Article by Kimberley Beltgens, AIU London Manager of Retention and Campus Ombudsman.
This summer has been “the” summer to be in London. Starting off with the Queen’s Jubilee in June, followed shortly after with the Euro 2012 games; by the time the Olympics rolled around this July those living in London were almost comfortable with the idea of an influx of 1 million more visitors to the capital.
Speaking to colleagues, it seems that the staff at AIU London categorize their experiences under different headings. There’s the excited group; the ones who truly appreciate what a global event the Olympics is and feel lucky that it is taking place in London. These are the people who plan ahead, have gone through the ticketing system and have made a conscious effort to follow the Olympic flame around the city.
Academic Advisor Doris Chavez from Mexico noted, “I saw the flame at the concert in Hyde Park, bought tickets to the football game and watched the opening ceremony in Victoria Park! I have been really excited about the Olympics coming to London!”
Many others were wary about the impact the Olympics would have on the already overcrowded transport system. Head of Study Abroad Programs Cristian Vanegas admits that given his commute to work he had concerns about the transport. In the news and on the streets the slogans “Plan Ahead!” and “Interruptions Expected!” contributed to this perception and unease. Some decided to leave the city all together and book their holiday as the thought of having to take “hours” to commute to work was simply too much to bear!
However, in the early days of the Games, most of us have been pleasantly surprised. Careers Development Adviser Mandy Lovell commented, “The media gave a sense that the transport would be more hassle but so far it’s been fine.”
It seems the crowds led to frustration at events which were expected to be busy. Doris and Cristian both went to watch the opening ceremony in Victoria Park and found the experience less than enjoyable. From grouchy spectators to overcrowding to taking hours to get home, it tended to dampen the excitement they were expecting to get from attending the organized, free event.
In London and at our Campus we also have the cynical group, which I’m ashamed to say I belong to. In a strange way it’s the cynics that are becoming more positive as we get into the games and the excited folk who are becoming disappointed as they start to participate. The cynics were not looking forward to having to deal with more crowds on transport and moaned a little about the interruption it might cause in our lives. With the current state of the economy there was a bit of scepticism as to whether or not the city could pull off an event like the Olympics and do it well. Would it really benefit us in the end?
I couldn’t be bothered to watch the ceremony in the park, I opted to watch it on the couch with some Doritos, finding it that much more special that the event was happening not too far away. I’m sure I heard the Red Arrows precision flying team fly over my flat, which was kind of cool.
We sceptics often choose to cautiously admire the Games from a far and as the event progresses we slowly start to get into the positive atmosphere and buzz it has created in the city.
Blended Learning and Re-entry Coordinator Louise Liscott ,who is British, said, “It gives me a sense of pride to host such a global event.” In describing the Opening Ceremony she says she “liked the eccentricity and quirky side of Brits which was shown, it shows our sense of humour and that we are able to poke fun at ourselves despite the global audience.”
In general everyone has been pretty positive about the opening ceremony, describing it at as being “very British, a bit random at times (I’m not sure people outside of Britain understood the storyline…)” and with a big thumbs up for the scene with the Queen jumping out of the plane with James Bond - an unexpected and welcome surprise from the British Royal icon!
Overall everyone seems to have welcomed and embraced the games and the expected chaos really isn’t as bad as expected. Granted there have been some Olympic bloopers already, I guess what the London 2012 Olympics shows is that nobody’s perfect, the British have a good sense of humour and we all just need to take things as they come or as they say here: Keep Calm and Carry On!