Monthly Archives: July 2012

Helen Warrell

Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Boris Johnson probably put it best when he said this morning that the geiger-counter of Olympo-mania was “creeping towards the red zone”. The UK is abuzz and senior politicians – already relieved that the Olympics are finally distracting from Britain’s economic woes – have entered fully into the manic spirit.

First off, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt provided some unexpected entertainment when he waved a hand bell rather too enthusiastically during the “all the bells” celebration on HMS Belfast to mark the start of the games. The bell flew off its handle, narrowly missing the crowds on deck. “Oh, oh dear! Are you all right? Health and safety!”, Mr Hunt cried, in a very British way. He later recovered enough to laugh off the incident with a humour rare among politicians who have suffered televised mishap. “I was ringing a bell in a very excited way and the bell actually collapsed in my hand and went flying off,” he told the BBC. “It was a clanger, if you’ll forgive the awful pun.” Read more >>

Will there be enough food – and staff – to serve the hordes of spectators at the Olympic stadium? Mark Wembridge gives his view Read more >>

Jacques Rogge (L) arrives with Princess Anne at the Opening Ceremony of the IOC at the Royal Opera House on July 23. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

With a goodly number of crown princes, princesses, sheikhs and counts in its ranks, the International Olympic Committee is not a club inclined to cut corners.

The presence in London of the 109 IOC members, led by president Jacques Rogge, is quickly coming under the kind of scrutiny they presumably knew they were in for seven years ago when they decided, narrowly, to stage the 2012 Olympics in London rather than Paris.

The grandeur of their five-star residence in the Park Lane Hilton, complete with security cordon, set the tone for the criticism they can probably expect to encounter on a regular basis during the games. Read more >>

The Javelin train (and Boris) (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Journalists are a cynical bunch the world over it would seem, or at least Down Under. The Australian press pack have spotted what they claim is the Achilles heel in the much-maligned Olympic transport plan and one of their veteran sports reporters, who has just turned up in London to cover his third Olympic Games, felt obliged to inform the FT’s transport correspondent of the problem.

The issue is not apparently with one of the underground lines to the Olympic Park at Stratford, which have had their share of problems in the build-up to the opening ceremony later on Friday. Nah mate, it’s the flagship high-speed Javelin train, the newest, shiniest and quickest way to get to to Stratford. Running a shuttle service every six minutes during the Games from the gleaming spires of St Pancras station in north London this smooth, air conditioned seven minutes ride is a far cry from the hot, oppressive and not always very reliable trains on the Tube. Read more >>

Esther Bintliff

A torch from the 1948 London Olympics (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The great day has arrived: 12 hours to go until the opening ceremony begins! To help you cope with the wait, here’s our roundup of some of the best Olympics coverage – and the highlights of the schedule today.

1) Simon Kuper says the Olympic legacy for London “won’t be economic stimulus, or a mass post-games take-up of synchronised swimming, but something less tangible: a feeling of togetherness, a new London identity”.

2) The opening ceremony is a “peculiar manifestation of geopolitical machismo” writes Matthew Engel, comparing the event’s inevitable rituals to those of the Catholic church. “Thankfully, the doves are now released after the flame is lit, not before, following the incineration of several birds at the 1988 games in Seoul,” he adds. Read more >>

At a final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night for London’s opening ceremony – the vision of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting director Danny Boyle – some 50,000 ticket holders, which included myself in the nose-bleed seats, were presented with a uniquely British affair.

Without wishing to divulge the plot more than has already been revealed publicly, the spectacle traces the Britain’s history through a pastiche of dance, song, film, literature and audience interaction. Read more >>

Martin Stabe

Over the next two weeks, the Olympic “medal table”, ranking nations according to the number of gold, silver and bronze medals their athletes have collected in London will be widely reported.

But there will be few surprises: The United States, China and Russia will almost certainly top the table, followed by the smaller wealthy countries. Great Britain will most likely fare better than usual, because the host nation usually does.

Population, GDP per capita, past performance and “home advantage” appear to have a strong relationship to nations’ Olympic success, a common-sense observation that has long been demonstrated by social science.

Substantial academic literature, stretching back to the 1950s, has been produced by economists, sociologists and political scientists using statistical techniques to relate nations’ macroeconomic conditions to their Olympic performance, and forecasting upcoming games.

Typically, these take the form of regression analyses that use historical macroeconomic data as independent variables to account for participating countries’ medal share at the Olympics.

During the London games, the FT will use three such models as a benchmark to rank our medal table according to teams’ ability to outperform models that account for their size, wealth and other socioeconomic factors:


Esther Bintliff

FT staff have been sending in pictures from around London today. Here are a few of our favourites…

Mark Wembridge took this beautiful panorama photo of the Olympic stadium last night:

This was snapped by Madison Marriage, as an Olympics torchbearer passed by on Great Guildford Street at about 10am on Thursday: Read more >>

James Blitz

The Olympics offer a chance for a deeper debate in the UK over how the Army can be used in homeland resilience, says James Blitz Read more >>

Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Thursday July 26 has been billed as Heathrow airport’s busiest day ever, but it may not turn out that way.

For months, BAA, Heathrow’s operator, had forecast that a record 244,000 passengers would pass through the airport, with numbers swelled by those converging on London for the Olympic games.

But on Thursday BAA cut its forecast to 227,000 arriving and departing passengers, which means July 26 would not beat the previous record of 234,000 set in July last year. Read more >>

Helen Warrell

Following the furore last night over the North Korean football team being mistakenly listed alongside a South Korean flag, reports of a new Olympic diplomatic incident emerged on Thursday.

A middle distance runner, believed to be of African origin, apparently handed himself in to a police station in Leeds yesterday to claim political asylum. While the UK Border Agency is remaining tight-lipped about the affair – and points out that it never comments on individual cases – government officials confirmed that the sportsman had claimed he was being persecuted in his home country. Read more >>

The editor of FT Weekend, Caroline Daniel, came across this handmade sign in a London cab earlier this week. It serves as a nice illustration of Hannah Kuchler’s story from today’s newspaper, from which: Read more >>

Hannah Kuchler

Paralympic medalist Ade Adepitan, (L), lights the torch of the next bearer, a South London school girl

The Olympic torch whizzed across London’s once-wobbly Millenium bridge on Thurdsay morning, carried by Paralympic medallist Ade Adepitan who moved so fast, he had to reverse to give the photographers their shot.

Office workers – who had been worrying about being late to work – joined with school kids on their summer holidays to screech and squeal as the flame made the journey between two of the capital’s most famous landmarks: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern.

The torch has traveled through more than a thousand villages and towns across the four nations of the United Kingdom and will have journeyed for 70 days when it reaches the Olympic stadium on Friday. Read more >>

Esther Bintliff

'Wenlock' , chilling out by the Thames. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/GettyImages

Every day on the blog we’ll be aiming to get you limbered up for the day ahead with a series of links to some of the best Olympics coverage from the FT and elsewhere. We’ll also give you a heads up on the main fixtures on the schedule. On your marks…

1) It’s not exactly the ideal start to your Olympics: a team walking off the pitch in disgust. But that’s what happened last night, writes Matthew Engel, as the North Korean women’s football team were welcomed to the Glasgow pitch with their names on an electronic screen … next to the South Korean flag. Oops. “It is staggering that on Day One there should be a faux pas at the expense of the most prickly, paranoid nation on earth”, Matthew notes. Read the news story hereRead more >>

Tom Burgis

The Olympic Games has barely begun but already Usain Bolt has been disqualified.

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Virgin broadband advert featuring the fastest man on Earth impersonating the Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson was misleading. The company has told the authorities it would not be showing the advert again. Read more >>

London 2012 supremo Lord Coe opened a can of worms recently with a warning that anyone seeking to enter an Olympic venue wearing a Pepsi t-shirt could be turned away on the grounds that rival Coca Cola is the games’ official sponsor.

But can an advert for an egg-and-spoon race contravene the Olympics’ strict rules on branding and constitute ambush marketing? Yes, according to London’s Olympic organising committee (Locog). Read more >>

Eighty-one proud Indian athletes will limber up for London 2012’s opening ceremony this Friday, the country’s biggest ever contingent. Each will have their eyes on individual successes. But some may have a larger prize in mind: losing, finally, their country’s place atop the podium of global sporting underachievement.

India’s is a uniquely inept record. It boasts only 20 medals from more than a century of participation, more than half in field hockey. In only two other disciplines – athletics and wrestling – has an Indian graced the winner’s rostrum more than once. Athens 2004 produced just a single silver, in double trap shooting.


I snapped this from a flat near the Olympic Park during a rehearsal for the opening ceremony, which my friends attended. The contents of the show are supposed to be shrouded in secrecy ahead of Friday’s extravaganza, so I’m going to stick to the #savethesurprise mantra.

For background: here are some of the already-known details about the opening ceremony, but Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning film director who is the mastermind of the show, appealed to the audience to keep the secret going until Friday night, so I won’t give anything more away from inside the stadium. Read more >>

Just published on our Business blog: 

There’s a tantalising glimpse of Oliver O’Brien’s wonderful interactive map of London (and the UK) in Tuesday’s FT. The map is in the style of the great Charles Booth, who researched London poverty 120 years ago and displayed it cartographically. Our analysis contains the sobering observation by Mr O’Brien that “London’s mix of rich and poor changes dramatically from street to street. But what you see even 120 years after Booth is that many of the patterns remain the same”.

Visitors to the Olympic Games may want to take a look at the map before heading for the Olympic park to gain a little socio-economic perspective amid the glitz and hoop-la. As my colleagues James Pickford and Chris Giles write in their analysis:


Just published from Material World:

Yesterday the relaxation of the UK’s Sunday trading laws during Olympic season (aka until sept 9) went into effect. Now stores can stay open AS LONG AS THEY WANT (OMG! OMG!). Already, in retail circles gigantic revenue boosts are being predicted. In my circle, however, which admittedly, is a circle of one and thus possibly non-representative, the news was met by a raised eyebrow.

I just can’t quite see how the Olympics, or Olympic fever, or whatever you want to call the emotion that is gripping London (and as far as I can tell, many people call it misery), will lead to a great surge in consumption of handbags, and denim, and all the other stuff that, say, Westfield Mall, one of the proponents of the extended hours and one that is about as far away from the Olympic stadiums as is possible while still being within city limits, say they expect.