Daily Archives: August 6, 2012

Whilst ancedotes about Olympic fever are two a penny at the moment, do we actually have any evidence about how interested people are? Well these power demand charts, courtesy of the National Grid, perhaps offer one rough and ready way of looking at how engaged the stay at home audience has been at key points.

Firstly, of all the highest TV audience to date – the opening ceremony. The annotations on the charts are from analysts at the National Grid.

The pink line shows electricity demand for the equivalent Friday a year ago, and the blue line the actual demand during the opening ceremony – which drew an average of 22.4m viewers, the highest since 1998, and a peak audience at 9.45pm of 26.9m.

On it you can clearly see the suppression of electricity demand for key parts of the ceremony, and then above trend (demand excess) usage as the evening wore on.

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Gideon Rachman

Here in Britain there have been a few grumbles about the partisan coverage the BBC is giving to the Olympics, with an obsessive focus on Britain’s position in the medals table and on local athletes. But I’m told that it is little different in other countries. Every nation focuses on its own athletes. As a result, every country is watching a different Olympics.

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A private jet, and a limo… Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

Ahead of the Olympics, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority was expecting upwards of 10,000 flights by general aviation aircraft – that is, anything from hang gliders to transatlantic private jets – during the busy games period.

The authorities prepared by asking ACL, the country’s co-ordinator of airport take-off and landing slots, to take management of 40 air fields in the south-east of England (some critics argued this was going overboard). And they demanded that people entering the games’ restricted airspace on private aircraft receive security clearance before take-off.

But the numbers so far suggest any influx of Olympic private flyers is merely making up for others avoiding London. ACL reports that 7,400 of the general aviation slots have been booked for the period between July 21st and August 15th – just a few hundred more movements than in a normal year.

“It’s looking busy but manageable,” says a spokesman for the CAA.

Darren Grover, chief operating officer at London City Airport, has seen the trend on the ground. The airport lies just four miles from the Olympic park and within a few javelin throws of the ExCel Centre, where, Mr Grover points out, Team GB has won many  of its medals. (ExCel hosts boxing, judo, wrestling, fencing, taekwondo, weightlifting and table tennis.) Read more

How far should we go to develop top athletes? Is it worth so much that a special “Olympic class” of people should be cultivated from a young age?

It seems that this has already happened in many competing nations. It reminds us of the strategy employed by District 2 in the The Hunger Games.

For those not familiar with this particular work of fiction, it tells the story of an entirely more violent set of games that involve a fight to the death by a bunch of teenagers (some even younger).

From each of 12 districts in the nation of Panem two kids are selected to do battle in a sci-fi version of a gladiatorial ring until only one remains and is proclaimed the winner by virtue of still being alive.

The “tributes”, as the teens are so-called, are mostly selected randomly. However, we are told that District 2 has “career tributes” who are entered into special academies at a young age. They then get to the ripe old age of 18 — at which point they are expected to volunteer themselves for the Hunger Games. Districts 1 and 4 have also been known to engage in this strategy, and all three districts that do this are wealthier than the other 9 districts.

This strategy, of having a specialist warrior class, makes tributes from these districts particularly successful at the games. (It also means that the rest of the kids in those districts don’t have to risk being selected by random draw.)

Our own distinctly real Olympic Games is gracefully free of such gratuitous violence. Instead, our Games represent to us sporting achievement in the context of universal ideals. Nations are brought together by them in celebration of values we share. Read more