Charles Garrett

British Ambassador to Macedonia

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

17th August 2016 Skopje, North Macedonia

London 2012 Revisited

For me, most of August and September will be one massive nostalgia trip.

Seven years ago I packed my bags and left the Foreign Office to join the team organising London 2012.  I spent three years there on secondment as Head of International Relations.  And then from July to September we put on the best Olympic and Paralympic Games the world had ever seen.

Every Games has its own character.  But they are all, in one way or another, spectacular.   The Rio Games are proving to be quite different from London 2012.  It is clear that they have wowed the world in their own unique way.

But watching them unfold has brought the memories flooding back.  The competition in 2012 brought amazing moments, some of which – despite working 18-hour days 7/7 – I saw at first hand.  My favourite (and it’s tough to pick just one out) was Great Britain’s victory over Australia in the track cycling men’s pursuit final.  The velodrome was an extraordinary venue, beautiful in design, with seating close enough to touch the athletes, and with a roof that kept the noise in and amplified it massively.  The spectators’ roar, as the cyclists swept round the track, echoes in my head today.

Londoners remember how their city became a completely different place for a few weeks that summer.  There was a new sense of openness as complete strangers shared their excitement or helped others out.  The atmosphere in the Olympic Park, especially during the Paralympics which set new standards for inclusiveness, was fantastic.

But it is not just memories of Games-time that are coming back.  I have great memories of my time organising London 2012.  An Organising Committee is an extraordinary place to work, not just because of the excitement of the project, not just because of the unusual focus brought by having to deliver something perfect and on time with half the world watching you.  The most striking thing, for me, was the diversity of the workforce.  The project is so immense, and so complex, that you need to assemble a team with an almost infinite number of skills and backgrounds – from specialists in race timing, through artistic directors, to crowd management specialists.  On top of this, the Olympic caravan, moving from host city to host city, picks up a wide range of different nationalities among its experts.  The team I led, 170-strong by Games-time with 6000 volunteers, included 37 different nationalities.

This all left a powerful legacy in London of expertise in sports organisation and management.  And on the back of that, British businesses have been involved like never before in events from the Baku 2015 European Games to Rio 2016 itself.   And just as Athens supported Beijing and Beijing supported London, so we have been doing what we can to support the organisers in Rio.

Enjoy the Games – there is a lot more to come!