Alex Chick

London is ready: let the Games begin

Alex Chick

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Thank you, Mitt Romney.

Whatever the US presidential candidate goes on to achieve in his political career, his place in British folklore is secure.

With his criticism of London 2012 yesterday, Romney carved out a historical niche as the man who united Britain behind the Olympics.

After weeks of outrage about the lack of security personnel, and fears of immigration staff going on strike, Romney incurred our wrath by voicing exactly the same concerns.

His sentiment, "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out," will have been uttered at some point by virtually every Briton, probably using much less delicate language.

So why the backlash?

Romney made the classic mistake when it comes to Brits. We are simultaneously self-loathing and fiercely proud.

Just because we slag ourselves off, it doesn't mean you can do it. Not when you're a guest in our country, and especially not when you're talking to your own TV channels.

It's like writing a bitchy postcard home and then letting the girl on hotel reception see it.

Putting discourteous Americans in their place is, of course, shooting fish in a barrel. But what fish, and what a barrel.

David Cameron hit back with a nice zinger aimed at Romney's involvement in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, pointing out: "It's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."

By the end of yesterday, Romney's name was dragged through the Hyde Park mud as London Mayor Boris Johnson trashed him in front of 60,000 people.

Using a device straight out of professional wrestling, BoJo hooted: "There's a guy called... MITT ROMNEY!"

Boooooooooo!!!!!

"He wants to know if we're ready!"

Boooooooooo!!!!

"ARE WE READY?"

Yeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!

And we should be ready. It has been quite a seven years since London pipped Paris in Singapore.

A day after winning the bid process, the capital lived through the horror of 7/7; since then we have had the more prosaic concerns of spiralling budgets, ticketing fiascos, travel chaos and G4S's disappearing workforce.

Walking around the Olympic Park, you cannot help but marvel at the scale of the achievement. It is a massive place containing seven fine sporting venues.

Yes, it's a bit sterile. Yes, the airport-style security is a bore. Yes, it's got a McDonald's the size of an aircraft hangar. Yes, there will no doubt be countless cock-ups over the next fortnight.

But we have built it from scratch and it is basically fantastic. It's amazing what £9bn buys you.

As I type, an angry mob is gathering outside Lord's having been denied entry to the archery ranking round. This sort of thing is going to happen.

Negative stories have their place, but we should enjoy having the Olympics in our country. For most of us, it really will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We have spent enough time and money on the thing - the least we can do is have fun.

These Games mark the culmination of years of preparation for athletes as well as organisers.

The BOA seems quietly confident - most independent estimates say the official target of 48 medals seriously lowballs the British team's potential.

Stats gurus Infostrada project 68 medals, while other surveys place the expected tally as high as 95.

Whether Britain ends up with 40, 70 or 100 medals, it marks the continuation of an astonishing turnaround for those of us who remember the 1990s.

Failure and underachievement were a way of life, which reached a humiliating nadir at Atlanta in 1996 when Britain returned home with a solitary gold medal.

Back then, Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent's determination and attention to detail was the exception. Now it is the rule.

Nobody can guarantee sporting success, but more British competitors than ever can be satisfied that they have given themselves the best possible chance of getting on the podium.

We are ready.

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Alex Chick will be writing about the Olympics throughout London 2012.

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