chapter  1
17 Pages

Lording it: London and the getting of the Games: Alan Tomlinson


In 2012 London will become the only city to have staged the Summer Olympic Games more than twice (the so-called interim Games in Athens in 1906 are largely dismissed from recognised and authoritative records of the Games). For much of the 2012 bidding process up to July 2005, it seemed that Paris would win the race to be a three-times host, especially as its two previous Games were in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in 1900 and 1924. Athens, arrogantly and incorrectly assuming a sentimental vote for the centenary 1996 event, eventually hosted its second Games in 2004, and thereby helped precipitate its country’s economic crisis. Los Angeles, with a half century between its 1932 and 1984 events, is the only other city to have held the Summer Games twice. Others have tried including Tokyo and Berlin. Some major cities have sought the Games but without success: New York, Istanbul, Madrid. The latter, along with Chicago and Tokyo, lost out in the final bidding round for the 2016 Games, awarded in October 2009 to Rio de Janeiro. Much has changed since Los Angeles laid down its ultimatum to the IOC for the 1984 Games, effectively rewriting the rules of engagement for any host city, allowing levels of commercialisation of the event not previously seen: the sponsoring of the Olympic torch relay being one particularly controversial initiative. And since then, television rights, sponsorship programmes, and the attraction of hosting an event claimed to deliver the world’s largest-ever television audience have sustained the Olympics through crises of corruption (by officials and administration), cheating (the use of banned drugs for performance-enhancement), and economic volatility. It is remarkable that, for all these problems, the Olympics continues to stimulate bidding wars. What draws cities, states, and corporate allies in to this dynamic and towards this aspira-

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consideration in this chapter of London’s successful bid for 2012, and the wider mechanics of the bidding process. As a prelude to this it is illuminating, for the purposes of comparison, to reflect on the city’s previous Summer Olympics.