London's Olympic party will not end after the Games, says leading academic
14 August 2012
Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva claims the UK did not take the Olympic Games to its heart but University of Liverpool Sociology lecturer Beatriz Garcia has refuted the claim, saying London's existing culture has helped to deliver a hugely successful Olympic Games. How do you think the host city and nation did?
The Olympic rings have set up residence on one of London's most iconic bridges and events have taken place at some of the capital's most recognised landmarks, but one Russian athlete made headlines during the Games by claiming that London had failed to embrace the Olympic Games.
Yelena Isinbayeva, the double Olympic champion who took bronze in London, told Russian media: "If you leave the Olympic village, you get the impression that nothing is happening.
"Many people (in London) do not understand what the Olympic Games are and whether they are held in their city."
However, one leading academic and Podium Games Expert says that the fact that London didn't feel the need to go overboard in its celebrations of the Olympics is testament to its existing culture.
Beatriz Garcia is a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool, and specialises in the cultural side of the Olympic Games.
She says: "An IOC representative told me that for him, London has welcomed the Games, but not been taken over by them. In contrast with previous hosts which have become a distinct Olympic entity, in London, the special Olympic feel has operated in parallel to life as usual.
"What this tells us about London as an Olympic city could be interpreted in many ways. In my view, it is proof that London owns some of the essential Olympic party ingredients as part of its core fabric; the ethnic diversity, the non-stop multicultural festival vibe, and such a wide range of cultures."
Garcia believes that London's history and multicultural reputation have given these Games a unique feel.
"The world has come to the oldest world city this summer," she says. "London is the first large multicultural city and global trend setter to host the Games since Los Angeles in 1984 and this has given a particular feel to the Olympic fortnight compared with previous decades."
It is a vibe, says Garcia, that has been added to by the number of Cultural Olympiad projects which are running alongside both the Olympics and Paralympics.
The culmination of the four-year Olympiad is the London 2012 Festival, which will include youth-led projects focusing on art, international collaboration and the cementing of an Olympic legacy in all regions of the UK.
Garcia explains: "Not all Olympic visitors will have been aware of these nuances, but they will have appreciated that the clash and merging of cultures is not something limited to the sporting arenas but rather a continuum of London life."
The project is also determined to continue the party throughout the Paralympics and beyond, and Garcia believes that London provides the perfect backdrop for that to happen.
"The Olympics are just finishing, but we have the Paralympic Games to come and perhaps local and international visitors alike will notice more the distinct emphasis of London's cultural programming at that time.
"In the meantime and for the years to come, I doubt that London will be marked by the feeling of 'loss' that has affected so many previous host cities immediately after their Games," she adds.
"The party never stops in London, the tube is never quiet, the bunting is forever popular and the people in the streets are world representatives."
Garcia's work on the impact and legacy of hosting the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival will be published in 2013. Her book, 'Olympic Games and Cultural Policy', is out now.
By Carly Baldwin
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