It’s hard to believe 17 days of the world’s greatest sporting event have come and gone. The 2012 London Olympic Games set new world records and provided iconic historical moments. One billion people watched an opening ceremony that wove together moments from Shakespeare, the Industrial Revolution and James Bond. This was a moment where my countrymen took pride in their history and demonstrated confidence about their future.
As British Consul General in Florida, I had a unique insight into the impact of the Olympic Games on the United Kingdom and South Florida. Since the beginning of 2012, my team and I have been actively promoting the Games across Florida. This ranged from the British Olympic sailing team (trained in Miami) hosting a fundraiser for Miami’s Shake-A-Leg Foundation, to British Olympian Lennox Lewis leading 100 cyclists on Ocean Drive marking 100 days to the Games and my throwing an opening pitch in the new Miami Marlins stadium to mark the 75-day countdown. For the record, I got it over home plate!
But as the post-Olympic hangover fades and we prepare for what will be an equally fantastic Paralympics Games, what are the shared memories? Here are my top five.
• Modern Britain delivered in and outside the Games. OK, there were the inevitable pre-match nerves about the glorious British summer and a private contractor’s failure to deliver its quota of security personnel. But the modern, environmentally sustainable events facilities were completed on time and within budget, and British forces filled the security gap magnificently while an army of unpaid volunteers made sure things ran smoothly.
On the field of play, we saw the best of British diversity. Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah — who came to Britain at age 9 from Somalia — became the poster girl and boy as the United Kingdom won 29 gold medals, third behind the United States and China.
• These were the women’s games. Pick your statistic. This was the first Olympics where every team had a female competitor, including those from Saudi Arabia and Iran. Forty-four percent of the United Kingdom’s gold medals were won by women. Fifty-six percent of U.S. medals were won by women. The U.S. women’s basketball, soccer and 100-meter relay teams trounced all before them. These women changed the Olympic movement forever, living up to London 2012’s motto to “inspire a generation” and set the standards for Rio 2016.
• These were the social-media games, too. Sure . . . worldwide broadcast media captured the ceremonies and helped create shared experiences during peak viewing times. But athletes set the pace on and off the field as their tweets, memes and pokes meant they connected directly with their followers at the “Twitter Games.”
• Florida should be proud of its athletes. If Florida were independent, it would have ranked fifth in the Olympic-medal table of total medals won. Floridians (born or based here) brought home 32 medals, including 18 gold. Florida’s gold medalists included LeBron James, Venus and Serena Williams and UM alumni Lauryn Williams, who won gold in the women’s 4 x 100 meter relay, as well as Sylvia Fowles (from Coconut Grove) on the women’s NBA team. Congratulations also go to Amy Deem from the University of Miami who coached the U.S. women’s track-and-field team to 14 medals and who will be looking to repeat that success with the Hurricanes track-and-field team.
• My fifth and final thought: I was asked earlier this year whether Miami and South Florida, host of Super Bowls and World Series, could host a Summer Olympics. The summer heat aside, my reaction was, Why not? South Florida has excellent transport links, superb sporting facilities that include three stadiums, the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex, sailing offshore and equestrian centers in Palm Beach to name a few. Whether South Florida has the money or the stomach for the bid is another matter, but if Atlanta could do it, then why not Florida?
Kevin McGurgan is the British consul general for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.