All eyes on London: how the world saw 2012

Elizabeth Fournier
“For a fortnight, a stiff upper lip curls into a smile,” declared the New York Times, hailing the feelgood atmosphere of London 2012 as a surprising change of pace from the usually reserved Brits. From the “properly spectacular and deeply, ironically and absurdly British” spectacle of the opening ceremony to the first super Saturday when “the whole of Britain seemed nearly to come unglued,” the US press has been more than happy to jump firmly on the London 2012 bandwagon, with one Washington Post journalist even declaring: “I like to be on the winning side, and the winning side in this Olympics is British.”

The Chinese media was also surprised by Britain’s newfound ability for joy and national pride. “The majesty and the misery is what we have come to expect from the British,” said the South China Morning Post. “For 17 days, though, in the summer of 2012, it was far more majesty then misery.” The People’s Daily was less fawning though, raising concerns of an anti-Chinese bias from both crowds and judges that “is hard to explain as inadvertent missteps – it might be closer to the truth to see it as deliberate attacking and interference”.

The Sydney Herald’s “Oz vs Them-o-meter” may have looked badly judged as Team GB’s medal count rose, but the Aussies were generous in defeat: “London, you didn’t half do a decent job,” said the Sydney Morning Herald. “These Olympics had Sydney’s vibrancy, Athens’s panache, Beijing’s efficiency, and added British know-how and drollery.” Though one tabloid may have created an AusZealand medal table in protest at Team GB’s component countries, overall Australia was caught in the “incandescent glow over London today”.

After the “special and uniquely British demonstration of the Olympic spirit” that was the opening ceremony, it was down to business for the Danes, with the Copenhagen Post declaring “sea wars” on Team GB sailing legend Ben Ainslie as he took to the water to challenge rival Jonas Hoegh Christensen. Though it was silver for Denmark in Weymouth, Lasse Norman Hansen was the national hero after breaking Team GB’s domination of the velodrome and taking home gold in the Omnium. The country’s Crown Prince Frederik, meanwhile, floated the idea of a Games hosted jointly by Denmark, Sweden and Norway as a potential future bid.

“Mavic wheels or magic wheels?” asked L’Equipe, the day after Team GB cycling coach Dave Brailsford joked that “there’s no secret about our wheels: they’re round”. Cycling rivalry aside, Libération was impressed with London’s “carnival” spirit and the “wave of euphoria” in the capital. It was, however, less enamoured with Dutch domination of the beer supply – “Do not bother to look for a good English ale or lager, there is none” – possibly the first time the French have ever expressed a fondness for British cuisine.