Olympics: 10 reasons this will be the best Games ever

Reigning Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt will face huge competition at the London Olympics from compatriot Yohan Blake.
Reigning Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt will face huge competition at the London Olympics from compatriot Yohan Blake.

Ah, yes, the Olympics - quadrennial sports jamboree nonpareil. They always get bigger, but do they always get better? London organisers have put everything in place, now they wait for Jacques Rogge to proclaim it the "Greatest Games ever'' at the closing ceremony. Some, like the organisers of the crassly commercial Atlanta Games, wait in vain. Here's 10 reasons the Herald sports team think London will do the business.

1. Opening ceremony

Every opening ceremony is better than the one before. When in doubt, simply copy the previous one and add four more sky rockets and hey presto, you have a better opening ceremony. The pressure is on England. The last really big sporting extravaganza for England - apart from the Beckhams going to the supermarket during the late 1990s - was soccer's 1966 World Cup when placards were all the rage. But we've got two words to say to anyone doubting England's ability to give the Games a cracking start: Duran Duran.

2. Bolt from the blue

If you expected Usain Bolt to stroll, in that fabulously languid style of his, to repeat 100m and 200m golds, you were not alone. Suddenly compatriot Yohan Blake turns up and starts stealing the show. The shootout between the two Jamaicans promises to be the highlight of the track and field programme and possibly of the entire Games. Bring it on.

3. NZ on the rise

Nobody's making any promises these days - a wildly optimistic guess at a medal tally at Melbourne 2006 Comm Games and the resultant fall-out put paid to that - but there is genuine hope that New Zealand could come away with a bountiful haul. Maybe even as many as 12 medals. We will not list all the hopes here, suffice to say that Valerie Adams and the men's rowing pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray will figure high in that thinking. The 10th medal would be New Zealand's 100th at the Olympics, a chance for some contrived bat-raising ceremony and, to this nation's great embarrassment, another Dave Currie haka.

4. The ties that bind

They may not be as tight as they were 50-odd years ago, but they're still undeniably there. It comes through when you talk to the people about this country. There is genuine affection, even if some still think of it more as the furthest away colonial outpost. New Zealanders tend to find themselves more at home in London than most other parts of the globe. So those going to the Games will enjoy it. Hint: don't get upset when black cab drivers ask if you're South African. You may think they'll automatically assume you're from the wide brown land. Not so.

5. The sound track in your head

It's been a couple of dry Games on the soundtrack front. Nana Mouskouri and Yanni achieved some cut-through, but Sa Dingding has few fans outside China. London though, there's only about a million songs you could plug into your iPod that scream out London. There's Clash's anthem, London Calling, The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset, the Small Faces' Itchycoo Park and Lily Allen's LDN to bop along to. If you want something slightly darker, the The Jam's Down in the Tube Station at Midnight and A Bomb in Wardour Street, plus Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London should do the trick.

6. Duel in the pool

Every decent Games needs a decent splashdown and the battle of the Yanks - Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps - in the individual medleys should be a cracker. It's far more interesting, to these eyes anyway, than Phelps' chase of eight medals in Beijing, a quest that just served to demonstrate that there are far too many medals handed out at the pool.

7. Jolly good show

Expect to see a million Union Jack flags fluttering at all venues. Okay, maybe not the handball. They're a proud lot, and these are "their" Games. So they'll exhibit a pile of national pride in all success British. However, they won't have the boorish aspect of the Australians, the puke-inducing jingoism of the Americans in Atlanta or the artificiality of the Chinese. But they will also cheer for others who capture the imagination. Should Nick Willis be surging towards the front of the field 300m from home in the 1500m final, youcan be sure the crowd will do their best to roar him home.

8. Mad Boris

He may look like a mad professor or the sort of bloke who sat at the back of the room and stuck whoopee cushions beneath unsuspecting classmates, but Boris Johnson certainly gives London colour. He's already conceded "things will go wrong" with transport around the Games and evoked laughter from the press when saying that the story of an athlete being taken on a unscheduled, circuitous four-hour journey round the London gave him aterrific opportunity to "see this fine city". He also described the shambles surrounding the security numbers as "pre-curtain-up jitters". The word most commonly used to describe the white-haired 48-year-old Old Etonian is colourful. No argument here. The Games will be the better for having him popping up making pronouncements on all manner of matters.

9. British tabloids

Never far from the action and they'll be tripping over each other for the next big scoop and liven up proceedings. Put it this way - the Brits are more proactivethan your average Chinese tabloid. There's no such thing as a slow news day when the British chequebook wavers are about, even if they aren't supposed to fiddle with phones anymore. Early prediction: a masquerading reporter will sneak past the security measures leading to a terror headline.

10. Venues

Apart from the road race finishing at the foot of the plastic part of the Great Wall of China, Beijing organisers paid little interest in giving the world a sense of the city. Instead, we were left to gape in awe at some of the most intriguing sports structures ever built - the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. London's new stadia look more utilitarian by nature but organisers have worked one of the planet's great cities into the programme nicely.

The road race will finish on The Mall. The beach volleyballers will strut their wares at the back of Downing St, the equestrian will take in Greenwich, the rowers Windsor and, most intriguingly of all, the archers will take over Lord's (the cricket ground, not the Upper House).

- NZ Herald

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