With the Olympics now in the rear-view mirror, London can now breathe a sigh of relief. Having the whole world watch your city and your citizens for two weeks can be nerve wracking. In typical English fashion, they prepared for and expected the worst. What London, and the rest of the world got was nothing but the best.
London has always been heralded as a world-class city, but its history certainly has some bumps in the road. When people think of the social ills that plague cities and the perception that cities are overcrowded, dirty, and polluted – Industrial Age London is the basis for their arguments. However, many advancements in construction, medicine, and technology have also made since then. London’s once dark and dreary past has been transformed into a bright future that has something for everyone and is welcoming to anyone.
Having spent some time there a few years ago I couldn’t believe how clean it was for a city of that magnitude. I also couldn’t believe how easy it was to get around. The Underground made every point in the city easily accessible. Watching the marathon being run around the city yesterday on television, I am still amazed at how the old blends seamlessly with the new. They didn’t run past seas of parking lots, but landmark after landmark and beautiful building after beautiful building.
If we are handing out medals for urbanism, London gets the gold. The worrisome Brits may have upped the level of expectations for future games. The BBC mockumentary Twenty Twelve was a funny look at what could have been from traffic patterns, self-inflicted chaos, and other awkward moments. While I’m sure there were heated debates, things that didn’t go accordingly, and maybe some behind the scenes drama in real life, what the world got to see was the showings of a great host.
Hopefully other cities around the world took note. I hope that they don’t try to take this or that from their success, but understand how it all works together and why it works as a whole. London has come a long way to remedy what was wrong with itself. Only time will tell if others can become winners.