As the American daughter of a Northern Irishwoman working at the British Embassy, I didn’t find it easy to decide whom to cheer for during the London Olympics and Paralympics. But I had no difficulty in cheering on the Games themselves.
I started working at the Embassy in July, weeks before the exciting London 2012 Opening Ceremonies. For years, my colleagues had been working hard at promoting the London Olympic Games in the US. I was stepping in right at crunch time.
I had thought a lot about what would make the games GREAT. Mostly, I hoped that Americans would see London the same way that I had seen it during my many trips there as a modern, vibrant, diverse city with a lot to offer.
The Opening Ceremonies amplified that impression, as well as sharing the history, tradition and splendour that London and the UK are known for.
The Games were more successful than I could have imagined. My friends and I gathered around our televisions in the evening to watch the matches and competitions we’d read about online earlier that day. Even if we’d already learned earlier in the day who was going to take home the gold, the spectacle was worth watching.
Worldwide, the Olympic and Paralympic Games attracted about a billion viewers. More than 219 million Americans tuned in, making London 2012 the most watched event in US television history. As I expected, the Olympic Games benefited London as a whole as well. Sales went up over sixteen percent on Oxford, Bond and Regent Streets, while hotel occupancy, like attendance at London’s famous West End theatres, was high.
The Games couldn’t have gone more smoothly, with transport running efficiently throughout both events. And British and American athletes fared extremely well in competition – breaking medal records as they brought together fans of summer sport.
Now, in the warm afterglow of London 2012, the world’s eyes are turning to Rio 2016. Since Rio de Janiero was chosen, back in 2009, to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the two cities have been working in partnership and sharing knowledge and experiences. A highlight of this partnership was the Government Observers Programme, in which several Brazilian organizations sent observers to the UK prior to the Olympics to learn about the exceptionally complex planning process.
Brazilian athletes were also invited to participate in the 2012 British School Games, and British students will do the same in the Brazilian School Olympics.
This partnership has taken us through the month of November, which was dedicated to sport and the Olympic handover. This week, the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, literally passed the torch to his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira.
They used a London 2012 Olympic torch that previously appeared in June when the Torch Relay travelled through Northern Ireland, including my mother’s home town of Derry.
It was a pleasure to work with our Brazilian counterparts in Washington, who are, conveniently, our neighbours, located just down the street from the British Embassy. This Olympic Handover event will certainly not be the last collaboration between the UK and Brazil in Washington as we count down to Rio 2016.