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Postcard from London: The view from overseas
THE Main Press Centre at the Olympic Park provides a daily selection of newspapers from right across the world, so yesterday afternoon, I took a little bit of time to try to get a flavour of what the foreign media is making of the London Games.
The main tone of the American coverage seems to be contentment at the performance of the US athletes, and surprise at the extent to which the British public have thrown themselves into the spirit of the Games.
USA Today carried an article entitled 'British success loosens London's stiff upper-lip', in which the writer was impressed by the euphoric reaction to Britain's medals and the general party atmosphere prevalent within the capital.
He wrote: “This normally dour city, a place of weepy grey skies and chilly demeanour has been transformed into an enclave of smiling volunteers, efficient transport systems and joyful crowds.
“Business suits are out; silly flag-themes costumes are in. And the favourite pre-Games activity of griping about the Olympics has been replaced by basking in the Olympics.”
They're not taking this well. British success combined with Australian failure has made this a difficult experience Down Under, and while there's been little in the way of direct criticism about London's staging of the Games, there seems to be a degree of resentment about the level of crowing that has accompanied each domestic gold medal.
The Sydney Morning Herald's sports section led with a report of Anna Meares' cycling success over Victoria Pendleton on the final day of the cycling programme, and took a swipe at the BBC in the process “Cheers and celebrations were replaced by disgruntled boos,” said the article, describing the moment when Pendleton's first-race victory was overturned. “Disgruntled BBC commentators, who have been transformed into the greatest cheer squad this side of the Dallas Cowgirls, bitterly second-guessed the judges.
“You could not help feel a palpable sense of relief that, just for a moment, the British hysteria had been suppressed.”
On Sunday, the Olympic flame will be extinguished in London and thoughts will turn to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Four years ago, the British press was full of stories suggesting it would be impossible to match Beijing. Now, the Brazilian media is saying exactly the same thing about Rio in relation to London.
Rio's daily newspaper, O Globo, said: “The British have been excellent in planning, punctuality and keeping within budget. The near-perfect organisation has made a big impression, suddenly leaving Rio with an even greater weight of responsibility.”
The Globe and Mail has been impressed with both London and British society in general, claiming that negative stereotypes about the country are now out of date.
“The rain has finally ended, the mood is mellow and stress-free, and the big sporting event is notable for its self-effacing humility,” said a feature piece.
“The UK economy may be wounded, but it's better than those of most European countries. The health system is better than ever, secondary education is middling, universities are top-notch. Few European countries display as much racial and religious tolerance.”
The German media had been predicting an organisational shambles in the run-up to the Olympics, but the smooth running of the Games has forced them to change their tune.
In an article that described the Olympics as the “Good news Games”, Der Spiegel said: “This has been about more than just sports. In every respect, the country is in good spirits and enjoying itself.”
There were fears that the presence of the army would send out the wrong signals to foreign visitors, but Switzerland's Neue Zurcher Zeitung has been impressed.
“So much will be remembered long after the Games are over,” read one of their reports. “Particularly the relaxed military personnel and police officers.”
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