Lord Colin Moynihan, the head of Britain’s Olympic program and a pivotal figure in London 2012, today stopped by Canada Olympic House, the Trafalgar Square edifice that is serving as our country’s diplomatic headquarters during the Games. There was aged Hereford beef for lunch, music by the Canadian Tenors and a lot of flattery.
“We’ve learned and went through many of the experiences you went through in Vancouver,” Lord Moynihan told a small crowd of VIPs, along with a few reporters. “The success of London so far is due to the success of Canada.”
That he speaks of success—even at this early stage—says much. Two days ago, the U.K. press was slagging organizers over transportation and ticketing glitches, much as it did in Vancouver before actual sport ensued.
But the opening ceremonies have a salutary effect. The papers are filled this morning with complimentary reviews of Danny Boyle’s extravaganza, while the spirit of the Games is more visible on the street. Many Londoners showed up for their morning commutes wearing “Team GB” regalia.
This too Lord Moynihan learned from watching events in Vancouver/Whistler. “You have the world’s press here for a fortnight before the Games, and there’s no sport to report. They’re looking in every little nook and cranny for things to expose. The British press in paticular. Then, the moment the Games start, the press switch and focus on athlete performance.”
Lord Moynihan is a former rowing cox who defines the English stiff upper lip. At the 1980 Games in Moscow, he famously piloted Britain’s men’s eight team to a silver medal after the steering cables to the rudder broke; he reached back and directed the shell by awkwardly holding the rudder bar. Most of the crew didn’t know anything was wrong until the race was over.
He also possesses the national talent for politesse. There were approving nods today as Lord Moynihan spoke of working closely with his Canadian Olympic Committee counterparts, whom he says were as candid about failure as they were about success.
One such lesson: the pressure won’t truly ease until the host country nabs its first gold medal.
“[There’ll be] a sense of relief,” he said. “We saw that happen in Vancouver and we knew that we’d have to focus on those early events and get that first gold. Once it’s there, there’s a sense of inspired confidence that get’s translated from the crowds the team and that feeds success in the future.”
Whatever the home crowd thinks, Lord Moynihan’s visitors are evidently satisfied. COC president Marcel Aubut got a laugh from the crowd when he reported a paucity of complaints from Canadian athletes. “I think it’s the first time ever,” he said in mock incredulity.