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London 2012

Brits think the Games have gone maybe, sort of, OK

Christopher Werth Aug 10, 2012
London 2012

Brits think the Games have gone maybe, sort of, OK

Christopher Werth Aug 10, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Random fact of the day today? It cost more for London to put on the Olympics that wrap up this weekend — $15 billion — than it did for NASA to send that rover up to Mars last weekend. About $2.5 billion for that.

But relative costs aside, the Games have gone pretty well for the Brits. At least as seen from the outside. From London, Christopher Werth has the view from the inside.

Christopher Werth: Perhaps the most quintessentially British verdict on these Olympics came from London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, speaking to a Fox News reporter.

Boris Johnson: It’s all going horribly right. I mean so far, touch wood, without being complacent, we do think we’re having a very good games so far.

But “horribly right” belies a certain glumness here that it could have gone “horribly awry.”

With all the dire predictions of traffic jams, driving rain and inadequate security, the British collectively held their breath before the Games started. Oliver Hunn, a bicycle courier in London, was among them.

Oliver Hunn: We’re quite pessimistic as a country I think.

Before the Opening Ceremonies, the Guardian newspaper ran a gloomy front page preview under the headline “What could go wrong?”

Joe Twyman is in charge of social research at the British polling firm, YouGov. He says, in a way the British almost see disaster as an opportunity to show off their trademark ability to muddle through.

Joe Twyman: We don’t like to get our hopes up.

He says the country’s chronic pessimism has pervaded everything from the Queen’s recent Jubilee to the royal wedding last year to, well, he’s not sure how far back it goes.

Twyman: I have it heard it said that people didn’t expect to win the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

That’d be the battle between English king Harold and William the Conqueror, which Harold did lose.

Since then, Twyman says, expecting the worst is kind of baked into British genetics.

Twyman: We don’t want to go into things thinking we’re going to be the best in case we’re not. And so I guess what you could say is we don’t really like disappointment.

But with the Games almost over and no disasters yet. The mood here has brightened a bit. The host nation has hauled in more than 50 medals — almost half of them gold.

I found Londoner Patrick Jones celebrating outside a pub.

Patrick Jones: You know we’ve probably put on the best Olympic Games in the world. And I think Britain should be proud of that.

In a horribly cheerful London, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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