OPINION: London 2012's legacy is that we don't care about Tokyo Olympics

The Olympic Torch Relay winds it's way through Lowestoft.
Kieren Emery

The Olympic Torch Relay winds it's way through Lowestoft in the summer of 2012 - Credit: Archant

After a stunning few weeks of wall-to-wall sport it may have slipped your mind that on Friday, the Olympic Games kick off in Tokyo.

While sports lovers have lapped up non-stop coverage of Euro 2020, Wimbledon, The British Lions tour, big golf tournaments and high drama on the F1 track, those that hate sport on TV have had plenty of reason to groan.

And now Tokyo 2020 is finally here but with more of a whimper than anything else, an event which the International Olympic Committee is keen to push on with, largely to avoid losing billions in lost broadcasting rights.

Most Olympics seem to follow a similar pattern - widespread euphoria when the host city is declared and then years of negativity surrounding getting stadiums ready, rocketing costs and unsafe working conditions before the games commence in a blaze of glory.

Tokyo 2020 has the added issue of perhaps being the games that nobody really wants, apart from those who don't want to lose a big stack of corporate cash.

There'll be no fans watching, there have already been Covid cases which could threaten to dominate proceedings and, to the average Brit, there's a distinct lack of famous names to cheer on.

The days when you could reel off a list of famous Brits in multiple Olympic events that had a chance of winning gold are long gone - but there is hope in a quartet of British women - cyclist Laura Kenny, taekwondo player Jade Jones, rower Helen Glover and equestrian rider Charlotte Dujardin who are all hoping to win gold at their third successive games.

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Success for all four started at London 2012. Having recently witnessed the pumped-up euphoria of England's home games at Euro 2020, you've got to wonder if another big part of any Olympic apathy is a continued hangover from 2012.

The Olympic torch relay makes its way through Norwich.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Olympic torch relay makes its way through Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

It's nine years ago since that event kicked off next week and, just like England's footballers couldn't shake off the legacy of Euro 96 over the last month or so, despite actually surpassing the achievement of the Three Lions side 25 years ago, perhaps there is a similar Olympic hangover.

I believe, for those sport watchers among us, a sense that because our memories of London 2012 were so great, we're not interested in seeing them bettered by an event on the other side of the world, broadcast at the wrong time of the day with no fans.

Thinking back to 2012 it was an incredible few weeks to be in this country, with two factors helping to cement its legacy, even for those who weren't that interested in the actual action.

The Olympic torch relay, which wound its way around the whole country, including all over Norfolk and Suffolk drew huge crowds and fanfare to villages, towns and cities in the weeks leading up to the event.

How inspirational must it have been for a primary school child to see something like that in their neighbourhood?

I saw the torch in both Norwich and in Bury St Edmunds a few days later and remember the anticipation, noise and sheer spectacle that came with it.

The second big factor was the call for volunteers - Games Makers - who got involved. Several friends were among the 70,000 who did it and said it was the best couple of weeks of their lives.

The Olympic Torch Relay passes through Felixstowe

The Olympic Torch Relay passes through Felixstowe - Credit: Archant

I was so caught up in wanting to be a part of the whole Olympic spectacle that I applied for thousands of pounds worth of tickets in the hope of catching some Olympic action somewhere. 

An indication of my desperation was that I was among the 14,000 fans at Coventry City's stadium to watch a dreadful match between footballing powerhouses New Zealand and Belarus two days before the actual opening ceremony take place.

Just being at an event was all that mattered in 2012 - I was lucky enough to get tickets for the rowing at Eton Dorney too and even made it to the football final at Wembley to watch Mexico beat a Brazil side featuring Neymar 2-1.

I didn't make it to any of those huge moments but did run my first ever competitive 10k run the night after Super Saturday, so there was something about the Olympics that proved inspirational to me back in 2012!

Britain came to a standstill that summer as we were all caught up in Olympic fever. This year's event just threatens to be another sporting event that has to happen to fulfil an obligation. I'm sure Tokyo, as a city, would love to have been able to host the event in a year's time with the global Covid situation under better control.

With those London games in living memory for so many of us - from that epic opening ceremony from Danny Boyle to the closing ceremony featuring the Spice Girls and those taxis covered in newspapers, I for one think that it's going to be a long time before this country gets swept up in any Olympic Games again.