London preens itself for Olympic close-up

With Olympics approaching, organisers are working hard to ensure London looks colourful and vibrant for the big event.

mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville
Olympic rings are towed past Tower of London on February 28 but there’s pink and orange to come! [GALLO/GETTY]

For athletes, the Olympics are about the gold.

For London organisers, the Olympics are about the pink, the purple and the orange – colours that will give the 2012 games an immediately recognisable look.

Cities, towns and hamlets all over Britain are getting ready for their once-in-a-lifetime TV close-ups.

Take Mole Valley, a community of 80,000 near London that is hosting the Olympic cycling road race.

It has asked residents to plant dahlias, petunias and sunflowers in Olympic-approved shades so when the riders swish past on July 28-29, television viewers will be left seeing swishes of pink, purple and orange.

“Will they remember London or the Olympics?”

Professor Peter Vlachos

It’s not an accident: Making Britain memorable is considered critical to the long-term success of the games.

“What will people be reminded of when they pull out the T-shirt, the pin?” asked Greenwich University marketing department professor Peter Vlachos.

“Will they remember London or the Olympics?”

Work is being done now in hopes that viewers – and potential tourists in particular – fondly remember the U.K. and not just the sports. Britain’s leaders will spend $14.6 billion on the games, but hope that tourism and outside investments will repay billions in revenue over time.

Lights, colour, action

London’s look is predominantly pink, aqua blue, yellow, purple and green – big colours in shards that slash at the edges of Olympic banners.

“The people who are running these things and their paymasters and mistresses have convinced themselves that you hold these things to sell yourselves to the world,” said David Goldblatt, who wrote “How to Watch the Olympics,” with co-author Johnny Acton.

“The selling of brand GB (Great Britain) /London is at the heart of the rationale.”

This is not an idea unique to London. Hollywood-conscious Los Angeles recognised in 1932 that the games offered a platform for selling its image as the capital of glitz and sun.

Organisers planted palm trees along Wilshire Boulevard, making it seem bigger, more stately – a feel that is readily identifiable as Californian.

“If people are going to take pictures, you’ve got to dress the set… The genius of Los Angeles is that they realised it”

Author David Goldblatt

“If people are going to take pictures, you’ve got to dress the set,” Goldblatt said.

“The genius of Los Angeles is that they realised it.”

Then Los Angeles supplied the cast – having Hollywood stars appear at the Olympic Village. Screen idols like Mary Pickford hosted parties. The Marx Brothers went to athletics events. Movie mogul Louis B. Mayer had athletes over for coffee.

Although it’s a world away from Los Angeles, cycling venue Mole Valley is beside itself with excitement, planning British street parties, contests for kids, welcome centers for tourists.

“The games will put Surrey on the map,” said Denise Saliagopoulos of the Surrey County Council, who predicts the games will attract 1 million tourists a year.

In London, organisers will hang the Olympic rings from the famous Tower Bridge. Light displays are also planned.

London’s Olympics organisers aren’t really talking too much about look yet – preferring to wait until a big launch in the spring. One might say they are a tad media-shy, as their early attempts at a unified look have not been met with acclaim.

The unveiling of the 2012 London logo was met by a wave of derision.

Iranian hard-liners complained that the squarish design spelled out the word ‘Zion’ as opposed to the numerals ‘2012’.

But that doesn’t mean organisers won’t go to great lengths to make sure London and other sites hosting the games look just so.

The marathon route originally was supposed to go through gritty areas in east London where the Olympic Park is located. But – mindful of television images – organisers rerouted the race so it now passes classic London landmarks.

Source: AP