The London 2012 Olympic Games have captivated the entire world, yet the UK’s political endeavors which have driven the successful event behind the scenes have received scant appraisal.
The Rome 1960 Olympic Games and the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games allowed both nations to remove themselves from the dark shadow of defeat after having lost World War II. When Seoul hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988, it provided a huge impetus for the democratization of South Korea, which was part of a global third wave of democratization. When Athens hosted the Summer Olympics in 2004, however, the Greek government invested 8 billion euros (NT$297 billion) in the event, an investment that helped drive the country to bankruptcy five years later. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government also invested huge amounts of capital in the Games in an attempt to create an image of itself as a peacefully ascending global power, but despite the effort, China’s tainted international image remains.
On the other hand, when looking at the ongoing London Olympics, one notices that a few years ago the British government began to integrate policies of sustainable development, cutting carbon emissions and environmental protection into its domestic and foreign policies.
The London Olympics is one link in this visionary policy effort and it offers a great opportunity to observe the success of the UK’s foreign policy in action. Aside from establishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the British government has sent a roving ambassador on a global lobbying mission to promote and participate in international climate change affairs and events.
In terms of building these policies into the London Olympics, the UK also established the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 five years ago. Some of the more noticeable achievements of these policies include how the Olympic Park, the event’s primary sporting complex, was built on a brownfield site in east London which was transformed into an environmentally sustainable, green site that will eventually be developed into a grand eco-friendly green space for Londoners in the future.
Some of the less apparent achievements of the policy include the introduction of grants to London taxi drivers five years ago, renewing the city’s whole taxi fleet to fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid engines to reduce pollution. Some of the sporting venues were constructed using environmentally friendly materials that can be taken down after the Olympics and reused. In addition, the Olympic Park has also adopted strict measures calling for low-carbon emissions, zero pollution and boosting recycling — all of which make London 2012 the “greenest” Olympics in history.
The opening ceremony of London 2012 gave us a glimpse of the country’s glorious past, including the era of the British Empire. The UK might not be as powerful and prosperous as it once was, but through a transformation of its foreign policy, the country has succeeded in using the Olympics as a platform to promote its ideals internationally.
Compared with the exorbitant amount of money that both China and Greece spent when they hosted the Olympic Games, several times the amount spent by London, the London Games are a major political and foreign policy achievement for the UK and that is something it would serve Taiwan well to learn from.