11 Things We All Forgot That Happened During The London 2012 Olympics

By M@ Last edited 19 months ago
11 Things We All Forgot That Happened During The London 2012 Olympics

Missing swans, giant pants and Jake Baiting... the forgotten details of the London 2012 Games.

We all remember the sporting triumphs. We recall fondly the general buzz about town and the unfailing cheerfulness of the volunteer "London Ambassadors" army. We might even harbour a shred of nostalgia for Wenlock and Mandeville, the much derided mascots.

But lots of other things happened in London during that crazy, wonderful summer of 2012, many of which have slipped from popular memory. We scoured our Olympic archives for some of the more unusual stories.

See also: Stuff that happened in the run up to the Games, which we've all forgotten.

1. The Serpentine swans were evicted

A swan in a pool. Some wag has photoshopped a Dick Whittington-style bag on a stick over its wing. It looks a bit shit, but Londonist can't afford a professional designer for frivolous stuff like this.

As you may recall, the Serpentine in Hyde Park was used for the triathlon events. As you may not recall, this meant shifting the lake's swan population to avoid, as one spokesperson put it, "a swan being sliced in half by a boat in front of an international audience". The swans departed to a "holiday camp" in Berkshire for the duration of the Games. Londonist got an exclusive interview with some of the Canada geese left behind.

2. The world's largest Union Jack was made from old pants and stuff

A giant Union Jack assembled from clothing on a park lawn

West Ham Park was the venue for a Team GB-cheering stunt with a difference, as the world's largest Union Jack* was assembled from donated pants, shirts and other garments. The clothing was recycled by Oxfam afterwards.

*Pedants... please don't.

3. TfL made a tube map of Olympic medal winners

A tube map of central London with Olympian names substituting for station names

Alternative takes on the tube map are now two-a-penny, but back in 2012 they were still something of a novelty. Transport for London put out its own twisted map, with the names of Olympic medalists replacing station names. The map included some cunning correlations:

"Stratford station, as the gateway to the Olympic Park, is renamed after Sir Chris Hoy, the most successful British Olympian of all time. Appropriately, Wimbledon station is named after Andy Murray, and Zara Phillips replaces Royal Victoria, the station dedicated to her great, great, great, great, grandmother, Queen Victoria."

The full map is no longer available through official channels, but you can find it archived on third-party sites with an image search.

4. The Olympic Park's food and drink was like an alternative reality

A figure-8 shaped menu board gives prices for drinks
Food and drink menu from the Olympic Park. Image by the author

The Olympics and Paralympics, you may recall, operated under strict branding guidelines. So strict that, for example, the O2 dome had to change its name to the North Greenwich Arena.

The rules extended to the food and drink concessions within the Park. Stalls carried simple names like "Traditional fish and chips" or "Thai food". As we observed at the time, "It's like walking into an alternative reality, where KFC, Yo Sushi and Starbucks don't exist. Only [sponsors] McDonalds has crept into this parallel universe, with two huge burger caverns."

5. Loads of people went Jake baiting

The shape of a man in a glowing box at second-floor level. He is labelled as Jake Humphrey

Sports presenter Jake Humphrey gained something of a cult following during the Games. The presenter could often be seen atop the BBC's glowing broadcasting booth. As we wrote at the time, "A sizeable fan mob waits expectantly around the base, goading the Jakester to make a full balcony appearance. Cries of "JAKE!, JAKE!, JAKE!" and "We want JAKE!" fill the air. And then the great man appeareth to rapturous whoops and applause."

6. The Dangleboris incident

An imbecile in a blue hat dangles from a zip wire. He clutches Union flags in his hands like a demented nationalistic puppet

"Wait, Boris has done what?!" We still remember the buzz around Londonist Towers when news broke of the then-Mayor's pendant adventure in Victoria Park. The incident, in which the Mayor got stranded on a zipwire, impotently waving Union flags like a demented nationalistic puppet, seemed like a career low at the time. Ten years later, it now feels like Boris Johnson at his most competent and commanding.

7. Surface to air missiles were placed on residential towers

A surface to air missile launcher in a museum setting

For all the success of the Games, not everything was garlands and roses. The Olympics took place at a time when the threat of terrorism was palpable. The 7/7 bombings — the worst terrorist attack in London's history — had occurred just 24 hours after the city had been awarded the Olympics.

Strong countermeasures were put in place, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on the residential rooftops. The idea was to have the ability to shoot down hijacked or otherwise hostile aircraft before they could plough into the Olympic Park (at the price of killing anyone who happened to be underneath the debris). The very notion of putting missiles on rooftops would seem bizarre and outlandish today... if only the past few years hadn't thrown up so many unthinkable absurdities.

8. TfL's Journey Planner didn't recognise the term "Olympic Park"

In a development that every world-wary cynic could have predicted, the official transport apps struggled to cope with changes in journey patterns. As we discovered at the time, "Type in a journey from, say, "Canada Water" to "Olympic Park", select 'place of interest' from the drop-down menu, and the website offers you three suggestions: the Olympic Cafe in Hammersmith, the Olympic Cafe in West Ham or the Olympic Retail Park in Wembley." Other transport messaging was pretty good on the whole, so we doubt many visitors accidentally ended up in a Hammersmith greasy spoon instead of the Aquatics Centre, but we'd love to hear from anyone who did get the wrong end of the stick.

9. The Olympics that launched a thousand Photoshops

A selection of gurning Olympic divers on the toilet

The Dangleboris incident (see above) became an instant muse for creatives. The dangling Mayor ended up in the background of a thousand scenarios, and would have won the gold medal if Photoshop memery were an Olympic sport. But the photomanipulation didn't stop there. The Games sparked countless other photo mashups, including this montage of gurning Olympic divers on the toilet.

10. Someone built the Olympic Park out of Lego

The Olympic park made of lego

Because of course they did.

11. And finally... we knitted the Olympics

A selection of hand-knitted athletes

The Olympics also sparked our own creativity. One of our occasional contributors knitted Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Andy Murray. Still got them on our mantlepiece, alongside some yarn-based mayoral candidates.

See also: stuff that happened in the run-up to the Olympics that everyone forgot.

Last Updated 19 May 2022