As the Olympics finally open tonight in London, Paddy O'Connell, host of BBC's Broadcasting House, takes the temperature of the host city. "Londoners and British people are nervously thinking, 'Are we allowed, finally, to enjoy ourselves?'" O'Connell says. "We are preprogrammed with moaning and gloom. We are a misty aisle in the sea, and sometimes that affects our mood."
"But [now] I feel the heartbeat of optimism, and it really is very, very exciting."
Athletes and dignitaries alike are pouring into the city. Michelle Obama arrived today in London as head of the U.S. delegation. She hosted a sports carnival for children of American servicemen, as well as underprivileged Londoners, on the grounds of the Winfield House mansion. The first lady talked with American athletes at a breakfast, and told them to try to relax and enjoy amidst the incredible pressure of Olympic competition.
"I'm so inspired by you and am in awe of what you all have achieved," she said. "Try to have fun; try to breathe a little." Obama, who has made personal fitness her signature campaign, reminded the children at the carnival that while the athletes are pinnacles of fitness now, they used to be kids as well.
"You know, you are not born an Olympian,'' Obama told the crowd. "Many of them started out just like you. When they fell short or got tired and frustrated, they didn't give up. It's hard work…you keep pushing and you never give up.''
Republican nominee Mitt Romney has also made a visit of London, and has achieved mixed results. In response to Romney doubting whether or not London was ready for the Olympics, Mayor Boris Johnson had something to say about it in front of a crowd of thousands. O'Connell says that while Romney's remarks seemed perfectly innocent, the British took exception to an American criticizing them. "The British, who have been doing that job for themselves, beating themselves up, didn't really want an American doing it," he says. "That seems to be the line that was crossed."
Even Prime Minister David Cameron took exception to Romney's comments, saying, "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere," he said. Cameron appears to be referring to the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, which Romney directed.
"I think it's just mischief," O'Connell says of the ribbing that Romney has received.