Rejoicing and regret after the London Olympics

The concluding ceremony of the London Olympics was enthusiastically received Keystone

Monday‘s Swiss papers are fulsome in their praise of the London Olympics, despite the fact that their own athletes failed to live up to expectations. Instead of the five to seven medals hoped for, Switzerland managed only four.

This content was published on August 13, 2012 - 11:10
Julia Slater,

“London 2012, gold medal for the Olympics,” says the French-language Le Temps, while the German-language Neue Zürcher Zeitung, under the headline “The Party is over”, calls them “Games to remember”.

A commentator in Le Temps praises not only the efficiency with which the Games were run from day to day, but also the way in which London “managed to preserve its environment while rethinking its town planning”.

The German-language TagesAnzeiger agrees. The London Olympics were “a great festival for athletes and spectators, planned with a real sense of what was practical, aesthetic and with loving attention to detail”.

Another German-language paper, Bund, says the Games were “a model of organisation, peaceful, relatively ‘clean’ and the sport was first class”.

“It cannot be taken for granted at major sporting events that the issue of doping will not dominate, or that such an important showcase will not be misused for political ends,” the paper points out.

The British public get good marks from several of the papers as well. The TagesAnzeiger praises them for cheering all the competitors – even if they were naturally “a little louder” when their own compatriots were involved.

“There were no chauvinistic excesses,” agrees the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The Tribune de Genève contrasts the politeness of the British spectators with the “unbearable noisy screaming” at the Vancouver winter Olympics two years ago.

“But the real quality of a crowd can be measured in its ability to produce dizzying moments of silence. The awed one minute and 20 seconds of silence during the second round of [Swiss gold medal winner] Steve Guerdat and [his horse] Nino … remains one of the great moments of these Games,” says the paper.

But the German-language  tabloid Blick sounds a sour note. One of its commentators says the reason why the feared transport chaos didn’t occur was that many Londoners stayed at home. He agrees with Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva that Londoners “didn’t seem very interested in the Games”.

That’s just opposite of what the Le Temps commentator found. “People turned up en masse and with their families,” she says, and quotes a British friend who told her he “loved running into the colourful crowds on his way to work”.

Whither Switzerland?

In the wake of Switzerland’s own meagre medal haul - two golds and two silvers - Gian Gilli, head of the Swiss delegation in London, is quoted by several papers expressing his disappointment at “the fact that on the day only 50 per cent [of the Swiss competitors] managed to achieve their best.”

Swiss Olympic must now consider whether it is using suitable selection procedures, Gilli said.

“How is a top result in a world cup to be interpreted in relationship to the Olympics?” he asked. The London Games have shown that a world cup event and the Olympics are two very different things. The very best athletes are all there at the Olympics and in top form, he said.

“We have too many coming between 20th and 40th, and too few who have fully used their potential to arrive between fourth and 15th.”

Swiss Olympic has already held talks with the various sports associations about the next Games. “We have to invest in potential,” Gilli explained.

The Tribune de Genève says Swiss Olympic has an impossible task given its limited funds. It proposes two solutions. One is that the government should decide “at last” to draw up an effective policy for supporting sport.

“The other solution … would be to change the way subsidies are allocated to the [sports] federations. Should we continue to give priority to the major sports (athletics, swimming), in which Switzerland does not have – and will never really have – the means to shine? Or should we focus on niche sports, where international competition is less strong (mountain biking, beach volleyball, triathlon, rowing, fencing)?”

The same paper awards some of its own medals, and two go to Swiss athletes. It gives a “medal of courage” to cyclist Fabien Cancellara who took part in the time trials even after a bad fall – on his already damaged shoulder - in the road race a few days earlier. And the “bad luck” medal goes to kayaker Mike Kurt, a medal hopeful, who broke a paddle in the semifinals. 


The face of Switzerland’s final medallist, Nino Schurter, is on many front pages. He won silver in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race on Sunday - pipped at the post by Czech rider Jaroslav Kurhavy.

While the Berner Zeitung describes his feat as the “final highlight”, many papers report his bitter disappointment at not winning the gold. “[Schurter’s] world collapsed,” says Blick.

It was a contrast to Switzerland’s other silver medallist, Roger Federer, who had also seemed to have an excellent chance of winning gold.

“I admired Federer for being pleased with his silver,” Schurter is quoted as saying. “It will take me a day before I can be the same.”

Swiss Olympic results

Switzerland won four medals at the 2012 Olympic Games – two gold and two silver.

Nicola Spirig won gold in the women’s triathlon, Steve Guerdat was Olympic champion in equestrian, Roger Federer took home silver in tennis and Nino Schurter came in a close second in mountain biking.

Swiss athletes also took home six diplomas – proof that although they didn’t win medals, they can count themselves among the top athletes in their sport. Diplomas are awarded to athletes coming between fourth and eighth.

The equestrian showjumping team took fourth, and the men’s lightweight rowing team came in fifth, as did Esther Süss in women’s cross-country cycling. Fabian Cancellera came seventh in the individual time trial, while Gregory Rast took eighth place in the cycling road race, as did Sven Riederer in the men’s triathlon.

The medal winners put the Swiss 33rd in the international medal count, behind Turkey and ahead of Lithuania. A total of 205 countries competed in the 2012 Olympics.

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House of Switzerland

The House of Switzerland in London, opened for the duration of the Olympics, closed its doors on Sunday.

From 20 July to 12 August it was visited by about 255,000 people.

Its permanent attractions included a simulated North Face of the Eiger which visitors could climb, and a Swiss video game.

Swiss dishes and drinks were especially created by top chef Anton Mosimann.

Medal celebrations for successful Swiss athletes were held there, and it was visited by three of Switzerland's seven ministers.

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