At this rate it won't be long before I have more London 2012 books than Michael Phelps has gold medals. Normal, non-obsessive archivists might be happy with just this one, however. My previous comments on The Games by The Times heralded that shiny-covered enjoyable read as a potential champion of London 2012 books released this year. Turns out it may have to play Yohan Blake to The Official Commemorative Book's Usain Bolt after all. I said back then, we were in for a treat if anything managed to beat it. Here's how I think the two weigh up against one another.
The Times' effort is more evocative of the mood that swept through London 2012 at the time, being as it is compiled from reports from the newspaper during the Olympics. Unlike The Times' day by day narrative, TOCB opts to go with an A-Z guide. It loses a little something for that when telling the story of London 2012. Where it gains an advantage, depending on what you're after, is by being more open to the achievements of competitors from other nations. The vast majority of events and winners are given time. You don't need to be part of Team GB, but it helps. Poster boy Tom Daley gets the photo for his bronze in the diving, but at least David Boudia gets headline status for beating him to the gold. Some notable moments are missing like the 1500m in the athletics. For some reason everyone wants to write Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi leaving his rivals for dust out of the history books. Well, not quite because there's a complete medal listings index in the back.
TOCB also benefits from a foreword from the main man himself, Seb Coe, and (not the last time this will be a factor) the inclusion of the Paralympics that other publications have chosen to neglect is a major boon. The Paralympics are also joined by an overview of the build-up and the London 2012 Festival.
The Times' photography and wraparound covers became a star of London 2012. It's therefore to my surprise that TOCB has managed to equal it in its pages. The shots here show London 2012 at its best and the larger size of the book is used to great effect. Whereas I think The Times is a better read (albeit confined to the Olympics) and blessed with fine imagery, once again TOCB's inclusion of the Paralympics (which was much sunnier!) gives it an edge. The only thing that's missing is a comprehensive section on the victory parade (there is one double-page photo of Team GB outside Buckingham Palace).
There's nothing to fault here apart from the official London 2012 font looking as cheap and tacky as it ever did - much like the logo. It remains a legitimate part of London 2012, though. Ironically, The Times is better off for not having to cheapen its appearance with it. Other than that, TOCB is a high quality coffee table book. Large, well designed and with lovely, smooth paper. Exactly what you'd want.
Taking London 2012 beyond the Olympics to give the Paralympics the space they deserve is TOCB's trump card. Chapters on the seven years of preparation and the London 2012 festival flesh out the most comprehensive guide yet. If you haven't already guessed from the above, having previously stated that The Games by The Times had the potential to take gold, I'm almost embarrassed to now say that for most this will be the people's champion. And it will be a worthy one. Credit to all involved for doing a terrific job with the official licence and covering every aspect of an unforgettable summer. So I'll end this review in a familiar fashion for me. If something else comes along to take gold now... well, we'll need to start conducting doping tests on these publishers.