The Greatest Show on Earth has come and gone. An incredible 17 days of sport, atmosphere and fun. The closing ceremony saw London Mayor Boris Johnson hand the Olympic flag back to IOC President Jacques Rogge who, in turn, passed it on to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, who will host the 2016 Olympics.
London 2012 has been seven years in the making. On 6th July 2005, we celebrated wildly after pipping Paris to become 2012 hosts. The next day, four bombs ripped London’s soul apart and changed the capital forever. As we moved on with our lives and the big day grew all the more closer, Britain, along with the rest of the world fell on economically hard times. There is no Olympic event for complaining, but if there was, Britain would be gold medal favourites. The vast majority of the British public were extremely sceptical about London hosting the Games. Transport, security, cost and the sheer number of visitors were their problem – London surely would not be able to cope.
How could London possibly follow the spectacular shows in Beijing, Athens and Sydney?Ridiculous and lengthy immigration delays reared their ugly heads at Heathrow, just months before the Games were due to commence. London Underground striked for the upteenth time and then London buses jumped in on the action. It was embarrassing and whilst the majority sat in front of their TVs, tutting and shaking their heads, the rest of us put all that to one side and rubbed our hands with glee – the Olympics were coming to our city, during our lifetime. We embraced it and we were not disappointed.
Before Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony, there was an uproar as to how on earth, it could possibly cost £27m – that must be a lot of fireworks, the whingers said. On the 27th July, the doubters turned on their televisions and were glued to the set. When the ceremony ended there were no complaints, just the sounds of sporadic applause throughout the country. Not bad, thought the man on the street. Not bad indeed, as Boyle’s musical masterclass set the tone for the Games.
At the closing ceremony, Lord Coe addressed the crowd plus the millions, possibly billions, watching all over the world and said “We lit the flame and we lit up the world”. Absolutely true. Britain, against all odds, delivered. We did it right. We inspired. There will be those who will argue about legacy. Is there a danger that the Olympic stadium could become a white elephant? There will be those who will argue for years to come that we should never have hosted the Games due to the expense. So, was it worth it? Of course it was. The country was united and good-humoured for 17 days. There was a fantastic buzz around the place. There were no delays at Heathrow. Public transport ran without any major hitches. All the Olympic doom and gloom from the critics did not materialise. There was glory and triumph.
Team GB finished third in the medals table with 65 medals – 29 were gold. Impressively Britain produced Olympic champions across 13 different disciplines. Britain raised the bar, putting on an excellent show, which Rio will have to pull out all stops to equal, let alone exceed. The Great is firmly back in Great Britain.
There was an abundance of magnificent athletes, great achievements and sublime moments at London 2012. Melosport takes a pick of the highlights.
Swimming – Phelps becomes the most decorated Olympian ever
In the Aquatic Centre, all eyes were on American swimmer Michael Phelps. Going into London 2012, he was two medals away from equalling Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s, all-time Olympic record of 18 medals – held since 1964. He endured a slow start but by the end of the games, he had won six medals, four of which were gold, resulting in highest individual medal haul by any athlete during London 2012 and confirmed his place as the most decorated Olympic athlete in history with 22 medals (18 golds). USA dominated the medals in the pool, winning almost half of the swimming events with 16 golds from a possible 34 and 31 medals overall. Second placed China finished with five golds, two of which were won by Shiwen Ye. The 15 year-old found herself in the centre of controversy after an astounding last lap in the women’s 200m individual medley claiming an improbable gold from an almost certain silver placed finish. The lap was so fast, it prompted the bitter Americans to claim that she could not have achieved this feat unless she was doping. Their claims were unfounded.
Cycling – Team GB reign supreme
The Velodrome was the first venue where the British support really started to gain momentum, as it became a cauldron of noise. Team GB carried on where they left off in Beijing 2008 by delivering a whopping seven gold medals out of a possible ten. Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Laura Trott all won two golds, in some cases, with truly superhuman efforts. Outside of the Velodrome, Bradley Wiggins, fresh from being the first Briton in history to win the Tour de France, won the cycling time trial with an imperious performance. He sat in a throne after being awarded his medal with a victory salute. British to the core.
Hockey – Defending champions retain their titles
A party atmosphere was in full flow at the Riverbank arena for the two weeks. The Dutch and Belgium fans in particular lit up the arena with their amazing camaraderie which was a joy to see. The Netherlands women’s team beat Argentina 2-0 in the final, whilst the men’s team narrowly lost 2-1 to Germany – both Germany and the Netherlands retained their respective Olympic titles. Hosts, Team GB, reached both semi-finals in both men’s and women’s, resulting in a bronze medal for the women.
Diving – Daley saves his best till last
In the diving, Team GB’s favourite son, 18 year-old Tom Daley won a bronze medal to the delight of the home crowd on Saturday night after scraping through in the qualification round. Having been through adversity during the last 12 months, the youngster turned on the style when it mattered from the 10m diving platform – much to the jubilation of the home fans. USA’s David Boudia edged out China’s Bo Qiu to win gold by less than two points.
Rowing – Britannia rules the waves
Eton Dorney had 400,000 visitors during the Games. ‘The best Olympic regatta ever’, according to the president of FISA (Denis Oswald). Team GB lead the way with nine medals (four golds). New Zealand put in a strong showing finishing with three golds. British pairing Helen Glover and Heather Stanning became Team GB’s first gold medalists of the London 2012 Games and the first ever British female rowers to win gold. Amazingly, the pair were considered reserves just two years previously, which made their dominant display in the final all the more memorable.
Sailing – “They wont like it when I’m angry…”
Australia salvaged some pride, from an ordinary Olympic Games from their lofty standards, by winning three gold medals in sailing. Tom Slingsby won gold in the men’s laser, with Cypriot Pavlos Kontides winning the silver – Cyprus’ first ever Olympic medal. Australia also won both the men’s 470 and the men’s 49er. Ben Ainslie won Team GB’s solitary gold but in doing so became the most decorated sailor in Olympic history with four consecutive Olympic titles. During the week, Ainslie was left angry and frustrated after tactics from rivals, Hogh-Christensen and PJ Postma, who ganged up on him. This resulted in the classic line of “they won’t like me when I’m angry.’ They didn’t and the Hulk took gold.
Boxing – Joshua joins a distinguished list of heavyweight greats
Team GB topped the boxing medal table with three golds and five medals overall – their best Olympic performance since 1920. Super heavyweight, Anthony Joshua, won Team GB’s last gold of the Olympics after the judges awarded him a win against defending champion, Italian Roberto Cammarelle. The 22 year-old was trailing going into the last round and, unfazed by his opponent’s reputation, went to town on Cammarelle in the third round to tie the scores at 18-18. The judges awarded Joshua the decision on countback. Joshua joins an illustrious list including Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitscko as a super-heavyweight Olympic gold medallist. Lewis has tipped Joshua to become Britain’s next best pro super-heavyweight. Meanwhile, Nicola Adams became the first female Olympic boxing champion after flooring China’s Cancan Ren in her final.
Athletics – USA dominant but Bolt seals his place in greatness
No world records were broken in track and field for the first six days of competition, then three were broken in as many days. David Rudisha, of Kenya, ran an immense 800m race to claim his first Olympic gold and set a new world record, breaking his own, in the process. The following day, Allyson Felix won gold with the USA’s 4x100m relay team, smashing East Germany’s 27 year-old world record. Felix also won gold in the 4x400m relay, adding to her individual 200m gold triumph, finishing the Olympics with three golds – level with the great Usain Bolt.
Coming into London 2012, the Jamaican was considered beatable following a season where his usual dominance was not evident. However, he became the first man to defend both 100m and 200m titles at an Olympic Games. He achieved this with an Olympic record in the 100m and matched Michael Johnson’s sensational 200m time from Atlanta 1996. He then anchored the Jamaicans to gold in the 4x100m relay, shattering their own world record from 12 months ago. Although the Americans ran them close, once the baton was passed from Yohan Blake to Bolt, there was no doubt which nation would cross the line first.
Following his London exploits, many claim Bolt to be the best sprinter ever, and in some cases, best athlete ever. Those with no concept of history will, no doubt, agree. I counter this argument by asking if anyone knows anything about an African-American chap called Jesse Owens. In Nazi Germany, during the 1936 Berlin Games, Owens made a mockery of Hitler’s Aryan ideals by winning four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4x100m relay – in your face Adolf. Owens never had a chance to defend these titles due to the second world war. If his Olympic feats were impressive, his achievements one year earlier were simply out of this world. During a meet in Michigan, Owens broke three world records and equalled another in a period of 45 minutes. There is no doubt that Bolt’s achievements are flawlessly brilliant, but they do not better the legendary feats accomplished by an African-American who dominated an Olympics, in Nazi Germany.
However, Bolt is a showman. He is adored because he has Muhammad Ali-esque charisma – and bundles of it. On the warm up track before his races, Bolt would find the camera and tell it two things: ‘I am number one and; I am going to win.’ Oracle. Before entering the blocks he would be jovially chatting and laughing with the volunteers. After his 200m victory, he took a photographers’ camera and happily snapped away leaving us all thoroughly amused. You can’t teach that. As an aside, Yohan ‘the beast’ Blake needs a new ‘act’. Nicknaming him the beast is perfectly fine, but making himself look like an extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video doesn’t quite do himself justice.
I digress. Overall, USA dominated in track and field with 29 medals. Nine of those were gold. Unsurprisingly, it was only a matter of time before the Russians came good as they finished a close second with eight golds. Jamaica won 12 medals (four golds) and Team GB finished fourth in the athletics medals table with four golds and six medals in total – two short of Charles van Commenee’s target of eight. Whether Team GB will be waving farewell to van Commenee at Heathrow like he promised (if the target was not met) remains to be seen.
Mo Farah was responsible for half of Team GB’s track and field golds, by winning a sensational long-distance ‘double’ in both 5,000m and 10,000m. Farah was willed home by the crowd, in defeaning atmospheres, for each race. The heart and bravery which the Somalian born star demonstrated in both final laps was simply inspirational. By winning the two golds, he became only the seventh man in history to complete the long-distance ‘double’ at a single Olympics. Farah’s first gold occurred on the opening Saturday in the Olympic stadium. It became known as ‘Super Saturday’ in Britain, after Farah’s 10,000m victory was matched by Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Greg Rutherford in the long-jump, much to the delight of the 80,000 capacity crowd. It was the most gold medals Britain had won in a single athletics session in over 100 years.
Now it is all over. The 17 days flew by and now there is a void. As Londoners, we return back to the daily grind. No more TVs in the background. No more red button on the BBC website. No more screams in the office willing on the double sculls to Olympic glory.
The London 2012 Olympic Games demonstrated the power of sport and I, for one, am already missing it.
Categories: Olympics 2012