Overcrowding on the underground, lack of security, congestion on our roads due to “games lanes”. All this as the country still deals with the aftermath of the London riots, falling further into recession and the summer of discontent. Was an Olympic games really what we needed and this precise moment? In fact it was the perfect tonic.
Even the week leading up to the games with G4S security not able to supply enough staff to fulfill their contract and bus drivers willing to strike over bonus payments, hardly an air of optimism of what is described as the “greatest show on earth”. Up steps Slumdog millionaire director Danny Boyle to create an opening ceremony to match that of Beijing, to win over the doubters and show the world that when it comes to the crunch Britain can pull together through times of diffacuilty. The world stood up and took note, London had put on a superb opening ceremony and even the rain held off, well almost. As the Olympic cauldron was lit by the athletes of tomorrow, London 2012 had started.
So now attention was turned to the athletes with Team GB looking for a target of 48 medals,one more then Beijing 2008. With a home crowd and a string of top stars surly that was an easy achievement, wasn’t it?. Early Saturday morning and all eyes were focused on the men’s road race. With the dreams of Britain’s Mark Cavendish crossing the finish line at the mall and collecting our first gold medal, unfortunatly it was not your story book ending. With Mark crossing the line in 29th the focus shifted to the women’s road race. Lizzie Armistead grabbing silver and Rebecca Adlington collecting bronze finally Team GB were off and running on the medals table but the Olympics were still not far from controversy. As the new hot topic for the critics to focus on were the empty seats at volleyball basketball and swimming. A situation that Lord Coe was quick to defuse. As Monday and Tuesday passed our gymnastics team shone through as a silver and bronze were added to Great Britain’s medals tally but still where was that illusive gold medal? Were we going to reach 48 medals? Will we have an Olympic champion? The critics knives were sharpening. Then on Wednesday morning double Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell tells Britain “don’t panic, the rowers are here” and how right he was.
So how appropiate that here in london you wait ages for a bus and two come along at once but only this time it was gold medals. Heather Stanning and Helen Glover strike gold in the rowing womans pair and Bradley Wiggins winning gold in the time trial just two weeks after becoming tour de france champion. Great Britain had started to climb the medals table at a rate of knots but who knew what was just around the corner. Over the wednesday and thursday Team GB had racked up 5 gold medals 4 silver and two bronze. As friday dawned the world was introduced to the Olympic stadium. The dancers and musicians from the opening ceremonary seemed a distant memory as the track and field athletes took the positions for what some believe is the true reflection of the Olympics and the Team GB poster girl Jessica Ennis was unleashed to the world. As Jessica was producing personall bests to build a lead in the hepthalon, across at the veledrome Britain were showing that when it comes to cycling they are second to none as they collected another two gold medals. It was not only cycling GB were dominant. As gold, silver and bronze were won across the board in rowing, but if the country thought they were on a high from these performances? in honesty this was just the calm before the storm.
Saturday August 4th 2012, this was a day that will go down in British sporting history. This was a day that a tiny little island proved that they could stand on the shoulders of giants and match the world at the very best in sport. This was a day that would unite a nation and got every cynic to applaud. This was a day Great Britain won Six gold medals. Again team GB cleaned up in the rowing in the morning session. The afternoon belonged to Team GB cyclists but as the evening rolled in and people got comfortable in front of their televisions who knew that they would end up on the edge of the seats and witnessing athletics history. Jessica Ennis on her way to gold sprinting down the home straight to the roar of 80,000 fans in the stadium and no doubt millions more at home.
Forty minutes later an unknown 25 year old British long jumper by the name of Greg Rutherford spurred by the all ready jubilant crowd produced the performance of his life with a jump of 8.31m to win gold and become only the second British long jumper to do so. After five gold medals and a silver as the night drew to a close and track lit up by the thousands of flood lights beaming down on the 10.000m race, one man shone more then ever. If know one knew Mo Farah before they sure know him now. Crossing the line in first place winning gold to cap an amazing night, it did not just end a superb week but help to start a new week for the olympics that changed a nation and one that some generations had never witnessed.
The newspapers were celebrating what Britain had achieved, people had found a new wave of optimism and hope. The doom and gloom of the spending cuts and high price rises had take a backward step. For once the nation had come together and and for people who had no interest in sport were actually finishing work early to get home to watch Team GB in the event. Even the sun was shining while the Olympics were on. Sports clubs and associations had reported a serge in membership applications and children had now found new role models in the names of Ennis and Wiggins. Had the legacy of London 2012 all ready began before the Olympics all ready finished. Off the back of super Saturday had we all ready started training future olympic champions for rio 2016?. As the Olympics continued so the the medal haul for Great Britain, over the next 8 days Team GB won a further 15 gold medals and included in that was Ben Ainslie who became the greatest ever sailor in Olympic history, Andy Murray who beat old rival Roger Federer in the final and Nicola Adams who became the first ever female Olympic champion boxer. GB added 10 more silvers and 9 bronze medals to give a final total of 65 medals in total with 29 of them being gold. The greatest ever result for Great Britain since the 1908 Olympics and smashing the 19 gold medals won in Beijing. So as quick as it started the Olympics were over, the cauldron was extinguished and the torch handed over to Rio. The 16 days now became memories but memories that a an individual, a nation, a world will never forget. The slogan that the legacy wanted to leave was to “inspire a generation” but instead they inspired a nation and made us all search inside our selves and see what it truly means to be proud to be British. Could Great Britain afford the Olympics in times of austerity? maybe not. Was it worth it? just ask anyone who was in the Olympic stadium or by a TV screen that golden Saturday and they will tell you it was worth every last penny.
Images reproduced from pa wire/press association images
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