London Olympics 2012
If there ever was a one-word summary to describe the 30th Olympiad in London, the USA athlete DeeDee Trotter found it during one of many press conferences at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
“Off-the-chain,” said Trotter and the whole room burst out laughing. “And that is putting it mildly,” she continued. Trotter was right. London has indeed been, in the parlance of the times, ‘off-the-chain.’
Before the Games had started, much had been made of the fact that London was hosting the Games in times of such austerity. But in truth, all of the three times London hosted the Games have been during times of struggle. But the British had risen to the challenge then and they had risen to the challenge now, putting on a show of such honed perfection, that there really can be no complaints.
London lacked the gloss of Beijing or the freshness of Sydney, but in its own way, London hosted the Games like no city ever can, supporting it, nurturing it and loving it more than anyone ever has. If indeed, the Games were to have a spiritual home, London would probably be it.
Usain Bolt famously complained about the petty rules that the organisers imposed that make no sense to him, but even he admitted how kind London had been to him. “I don’t get the chance to run here often, but I love this place.”
A big part of all that love has definitely been the crowds who have turned up for every single session of the Olympics, be it heats, first rounds, semifinals, etc.
“I have never seen a crowd as big for heats,” admitted Trotter. “It was chaos, but it was good chaos,” she concluded.
Indeed, the sentimentality of the British public, many of whom spent a lot of time and a lot of money navigating the archaic website system to secure a ticket, was perhaps the biggest victory of the Olympics.
Many local newspapers characterised the Britons as serial moaners leading up to the Games, where numerous issues about transport and budget seemed headline news everyday.
But come Games time, everything went without a hitch, thanks in large part to the excellent volunteers or Gamesmakers, who were helpful, polite and friendly to thousands of strangers who had descended upon their city.
But as mentioned, the fans were special. Not just in lauding their own heroes in Jessica Ennis and Mohammad Farah. True, the stadium felt like it would explode when Ennis secured gold, and it felt like it would evaporate in a wall of sound when Mohammad Farah did his double gold or when Bolt pulled out his amazing feats.
But it was the applause feted out to those less lucky, or less fortunate but no less enduring that made this so special. The stadium blew its top to honour Caster Semenya, the South African girl who won silver after so much controversy over the last couple of years. It clapped relentlessly as Oscar Pistorius finished his 4×400 relay in last place and it also saluted Sarah Attar as she ran the 800 metres heat and finished last.
Through their fans, London managed to portray the image of itself it had hoped to emanate through the Games. Gold medals are important, but in true Olympic ideals, it’s not the winning that matters, but
the taking part. Oscar Pistorius’s mother would have understood.
-With The Daily Star input