London Olympic 2012
End of a supreme carnival
At the end of a long, raucous night, it was inevitably the words of Lord Sebastian Coe that best summed up the last sixteen days of whirlwind madness in London.
“When our time came, we did it right,” said Coe in his short and sweet speech towards the end of the Closing Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, and it had the capacity crowd at the stadium clapping in agreement.
And London did do it right. Pre-Games jitters about transport, budget et al where brushed aside emphatically by the performances of a galaxy of stars including Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, Mohammad Farah, David Rudisha and Sir Chris Hoy.
There were intricate storylines, from Michael Phelps defending his juggernaut reputation to Usain Bolt ascending the pantheon of legends. But there was also a blind archer who broke a world record and a man without legs who made it to the finals of a 400-metre relay.
And then, there was also the collective euphoria that carried Team Great Britain or Team GB as they were known to exalted heights. At the 2004 Athens Games, Great Britain combined for just nine gold medals and 30 overall. This was not a sporting powerhouse. When the nation was granted these Olympics, the government invested in infrastructure and training, and suddenly there were times it felt like no other nation stood a chance. The United States and China still finished first and second in the medal standings but “Team GB,” as it was hailed, finished third with 29 gold medals and 65 overall.
For once, the British had their own heroes, and they delivered. Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon, Mohammad Farah sent the stadium into raptures and in the futuristic Velodrome, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy shot them to new heights.
London, then, had much to celebrate of their own.
But even if they lacked characters of their own, they could certainly adopt many. Michael Phelps came into London with his reputation on the wane. In his swansong, the legendary swimmer proved true the oldest rule in the book: never count out a champion. He left London as the most decorated Olympian of this Games and also the most decorated Olympian of all time.
But if we are to celebrate London, then we need to turn our attentions to the one man who transformed what might have been just a good Games to what became a phenomenal one.
Sport needs characters, and in Usain Bolt, track and field has found its Muhammad Ali. Bolt is currently the most thrilling athlete in the world, and you can feel it in the electric pulse that resonates across the stadium whenever the crowd catch a glimpse of him. Bolt performed for less than two minutes in London, but those are two minutes that will be seared in the memory of all those lucky enough to have been there. He also took home three gold medals and regaled all with panache and character. Bolt really was the fulcrum of the Olympics.
But London 2012 would also not have been what it was without the help of the 70,000 volunteers who stood day and night outside underground stations, at malls, at bus stops and inside the stadium to help out every single visitor, media personnel or athlete who might have run into any difficulty. The Gamesmakers really did what their name said they would — they made these Games.
In the end, it was all so picture perfect, that even the weather decided it would cooperate.
-With The Daily Star input