If Juan Antonio Samaranch was still kicking around, he would have to seriously reconsider his “greatest Games ever” comment. I’m happy for Sydney 2000 to retain the crown, but London 2012 has given it a serious shake.
The worries with London were all the jibes habitually thrown at what I believe is the world’s greatest city. The grumpy locals, the late-running Tube, the weather. I haven’t been lucky enough to experience the English capital over the last two weeks, but the drizzle has stayed away, the transport system has received nothing but praise, and Londoners have turned up in their droves. Full stadiums and heaving pavements for the distance events have contributed to a sense of fun that rivals the famous atmosphere that defined Sydney’s Games.
Lord Seb Coe, and old mate Boris Johnson, who’s lily-white coiffure has found itself on the back pages more than once over the course of the Olympics, should take a bow not only for the smooth operation of an unparalleled logistical undertaking, but for successfully showing off London at its best. It was fitting that one of the world’s most multicultural cities played host to this epic celebration of diversity, framed by London’s iconic landmarks that were showcased magnificently. Images of the marathon on the Mall, 70,000 packing Wembley to see GB’s women beat Brazil, and beach volleyball in the Horses Guard Parade have all been memorable features of London 2012, which could have been known as the Postcard Games.
But the highlight of these Olympics has been the athletic performance of the hosts. While the Australian media has jealously feted Britain’s sophisticated talent identification, imported coaches and expensive development programs, it’s hard not to think that a good old-fashioned dose of national pride had a lot to do with it.
The British medal tally is chock-full of great stories that have underpinned the quality of London 2012. Bradley Wiggins backing up his Tour de France victory with time trial gold, Chris Hoy chucking another two golds into his kit bag, GB dominating the regatta at Eton Dorney, Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon before Mo Farah completed his 5000m-10,000m brace, triathlete Alistair Brownlee collecting a gold alongside his brother at the Serpentine. Even Andy Murray managed success at Wimbledon, such was the strength of Team GB’s midas touch.
That’s not to mention the presence of two of the greatest Olympians in history: Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Phelps’ 22 medals – 18 of them gold in colour – leaves his rivals in the shade. Bolt’s so-called ‘double-triple‘ is an all-time great achievement, but the titles alone fail to do justice to the manner in which he achieved them. The 25-year-old gracefully balances arrogance and charisma, charming the home crowd by doing ‘The Mo‘, asking to keep his golden relay baton, accosting a photographer’s camera, and a number of other hijinks that displayed his genial character to a besotted audience.
The Tube, the weather, the locals; Phelps and Bolt, Team GB; Seb Coe, BoJo and Stratford. All of this against the finest backdrop on the planet. Well done, London. Maybe the second best Games ever (Sydney still takes the gold, of course).