The Torch Relay was many people’s first taste of the Olympics, with 95% of the population being within an hour of the route – most of them seemed to be lining the roads at one time or another too.
The much anticipated opening ceremony was spectacular and it was clear the work that had gone into producing the long show, both by its creators, but also by the thousands of volunteers that were involved in bringing the visions to life. The only downside for many was a lack of commentary (or a narrator), as not everyone is up on their British history.
Much of the early medal talk centred a round Mark Cavendish and his quest for a gold medal (having been the only British track cyclist to come home from Beijing with out a medal 4 years ago, he more than anyone wanted to win). However it wasn’t to be, with the rest of the teams either having riders in the front group or unwilling to help Team GB chase. Cavendish’s 4 teammates simply couldn’t pull the race back together in the closing stages. So no medal for the Brit’s, but none for any of the other pre-race favourites. In the end it was Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) who rode to victory, out sprinting Rigoberto Uran Uran (Colombia) in the centre of London. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) took the bronze to ensure none of the big cycling nations took a medal.
In the end it was left to Lizzie Armitstead to pick up British cycling’s first medal of the games, she took silver in a hard fought road race that ended in torrential rain – a stunning ride (only the pre-race favourite and the best female rider of her time could get the better of Lizzie on the day).
In the time trials the British women were at disadvantage on a flat course, but still Emma Pooley managed 6th and Armitstead 10th behind race winner Kristin Armstrong (USA) who repeated her win of 2008. In the men’s race, Tour hero Bradley Wiggins continued his domination, and in the end he won by a good margin – much to the delight of the crowd. Chris Froome added a bronze to the medal tally too.
Simply put – completely dominated by Great Britain. Only the mistakes of Victoria Pendleton gave anyone else a look in (possibly it cost her 2 gold medals). Our predictions of 8 gold and 2 silver were pretty close in the end, with the actual total being 7 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze – it could so easily have been 9 gold. Star of the track had to be Laura Trott – a double Olympic champion and still only 20. You had to feel for Jess Varnish though, sadly she was the one who didn’t come home with a medal.
Triathlon began with the women’s race and hopes were high for Helen Jenkins, having won the test event on the same course last year. Sadly a knee injury had hampered her build up to the games and she couldn’t handle the increase in speed in the closing stages – she was still good enough for 5th place, the best ever finish for a British Triathlete in an Olympic Games.
Nicola Spirig (SUI) won the race, in the closest finish to a Triathlon ever seen. Vicky Holland crashed on the bike leg and ended up in the second group on the road, she rallied to finish 26th. Lucy Hall – a good bet to be Britain’s first female Olympic Triathlon champion, led after the swim and worked hard on the bike to protect Jenkins, finishing in 33rd (a position that doesn’t truly reflect her ability, after having done a lot of hard work early on for her team mates she wouldn’t have had much left for the run).
Alistair Brownlee cemented his place as the world best triathlete by adding the Olympic title to an ever-growing list of wins. Javier Gomez stepped up his game to claim silver, with Jonathan Brownlee making it a double success for Yorkshire with the bronze medal.
To some the team did exceptionally well with 4 gold’s, to others they lacked strength in depth (and through away yet another relay medal).
In the end the 2 big stars of the team won big, with Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah picking up gold’s as the nation expected, Farah put the icing on the cake by taking a second gold. The rest of the British distance runners showed they are well behind the rest of the world still (as are many of our sprinters). Credit must however go to Andrew Osagie, having the race of his life in the 800m final, like everyone else in the race he took advantage of the pace laid down by one David Rudisha (on his way to setting a new world record).
In the end injury wrecked many athletes chances (Paula Radcliffe, Phillips Idowu, Goldie Sayers to name a few), with a few others not performing as expected (we won’t name names).
Ups and downs really for the rest of the GB team, the equestrian team did really well with five medals, including three gold. The rowers brought home 9 medals (4 gold), the sailors were close to getting many gold’s but sadly had to settle for silver in most cases, with Ben Ainslie having the fight back of his life to claim the only gold for our sailors.
Swimming was seen by many as the sport that failed to live up to expectations, with only 1 silver and 2 bronzes and only two swimmers picking up medals in the end.
Andy Murray gave the home fans at Wimbledon something to remember when he took a gold and a bronze in the same day and Peter Wilson took gold in the Men’s Double Trap (Shooting).
A major success if we had to pick one would have to be the British Canoe team, with two gold, a silver and a bronze they truly put some of our other better funded athletes and sports to shame.
For many it was the British women who truly performed well. Nicola Adams gave us a first women’s boxing gold, another great performance came from Jade Jones, winning gold in Taekwondo and she’s still only 19. Add in the likes of Laura Trott and upcoming stars like Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Lucy Hall and its clear the women’s side of sport is healthy.
Top GB Performances
Team – Hockey
Brit’s to watch in future games
Lucy Hall (Triathlon), Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Adam Gemili (Athletics). Jade Jones (Taekwondo) and Nicola Adams (Boxing) are couple of names who will be back for more no doubt, and may well become multiple Olympic Champions in time.
Top Rest of the World Performances
David Rudisha – 800M, world record without any pace makers
Jennifer Suhr – Pole Vault, anyone who beats Yelena Isinbayeva deserves the credit
Usain Bolt – 3 gold’s, again
Allyson Felix – 3 gold’s, best female performance outside of swimming (they just give medals away)
Emily Batty – completed the cross-country mountain bike event despite a broken collarbone.
Rest of The World Team – USA Women’s Football
Bringing together some of the biggest names in British music (The Who, Annie Lennox, Madness and the Kaiser Chiefs, just a pity no Status Quo), along with a few British icons like Eric Idle – a fitting end to 17 days of athletic endeavour.
The most successful games for British athletes in most people’s minds. 5 Brit’s took home 2 gold’s (Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Chris Hoy, Mo Farah and Charlotte Dujardin) out of the total of 65 medals (29 gold). They could take even more in future games if many of these sports get the funding they not only need, but also deserve. For too long the 3 big sports (football, rugby and cricket) in the UK have had too much money and far too many column inches in the press – often about their failures. It’s time for a change.
But wait, this is not the end, we are only half way! The Paralympic Games begin on 29 August and are not only typically more successful for British athletes, but also great for spectators – here some the most remarkable individuals you will ever see take to the sports stage.