2012 Olympics: Inspire A Generation
Host: London, United Kingdom
Medal table winner: United States of America
Held between July 27th and August 12th, the 2012 games saw London become the first ever city to host the Olympics three times. The UK capital won the right after defeating Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow in a heated 2005 IOC election. London ensured it was the correct choice with what is popularly regarded as one of the greatest ever summer games.
The main story of the medal table proved the record-breaking haul of the hosts with Team GB accumulating 29 golds to finish in third place. Unsurprisingly, it was the USA who finished top dogs having ousted China by 15 medals. Meanwhile, there were impressive performances from South Korea who came fifth and Hungary who clambered into the top ten.
History was made on numerous fronts in London. For the very first time, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei allowed female athletes to compete. In addition, a record 204 countries took part with Earth’s newest nation South Sudan making their debut. Oscar Pistorius also made history by becoming the first amputee to compete at an Olympic, as opposed to Paralympic, standard.
The blockbuster Opening Ceremony also received great plaudits. James Bond’s escorting of the Queen and subsequent parachuting was undoubtedly a highlight with Mr. Bean’s cameo proving equally satisfying. The Closing Ceremony and its handing of the Olympic baton to Rio de Janeiro also received prominent praise.
British boxing brilliance
The London games saw women’s boxing feature at the Olympics for the first time and the hosts swiftly took advantage. UK’s Nicola Adam, in the flyweight division, had the opportunity to become the first female Olympic boxing champion. Despite facing a difficult opponent in China’s Ren Cancan, Adam breezed to victory in the gold medal match. A 16-7 points win ensured history was made.
Team GB also had success in the men’s boxing calendar. Anthony Joshua, now a professional world champion, clobbered Italy’s Roberto Cammarelle to take gold in the super heavyweight category. Luke Campbell followed suit with victory in the bantamweight competition, defeating John Joe Nevin 14-11. Middleweight fighter Anthony Ogogo had to settle for bronze, but did defeat the world number one on his route to third.
Widely regarded as the greatest athletics session in UK history, Super Saturday undoubtedly proved the host nation’s tournament highlight. Jessica Ennis kicked off proceedings as she powered to victory in the final event of the heptathlon, the 800m. Despite being the poster girl of the games and having gross pressure on her shoulders, she sealed an emotional gold. A tally of 6,955 points saw her romp to victory and overcome the injury heartbreak of Beijing.
Greg Rutherford was the next Brit to send the Olympic Stadium into delirium as he stole gold in the men’s long jump. A superb fourth round jump of 8.31m saw him become the first Brit to win the event since Lynn ‘the leap’ Davies in 1964. His winning jump took the Milton Keynes-born star a comfortable 15cm clear of Australia’s Mitchell Watt. The victory saw the 80,000 strong crowd begin to believe they were watching something truly special.
Mo Farah topped off the most incredible evening in the 10,000m. Already world champion in the event, Farah made his move with a lap to go and a 53.48 second final 400m was enough to hold off training partner Galen Rupp. He would later go onto win the 5,000m, but his Super Saturday contribution proves the abiding memory. The then 29-year-old’s inspirational late kick wrapped up three athletics golds in an hour and 12 overall on August 5th. Incredible stuff.
One of the most impressive individual performances of the games came in the pool via China’s Ye Shiwen. The 16-year-old superstar shocked the world when she romped to victory in both the 200m medley and 400m medley. However, it wasn’t the fact Shiwen bagged the golds, it was the manner in which she did so. In fact, her times came scarily close to the men’s records.
The Hangzhou-born star’s 400m medley gold shattered the world record by over a second and bettered her personal best by almost twice that. Moreover, the last 50m of her winning swim was faster than that of male gold medalist Ryan Lochte. While this inevitably prompted calls of doping, Shiwen tested negative for banned substances and will defend her titles in Rio de Janeiro.
UK cycling haul
While Super Saturday exemplified the UK’s track and field success, Team GB’s most fruitful discipline proved cycling. Sir Bradley Wiggins was the man to kick start the gold rush with victory in the time trial. In becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France also, 2012 saw Wiggins bag the BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year Award and a knighthood. Chris Froome scooped a bronze, but Mark Cavendish whimpered to 29th in the road race.
Sir Chris Hoy also built on his Beijing achievements to become the most decorated British Olympian of all time. Victories in the Keirin and Team Sprint saw the Scot surpass Sir Steve Redgrave’s tally of five golds. Laura Trott topped the podium in the Omnium by the skin of her teeth in a dramatic climax. By swooping to victory in the Time Trial and the USA’s Sarah Hammer winding up fourth, Trott wiggled her way to gold.
Meanwhile, in the women’s Keirin, Victoria Pendleton ensured she retired from cycling in victorious fashion. The 35-year-old, who has since converted to horse racing, edged out China’s Guo Shuang for gold. In addition, Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke, Peter Kennaugh, Danielle King, Joanna Rowsell, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes also became Olympic champions for Britain.
The greatest ever
Having acquired an incredible eight gold medals in Beijing, Michael Phelps was poised to cement his legacy in London. While the magic of four years ago had simmered out, Phelps was still in dangerous form. The Baltimore-born hero stormed to gold medals in the 100m butterfly, 200m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley. However, Phelps had to settle for silver in the 200m butterfly and 4x100m freestyle.
Not quite eight out of eight, but it secured a prominent piece of history nonetheless. Phelps’ exploits saw him become the most successful Olympic athlete of all time with 18 gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes. His London performances saw him eclipse the achievements of Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who has 18 ribbons to her name. Scarily, Phelps is competing in Rio too, so his tally could swell further!
It was a case of so close yet so far for Brazil in the football programme. Spearheaded by the mercurial Neymar, the five time World Cup winners reached the gold medal match at a canter. However, a brace from Oribe Peralta saw Mexico steal a 2-1 win in the final to snatch the gold.
Usain Bolt was up to his usual tricks in London as he retained his 100m and 200m titles ahead of fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake. There may have been no individual world records this time, but he still helped Jamaica shatter the global best in the 4x100m relay with an electric time of 36.84 seconds.
Despite having suffered defeat in the Wimbledon final just two weeks previously, Andy Murray exacted revenge on Roger Federer with Olympic victory. An emotional 6-2 6-4 6-1 win saw him leave Centre Court with gold around his neck.
Arguably the highlight of the track and field calendar proved David Rudisha’s stunning performance in the 800m. The Kenyan’s bold tactic of leading from the front proved fruitful as he held off Botswana’s Nijel Amos. In addition, his time of 1:40.91 saw his own world record crumble in London.
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Such a phrase proves particularly relevant in the case of Katherine Grainger who at long last won Olympic gold. Having been forced to settle for silver in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, Grainger finally ended her bad luck with victory in the double sculls.
YJA Senior Corespondent