Run of legends

Print edition : September 07, 2012

Jamaica's Usain Bolt winning the men's 100-metre dash.-KAI PFAFFEN BACH/REUTERS

The London Olympics dazzled with its sheer organisational brilliance as well as outstanding sporting performance.

It was one thing that Sebastian Coe, the Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), had guessed wrong. In the run-up to the 2012 Games, the two-time Olympic champion, who held many world records in middle-distance running, had expected the Chinese to dominate the Games as they did in Beijing.

But the United States raced past China to the top, winning 104 medals in all, 46 of them gold. China had a haul of 38 as against 51 in Beijing and a total of 87 medals. The host country rose to the occasion and finished third, ahead of Russia, winning 65 medals in all, including 29 gold, 10 more than in Beijing.

Bolt of lightning

The London Games were not about the changing equations, however. They were about the stars, especially the living legend Usain Bolt and the greatest Olympian of all time Michael Phelps. Between them, the fastest man on earth and the man with the most gold medals (18) in Olympic history mesmerised the world.

With his sheer drama and charisma, lightning Bolt stole the show. The Jamaican speed king won the hearts of fans by constantly interacting with them and with his trademark postures, even before the races that he eventually won with great ease.

Bolt put his index finger to his lips at the finish line in the 200-metre race to signal silence to those who had doubted he could do it again. The multiple World and Olympic champion, who holds the world record in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds) and the 200 metres (19.19 s), had lost his 100 m crown in the 2011 World Championship in Daegu, South Korea, because of a false start and had been beaten twice by compatriot Yohan Blake in the national trials.

Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraserpryce got gold in the women's 100 m.-OLIVIER MORIN/AFP

While Bolt sped away with the 100 m and 200 m golds, as he did in Beijing, clocking 9.63 s and 19.30 s respectively, he also ran his heart out in the 4x100 m relay to anchor Jamaica to the gold with a world record 36.84 s. That run of his will be remembered forever. Bolt was very serious about getting it right, and in the end the momentum almost carried him on a victory lap. He later hoped his fans would forgive him for celebrating late.

It is always a beautiful feeling to end like this. The team came out and gave their all. I knew a world record was possible, said Bolt, who rated the relay gold much closer to his heart than the other two. He joined Ray Ewry of the U.S. as the only winners of three athletic gold medals twice.

Other stars

There were many other memorable moments in track and field, such as Kenyas David Rudisha winning the 800 m in a world record 1 minute 40.91 seconds. The American womens sprint relay team Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter diverted some attention away from Bolt and company by winning the gold with a world record 40.82 s. Allyson Felix won two other gold medals, including in the 200 m ahead of the 100 m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica.

Keshorn Walcott, 19, of Trinidad and Tobago, won the mens javelin with a national record 84.58 m. From junior world champion to Olympic champion, it was a fast-track transition for him. He said his action suited javelin more than bowling in cricket, a national passion in his country.

The evergreen Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, who has 28 world records, failed to win her third gold in the Games in pole vault and had to settle for bronze.

The Athens Games (2004) gold medallist, Liu Xiang of China, fell after hitting the first hurdle in the 110 m hurdles heats and retired with an injured Achilles tendon. In Beijing, too, he had retired in almost similar fashion. The defending champion and world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba also clutched his right hamstring in the final, leaving Aries Merritt to strengthen the gold collection of the U.S.

Though the Jamaicans outran the Americans in the sprints, the U.S. reaped 29 athletics medals, including nine golds. It won 16 gold medals in swimming, half of them coming from Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, who won four each. The U.S. won gold medals across 15 disciplines.

Incidentally, the two swimmers won more gold medals than Australia, which finished tenth with seven golds, a big fall from 14 golds and sixth place in Beijing. Australias Sally Pearson won the womens 100 m hurdles gold with assurance, but its swimmers, shockingly, failed to win a single gold.

Phelps record

Phelps won four gold and two silver medals, making him the most successful athlete in the Olympics for the third time in a row. He had won six golds and two bronzes in Athens, and eight golds in Beijing. Phelps, who made his debut in Sydney in 2000, wound up with 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes medals in his fourth Olympics. He beat the all-time record of highest number of Olympic gold medals of gymnast Larysa Latnina.

Michael Phelps of the United States in the men's 400 m individual medley final. He has the highest number of Olympic gold medals, 18, now.-MARTIN BUREAU/AFP

Phelps lost to South African Chad le Clos by five hundredths of a second in the 200 m butterfly but equalled the record of 15 Olympic gold medals by taking the 4x200 m freestyle relay gold. Phelps went on to win the 200 m individual medley ahead of Ryan Lochte and the 100 m butterfly with a sweet revenge over Chad Le Clos, to become the first man to win those events in three Games. He then added the 4x100 m relay gold to his tally and set the bar very high for anyone dreaming of reaching it. The international swimming federation, FINA, honoured Phelps with an award for becoming the most decorated Olympian ever.

China struggles

The Chinese struggled to match their own standards but did manage to break new ground with five swimming golds, including two by the 16-year-old Ye Shiwen in the womens 200 m and 400 m individual medley, the latter with a world record.

The women's 4X400m relay team of the U.S. that won the gold.-ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP

China, which fielded only 396 athletes, won 25 of its 38 gold medals in badminton, diving, gymnastics, table tennis and weightlifting. It had a solitary gold in athletics through the 20-km walker Ding Chen.

Britain

Britain thrived in cycling (seven medals), rowing (four) and athletics (three). It won gold in 13 disciplines, though swimming was not one of them. Mo Farah was the star with his double gold in the 10,000-m and 5,000-m runs, while Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon and Greg Rutherford the mens long jump.

Wu Minxia of China in the women's 3-metre springboard diving final, in which she took gold.-MICHAEL SOHN/AP

Chris Hoy won his sixth Olympic gold in cycling and was given a meeting with the five-time gold medallist and rowing legend Steve Redgrave in the mixed zone after his event. The Youth Olympics champion, Jade Jones, got the transition equation right as she emerged the Olympic champion in the 57-kg category in taekwondo.

Stable Russia

Though it lost its third place, Russia was stable and in fact won a gold medal more than the 23 it won in Beijing. It won eight golds in athletics, four in wrestling and three in judo.

South Korea jumped up to fifth place even though it won 13 golds as it had done four years ago, while others, Germany (11 golds) in particular, slipped. There was considerable tension as four womens badminton doubles teams were disqualified for not playing their best in their last league matches, as defeat suited them for the knock-out ahead.

Australia's Sally Pearson winning the gold in the women's 100-metre hurdles.-ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/AP

Zhao Yunlei won golds in the womens doubles partnering Qing Tian (after China lost its top doubles team in the scandal) and the mixed doubles partnering Zhang Nan.

Tennis

Andy Murray warmed the hearts of the whole of Britain as he finally rose to his potential, beating Roger Federer in a one-sided final in Wimbledon for the tennis gold. World record holder Peter Wilson won the double trap gold, the only shooting gold for Britain.

Russia's Daria Dmitrieva performs her ribbon routine in the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics. She took silver in the event, while compatriot Evgeniya Kanaeva won the gold.-BEN STANSALL/AFP

The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, collected two more Olympic gold medals for the U.S. In a brilliant performance, Serena beat Maria Sharapova of Russia in the final for the loss of just one game. She had given an almost similar treatment to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the top-seed, in the semi-finals.

Memorable moments

There were memorable moments and unforgettable heartbreaks. One memorable moment was of the opening ceremony, when Danny Boyle, the director of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, presented a pre-recorded footage of the Queen jumping down from a helicopter with James Bond on a mission. The three-hour opening ceremony recreated the English countryside, while imbibing the rich history and literature of the country.

From stunts to stunning the world with efficient organisation, which won the hearts of athletes and spectators alike, London did a fantastic job of hosting the Olympics for the third time, the first city to do so. It had hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948.

At the colourful closing ceremony, when Britain paraded its modern life, music and fashion, Seb Coe said fittingly: When our time came, Britain, we did it right.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
×