Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Olympics 2012: All eyes were firmly on Britain – and boy did we deliver!

Unless you found yourself locked in a cave and devoid of digital technology for the last three weeks, it would have been hard not to have been caught up in the captivating, sporting extravaganza that was the London 2012 Olympics.

In the lead up to the Games it is fair to say there were a number of sceptics, and the organising team didn’t exactly help itself. Aside from Londoners being led to believe our transport system would reach crisis point with the extra demand, there was a scandal as G4S failed to meet security requirements and the controversy surrounding the leading sponsors McDonald’s and Coca Cola: should these two corporate giants really be the nutritional voice behind a global ‘fit and healthy’ event? However, from the moment the fireworks erupted in Danny Boyles’ ‘The Isles of Wonder’ ceremonial production, and the world watched Her Majesty the Queen jump from James Bond’s helicopter, all the logistical faux pas seemed to be put aside. The Mitt Romneys of the world were left to eat their words as Britain confirmed Boris Johnson’s retaliating words: “Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are!"

On Saturday 28th July 2012 the 10,490 athletes from 204 nations, embarked on their 16-day Olympic journey. Britain was poised to take control early as our first golden hopeful, Mark Cavendish, embarked on the 250km road race. However, the Tour de France heroes failed to deliver. The pressure for the host nation to bring in Jacques Rogge’s early gold medal to “boost the whole atmosphere and mood of the nation” was on. We waited and we waited. It was clear that this Olympic journey was going to be a turbulent, emotional rollercoaster. Our swimmers made an auspicious start and Ben Ainslie wasn’t having sailing success in the Finn. Four days passed and despite a little reprieve in the form of some silvers and bronzes (thanks to Lizzie Armistead, the equestrian eventing team, Michael Jamieson, the male gymnasts, and Rebecca Addlington), Team GB had yet to bring home the triumphant prize. However, on the fifth day, Britain finally hit gold. Helen Glover and Katherine Grainger powered through to victory in the coxless pairs and Bradley Wiggins rode into the world record books in the time trial. The nation’s morale was lifted, Team GB bounced back with a vengeance and from then on, the golds continued to pour in.

The proceeding 11 days were a whirlwind of thrilling activity. National pride was emanating from every pore and Team GB not only lived up to all expectations but was shattering world records left right and centre. The memorable moments were numerous. Without a shadow of a doubt, my highlight had to be the tear-jerking moment when Mo Farah claimed the historic distance double.    Other stunning performances came from Jessica Ennis; her world-leading 100m hurdles time of 12.54s secured her the heptathlon gold. Then there was Sir Chris Hoy, aka ‘Mr Incredible’, who retires gracefully as the most successful GB athlete, having achieved two more golds to take his total to six. Similarly, the beautiful Ben Ainslie is now the most decorated Olympic sailor as he rallied to secure his fourth successive gold. Meanwhile, over in SW19, Andy Murray put in the performance of his life, conquering the undisputed king of Centre Court, Roger Federer to take home tennis gold.
The Brownlee brothers dominated the triathlon, bringing home both gold and bronze. They carved their names into the record books as they became the first British brothers in more than a century to stand side by side on the podium after competing against each other in an Olympic event. More incredible achievements came in the form of boxer Nicola Adams, Gemma Gibbons’ judo silver, Greg Rutherford, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott, Ed McKeever and Tom Daley.
But Team GB aside, London played host to several other astonishing sporting benchmarks. Who can forget the self-proclaimed “living legend”, Usain Bolt. In the 100m final he proved doubters wrong by beating his apprentice and training partner Yohan Blake, and moreover, the highly anticipated event was followed by an even more impressive victory in the men’s 200m final which saw Jamaica take gold, silver and bronze.

The crowds in the stands and viewers all over the world certainly did “bask in [his] glory”! The unilateral support for him shows how unifying the whole event can be, as true sporting prowess can be equally celebrated and admired by all, regardless of nationality. On the athletics track there was also David Rudisha, the Maasai tribesman who annihilated the 800m world record, crossing the line in an astounding one minute 40.91 seconds. It was a feat which led Lord Coe to claim it to be the greatest moment of the entire games. Finally, Michael Phelps dethroned the former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina as he won his final race, the 4x100m relay, making his medal total a jaw-dropping and historic record of 22 (18 of which are gold).

To add to what already was a sugar-topped, cherry of an Olympic cake, all Abchaps were fortunate enough to get a tasty slice of the action. Our CEO, Julian ‘Bozzy’ Bosdet splashed out and treated every member of our team to tickets to events at the Olympic Park. Over the course of two afternoons, Abchaps were treated to a mouth-watering buffet spread in the office before donning team Abchurch’s Team GB caps and travelling the four short stops on the central line to Stratford. Half the group put their Team GB support on hold to watch the Aussies take on China and the US dominate Canada in the women’s basketball semi-final.

The other half were lucky enough to get all patriotic and shout their support to GB in the women’s water polo – a sport which I must admit seemed to resemble some form of legalised drowning, and despite a GB loss, with an exciting Russia vs. China second match, it most certainly was an exceptional and memorable afternoon.

Sixteen days, 26 sports, 34 venues, 100,000 hours of footage broadcast to four billion viewers and Team GB’s biggest medal haul since 1908. The sporting extravaganza drew to a close with Kim Gavin closing the curtains on the Great British Party with a musical display of the best of British music. Epic performances from the likes of Madness, the Spice Girls, Take That, One Direction, former Kinks front man, Ray Davies and The Who preceded a lavish fireworks display. The ceremony perfectly captured the patriotic sentiment and upbeat attitudes of the previous two weeks. Britain had done it. We conquered the set-backs, the sceptics, the £9 billion price-tag (thanks Jessie J!) and executed what can simply be described as a brilliant, beautiful Games. It brought tears and heartbreak, passion and joy, but it also brought about a united country and inspired a generation. From the 70,000 volunteers, the valiant British Armed Forces, the athletes to the organisers; London staged a significant and unforgettable extravaganza, the memories of which will resonate for a very long time to come.

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