It’s over to Rio. And as we get back into ‘wait mode’ once again, there is little doubt that the imprints left over the past 17 days and the memorable scenes from London will linger for a long time to come.
The Games, viewed as the biggest youth get-together of the world, has been the best ever.
Though India did not finish on top of the podium even once at London, the Games witnessed the country’s biggest-ever haul, doubling the efforts in Beijing four years ago — the silver medals of shooter Vijay Kumar and grappler Sushil Kumar adding glow to the bronze won by Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom and Yogeshwar Dutt.
On a global perspective, the London Games would be talked about for the deeds of Usain Bolt, who made himself a living legend, Michael Phelps swimming his last lap into history, not to forget the man on carbon blades — Oscar Pistorius —who fought gamely with able-bodied men and thus provided a new essence to what Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Games, once said: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
On the organisational front, the 2012 Games was supposed to fall flat but eventually it was a true five-ring party as the normally reserved British fans flocked the Olympic Park, prompting Sebastian Coe, the two-time Olympic champion and chief of the London Organising Committee, to succinctly put it as a “great dance out.”
However, the Games were not without controversy.
Though only one major doping offence was reported, the match-fixing scandal involving eight badminton players, who were sent home in disgrace after attempting to lose matches to get a favourable draw, was, undoubtedly, a blow to the Olympic spirit.
Likewise, the incidents linking a racist joke on twitter by a Greek triple jumper and the slur used by a Swiss football player to describe the South Koreans who had beaten them was also not in keeping up with the Olympic tradition.
The gaffes at the boxing ring, the fencing piste, the cycling velodrome, the judo mat, and the athletics and football fields, too, raised a question mark or two about the standards of officiating at the Games.
Right from the start, the British seemed to have got their act together. Perhaps, the most defining moment for the host country was the Opening Ceremony itself.
It was a class act, as the Oscar award-winning director, Danny Boyle, blended everything British into a mammoth spectacle that left the world spellbound.
Of course, the biggest surprise was involving none other than the Queen herself in the show.
When the athletes finally took over, there were again no shortage of pulsating moments.
The early piece of action centred around the pool where Michael Phelps, before a dazzling farewell, became the most decorated Olympian of all time.
He swam away with four golds and two silvers to eclipse the record of Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina (18) for most Olympic medals.
In the end, Phelps had 18 gold, and 22 overall, as he bade goodbye to the sport and the Games. At London, which witnessed the participation of women athletes from all the 204 enrolled countries for the first time, the performance of the 16-year-old American gymnast Gabby Douglas was yet another moment to cherish as she emerged as the first black to win the women’s individual all-around title.
Equally impressive was the world-record effort by the young Chinese swimmer Yi Shiwen. There were many other worthy performers, particularly in the boxing ring where women’s boxing made its bow as an Olympic sport for the first time. But, all these were simply overshadowed by Usain Bolt, who once again ruled the hearts of his legion of fans worldwide.
In the process, he put to rest doubts which were cast over his ability to become the first sprinter to retain the 100m-200m sprint double. Bolt simply let his running do the talking.
US regains top spot
Amidst all this, the United States immensely benefited from the track and field events to dethrone the Chinese, who had finished on top at Beijing, and re-establish itself as the top nation in the world.
China, however, had its moments of glory in badminton, table tennis, diving and weightlifting — disciplines which it has dominated for a long time now. The biggest surprise was the performance of Great Britain. Feeding on crowd support and using the home advantage to the hilt, the British waltzed to a third place finish in the final medals tally. The likes of Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy drove the home crowd into a frenzy, keeping them engaged throughout the Games.
Now that it is finally over and London, the only city to host the Games thrice, bidding goodbye, all eyes will turn to Rio de Janeiro, as the Brazilians get themselves ready to welcome the cream of the youth of the world from August 5 to 21, 2016, for the first-ever Games in South America.
Keywords: 2012 London Olympics