London 2012, The Posterity Games
The joy, the tears, the golden moments that will live with us forever – and there's still another exhilarating week to go!
Sunday 05 August 2012
10 magic moments
'The IoS' celebrates the most uplifting events so far. Matt Chorley, Emily Loud and Jenny Soffel report
Defying the doubters
She's been called Superwoman. She's been accused of doping. Her stunning performance last Saturday was deemed impossible by some, miraculous by others. The 16-year-old Chinese Ye Shiwen's world record-breaking 400m individual medley swim was extraordinary: she finished the last 100m in 58.68sec – her last 50m was almost a fifth of a second faster than Ryan Lochte, the winner of the men's race. The leading US coach John Leonard was quick to judge Shiwen's performance as "suspicious": whenever something "unbelievable" happens "it turns out later on there was doping involved", he said. But tests came back negative. Standing in the spotlight is a young woman who has awed the world with her incredible talent. Compared with other world-class female swimmers, Shiwen has placed herself in a different bracket statistically, based on analyses of her performance. For Ye Shiwen, this was not only a victory in swimming, but also a victory over disbelievers and false accusations.
Happy to Phelps
On Tuesday, the Flying Fish, otherwise known as Michael Phelps, dived into the pool as he had done so many times already this week. When he finished the 4x200m relay, he emerged from the water as the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 19 medals. The previous record was held by gymnast Larisa Latynina from the former Soviet Union, who got her 18th medal in 1964. But the incredible Phelps didn't stop there. The 27-year-old American won his 20th medal on Thursday in the 200m individual medley, his 21st on Friday winning the 100m butterfly and yesterday he brought his gold tally to 18 and his total to 22 after the US team won the 4x100 medley relay. He says London 2012 - where he has won four golds and two silvers - will mark the end of his competitive swimming, and what better way? The most decorated Olympian ever...
One glorious, golden afternoon
Ignore double trap shooting at your peril. Ditto canoeing. While all British medal hopes rested on the cyclists and swimmers to deliver the goods and tabloid newspapers pleaded for Team GB to do better, two of the more obscure sports saved the day with a gold rush on Thursday afternoon. Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie had barely kissed their gold medals at Lee Valley, Britain's first in the canoe slalom, when news broke of another spectacular win. Barely 20 miles away, Peter Wilson, a 25-year-old farmer's son, was named Olympic champion in the double trap shooting, Britain's first shooting medal in 12 years. Wilson had paid for his own training working in bars since losing his funding in 2008. That David Florence and Richard Hounslow also collected silver in the canoe slalom was icing on the cake.
Suddenly we're all triple-A-rated coaching experts in the most obscure sports. For one afternoon we all knew a half-pike from a backhand spring. And, of course, the pommel horse dismount. For a few glorious moments it seemed Great Britain's male gymnastics team had landed a silver medal, until Japan's appeal against a low score for Kohei Uchimura's botched dismount nudged them into bronze. But do not let the colour of the medal overshadow the historic significance of the achievement. The last time Britain won a gymnastics medal in the Olympics 100 years ago, they were wearing stockings and knickerbockers. In stepping on to the podium, Louis Smith, Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis, Sam Oldham and Kristian Thomas were catapulted on to front pages, attracting the adulation, screams and marriage proposals normally the preserve of a boyband.
Winning for women
One of the most striking things at these Games has been the performance and recognition of women. For the first time in Olympic history, every competing nation has at least one female athlete on its Olympic team. Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have never before sent women. Wojdan Shaherkani, the first Saudi woman, was defeated in minutes in her judo match, but she struck a blow for equality. The International Olympic Committee had to charmRiyadh to send female athletes. Brunei and Qatar had already announced that women would represent them. There is some way to go in the battle for gender equality. While women will compete in all 26 sports for the first time, they contest 30 fewer events than men.
We're all Lithuanian now
When Team GB had only silver, a 15-year-old Lithuanian provided the next best thing. Ruta Meilutyte, who won the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday, lives and trains in Plymouth. For gold-starved British fans, she was as good as one of ours. Meilutyte seemed as stunned as anyone at finishing 0.08 seconds ahead of the US world champion Rebecca Soni. It followed four days of extraordinary achievements which had taken the swimming world by surprise. Before winning Lithuania their first medal of London 2012, she had been the fastest in the preliminary heats and semi-finals, setting a European record along the way. She arrived in Britain just three years ago to train at Plymouth College, a private school with a prestigious swimming academy, attended by Tom Daley. Her swift rise has left Meilutyte predictably disoriented: "I ended up just walking round during the night, I was just so shocked. I slept with the medal in the pocket of my pyjamas."
As one, the nation wanted to grab him by the sideburns and kiss him on the lips. What a man Bradley Marc Wiggins is. Never mind becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France last month. Never mind winning gold in the time trial, zipping round the 44km course in 50 minutes 39 seconds, a full 42 seconds faster than German runner-up Tony Martin. Never mind having the most famous facial hair in sport since Nigel Mansell, and a mod fan base that includes Paul Weller and Paul Smith. What makes him so worthy of the tweets and cheers and celebrity status is that he is just so un-celebby. "I'm not a celebrity," he declared within hours of his gold medal win. "I will never be a celebrity and I don't consider myself a celebrity." He is, though, a family man, and went looking for his family in the cheering crowd right after crossing the line at Hampton Court. His wife, Cathy, was there for him, waiting with an endearing embrace.
Judo joy - and tears
With four words, Gemma Gibbons gave us one of the most heartrending moments so far. As she secured her place in the judo final, kneeling exhausted over defeated world champion Audrey Tcheuméo, she succumbed to tears of joy and sorrow. Looking skyward, the 25-year-old mouthed the words: "I love you, Mum." Jeanette Gibbons, who took her to training and competitions, died of leukaemia in 2004. "She did so much for me when she was alive," Gibbons explained. "Obviously I don't get to say thank you for that, so that was a kind of thanks to her." Although she lost to Kayla Harrison of the US in the final, Gemma's silver medal was GB's first in judo for 12 years, and brought the country to tears.
Not just about winning
Sometimes it really is about the taking part. Eddie the Eagle, Eric the Eel and the Jamaican bobsleigh team are part of a long line of Olympians for whom coming last, spectacularly so, is nothing to be ashamed of. Step forward Djibo Issaka, an oarsman from Niger. Originally a swimmer and a gardener, he switched to rowing just three months ago. No wonder he has been nicknamed the "sculling sloth" by some, finishing the fifth-tier semi-final last, 300 metres behind his closest rival. But maybe Issaka should continue to take it slow: he has had around 25,000 fans cheering him on. Swimmer Ahmed Atari, dubbed Atari the Qatari, gained attention for his 5min 21.30sec in the 400m individual medley, more than a minute slower than the Olympic qualifying time. But these triers are inspiring reminders of how far courage can take you. Wild cards, we salute you all.
Nobody could have been prouder than Bert le Clos when his son, Chad, beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly to win gold. Bert's interview with Clare Balding after the race brought him to national attention; he gesticulated and cried "Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable!" and "Look at him. He's beautiful. I love you" as he saw footage of his son. He added later: "I have never been so happy in my life. It's like I have died and gone to heaven. Whatever happens, from now on, it is plain sailing." Although slightly taken aback by being on television, Bert provided comic relief, remarking on his appearance on the television monitors. "Is this live?" he asked. It was, Clare Balding told him, but it was being recorded for posterity – and endless replays on YouTube.
Strange, but true
Judo fighter Ricardo Blas from Guam is the heaviest competitor at the Games. At 34st 5lb, he is more than 10st heavier than any other athlete in the Olympics – and 6st 10lb heavier than the entire Japan women's gymnastics team.
If any athletes from Qatar win gold, their podium moment will be a short-lived one. Their national anthem lasts a glorious 32 seconds.
The first-ever Olympic medal was awarded to American triple-jumper James Connolly who triumphed in Athens in 1896. His winning jump of 13.71m was won with two hops (on the same leg) and a jump and won him a victor's silver medal – gold was not awarded for first place until the 1904 Games in St Louis.
Those lucky enough to take gold may be disappointed to find the medals aren't 100 per cent gold. The last completely gold medal was awarded during the 1912 Olympics. Now they have to be coated in 6g of gold and are valued at about £450.
During the closing ceremony, three flags are raised: the Greek flag to honour the Games's birthplace, that of the current host country and that of the next host country.
Spectators at the keirin cycle race cannot help be amused by the sight of an older gentleman, dressed in black with what looks like an upturned bowl on his head, riding a white battery-powered bicycle. The man providing the comic turn is Peter Deary, 65, a coach at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, much to the amusement of his mates.
Nearly 46 million have watched BBC TV's coverage in the first week - more than the number who watched the entire Beijing Olympics.
The soundtrack to the Games
Much has been made of the fact that the beach volleyball crowds are being "treated" to the Benny Hill theme whenever sand-rakers hit the court during breaks of play. But that's just one of 2,012 songs being pumped out. The Games' music library has five themes – heritage, world stage, primetime, energy and extreme – with each category covering a variety of sports. So what can you expect to hear?
Music at the heritage sports is described as "the best of British, regal, orchestral". What that translates to are such choons as "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, the Smiths' downbeat "How Soon Is Now?" and the London Phil's "Mesto". Don't know what that sounds like? You soon will if you pop up at the archery, fencing, modern pentathlon, tennis – or go and watch the horsies doing their thing with Zara.
On the athletics track, the world stage brief is for "world-music anthems". And who better to deliver those than the twin musical geniuses of Coldplay and Bob Marley? Who wouldn't be inspired to a personal best by "Viva La Vida", eh?
In the so-called primetime slot, it's all a bit X Factor, with One Direction, Jessie J and Emeli Sandé, fresh from breaking our hearts with "Abide With Me" at the opening ceremony, warbling over sports including football, diving and gymnastics. Actually, forget X Factor – it's more like being subjected to David Cameron's iPod Shuffle.
Beach volleyball, swimming, track cycling – well, they're all angling after some energy, so that deserves a blast of young-people music, namely Chase & Status, Labrinth and Delphic. (Nope? Us neither …) Anyway, it's all dancy urban upbeat tracks. Nuff said, bruv.
What could be more extreme than that? Biffy Clyro, apparently. It's all "high-octane rock" for BMX, boxing, canoe-slalom and triathlon. Just spare a thought for those athletes as they slog their way through a swim, jog and cycle with the kids from Kilmarnock on endless repeat.
Winners and losers
'Gold' has become the unofficial anthem for GB's medal flurry. No British win is complete without a rendition of the 1983 Spandau Ballet hit which is now climbing the download chart.
His headphones slipped in the back door to become a fashion item (though neither an official sponsor nor Locog-endorsed).
Andy Murray fans
It seems only yesterday that Murray stood in tears on Wimbledon Centre Court after losing to Roger Federer. Now it's time to do it all again, but with a better result.
Make no mistake, from the pool to the velodrome to the rowing lake at Dorney, they've had a bit of a 'mare. Just don't mention the Ashes.
Well what a palava that was. They came into force amiod threats of £130 fines, then, within a week, as it appeared most IOC officials were using public transport, they were opened up to those of us outside "the Olympic Family".
After a crushing defeat in the First Test, England is defending its status as the top cricket nation against South Africa. But no one seems to have noticed.
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