For Jessica Ennis-Hill, it will be a venue and an event that will forever define her. At London 2012 the expectation was ferocious, and billboards of the poster girl of the Games were littered across the country, but she duly delivered for a career highlight that she readily admits will never be matched.
This weekend, Ennis-Hill has been back at the Olympic Stadium for the Anniversary Games, reunited with the two other protagonists of Super Saturday in Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford – venue and athletes indelibly linked.
“I’ll forever want to go back there as it’s got so many great memories, of the gold, the crowd and everyone coming together,” she said. “Things have changed obviously and this time I have my son, Reggie, watching in the stands, which is a lot different to 2012. But I expect all the memories of Super Saturday to come flooding back.”
Ennis-Hill’s heptathlon gold was just one part of an extraordinary 17 days for British sport, when the world’s focus was on the capital, the undoubted highlight being Super Saturday when Great Britain celebrated six golds in a single day, three of which were won in 46 minutes of delirium on the track. It marked the turning of the tide at the Games. In Atlanta in 1996, Britain had come back with a solitary gold, Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent leading the charge in the coxless pairs rowing to avoid the ignominy of a total blank.
After all those dark days, when London was awarded the Games amid much fanfare in Singapore in 2005 the focus was on ensuring a truly golden Games with the finances to boot.
It led to 19 golds and 47 medals in all at the preceding Olympics in Beijing in 2008, and four years on the outcome exceeded all expectations with 29 golds and a total of 65 medals to finish behind only the United States and China in the medal table.
Ten British Gold Medal Prospects At Rio 2016
Ten British Gold Medal Prospects At Rio 2016
1/10 CHARLOTTE DUJARDIN - Individual Dressage
The defending Olympic champion in the individual and team dressage disciplines, barely a competition seems to go by in which the 29-year-old Dujardin and her horse, Valegro, do not increase their standing with yet more world records. The pair are looking invincible. Prospects: 24 carat gold
Steve Parsons/PA Wire
2/10 GILES SCOTT - Sailing (Finn class)
Arguably one of the best sportsmen to not feature at an Olympics, Scott has suffered the misfortune of competing in the same event as Sir Ben Ainslie with only one spot available. But Ainslie’s Olympic ambitions are now over. Prospects: Gold digger
3/10 WOMEN'S TEAM PURSUIT - Cycling
Once unbeatable, the trio of riders, which later became a quartet – Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell, with Dani King vying to win her place back – went four years without a defeat before being outdone by Australia at the World Championships in Paris in February. Such is British Cycling’s ability to peak at the right time, expect them to be back on top next year. Prospects: Going for gold
4/10 ALISTAIR BROWNLEE - Triathlon
Only fifth in the world, but the Olympic champion had a late start to the season. He has won two of his three races in 2015 and his rivalry with Spain’s Javier Gomez will be captivating up to the Games. Prospects: Going for gold
5/10 SCOTT BRASH - Individual Show Jumping
The multi-million-pound horse Hello Sanctos has helped put Brash, a gold medallist at London 2012 in the team event, comfortably at the top of the world rankings. He is currently on course to become the first rider to win showjumping’s Triple Crown. Prospects: Going for gold
6/10 MO FARAH - Athletics – 5,000m and 10,000m
Britain’s leading athlete may have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in past weeks but he remains the world’s leading distance runner. A repeat of that golden double over the 5,000m and 10,000m will be a hard ask but the Londoner ought to come out on top in at least one. Prospects: Going for gold
7/10 WOMEN'S PAIR - Rowing
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning halted their successful partnership in 2012 so the latter could resume military duties. Now reunited, they are gradually getting back to being the sport’s powerhouses. Prospects: 24 carat gold
8/10 MEN'S COXLESS FOUR - Rowing
British Rowing has turned its attention to the eight as the lead boat this year in order to qualify for the Olympic Games. However, the coxless four will once more be the No 1 boat for Team GB in Rio. The make-up of the boat is still unknown but Britain will be bidding to achieve a fifth straight win in the event at the Games.
9/10 KATARINA JOHNSON-THOMPSON - Heptahlon
The 22-year-old from Liverpool has just one Olympic appearance to her name dating back to London, where she finished 15th while Jessica Ennis shone. But she has become the world’s leading female eventer and ought to be Olympic favourite. Prospects: Going for gold
10/10 JADE JONES - Taekwondo 57kg
Ranked second in the world behind Eva Calvo Gomez, the attack-minded Jones beat the Spaniard at last year’s World Grand Prix and was recently crowned the first European Games champion. She believes the world title would have been hers if not for a scoring system error. Prospects: Gold digger
To put that into context, it was the same number of golds as traditional rivals Germany (11), France (11) and Australia (seven) combined.
All the evidence suggests that a Games perpetually elevates the hosts and backing that up four years later is a near mission impossible.
Of the last five hosts, all of their medal counts have dipped – although the United States were still table-toppers four years on from Atlanta but with seven less golds and eight medals fewer in all, while Australia went from 16 golds and 58 medals as hosts to 17 golds and 50 medals at the subsequent Olympiad.
Greece exceeded all expectations as hosts with six golds and 16 medals in 2004, only to disappear without a trace four years on and drop 43 places in the medal table with four medals in all and not a single gold.
As hosts, China came out on top with 100 medals of which 51 were gold. That translated to 38 golds and 88 medals in London.
When Bill Sweeney took over as CEO of the British Olympic Association in October 2013, he made it clear that his ambition was to attempt to exceed what Britain did in London 2012 and UK Sport made a record £347 million available in December 2012 in that quest.
But as things stand, the data and intelligence company Infostrada has predicted that Team GB can expect to tumble down the medal table from that remarkable third.
Infostrada estimates that Team GB will end up ninth in the standings in a little over a year’s time with nearly a quarter of that gold-medal haul from last time, in this case eight, and 43 medals in total – a considerable drop in one Olympic cycle.
Track cycling, which accounted for seven golds in 2012, appears to have had an alarming dip with just three silver medals at this year’s World Championships. Meanwhile, rowing and athletics were the next highest-ranked sports in terms of golds at the last Games with four apiece, and the evidence would suggest a similar level a year out from Rio.
In contrast, British swimming seems to have risen like a phoenix from the flames, from a paltry silver and two bronzes at the 2012 Olympics to be in genuine medal contention across the board in Rio.
As the clock ticks ever further from London 2012 – the opening ceremony was three yeas ago tomorrow – the former rower Mark Hunter argues that repeating the events of three years ago is impossible.
Hunter, who won silver on Super Saturday with Zac Purchase in the lightweight double sculls, recalls: “London was bigger and more explosive than any of us athletes quite realised. The whole think just exploded.
“The thing is at home, you’re in this special bubble where everything around you is just for you, it’s so positive. Most people didn’t know who I was but I was in a GB kit so it didn’t matter, they’d cheer you on.
“That for me didn’t bring pressure, it was simply a massive boost, and that’s not there in Rio de Janeiro.”Reuse content