a spectacular closing ceremony
The Brits pulled out all the stops to celebrate the end of their third Olympic Games (with London having already been the host city in 1908 and 1948). The Olympic Stadium was transformed into a giant stage on Sunday evening filled with grand sets including miniature replicas of London’s most famous monuments, tens of thousands of volunteers and dancers twirling around in every direction, and a seemingly endless stream of British stars. The line-up included: Madness; George Michael; who got the whole stadium singing Freedom; Annie Lennox who performed on board a ghostly boat; Liam Gallagher, without his brother, who performed Wonderwall; One Direction, who brought something for the younger generation; Jessie J, whose performances included a rendition of ‘We Will Rock You’ accompanied by Brian May, the former Queen guitarist, who played an exceptional guitar solo; Muse, who gave one final performance of the official Olympic song, Survival; Ed Sheeran, who performed a superb version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here with some of the original band; Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell shimmering in their spangled dresses; DJ Fatboy Slim playing his set on a giant octopus; a hologram of Freddie Mercury which succeeded in getting the thousands of people in the stands to sing together; the Spice Girls making their great comeback perched on top of multi-colored London taxis; and finally The Who, closing the show with some of their greatest hits. Good luck to future ceremony organizers, as the British have set the bar very high!
moments of sporting history
The 2012 Games had their fair share of magical moments, with athletes performing at the top of their game:
- Usain Bolt wanted to become a legend, and despite what may have been said by the President of the IOC and Carl Lewis, the public was unanimous in telling him that he had achieved his objective. Four years after the Beijing Olympics, he succeeded in winning the 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4×100 meters relay, in which he set a new world record with his team mates. The Jamaican amazed the entire world, and took his place in the record books by becoming the most successful sprinter in Olympic history.
- Michael Phelps also achieved legendary status in the Olympic Games. By winning six medals in London, four golds and two silvers, the American swimmer became the most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 22 medals, of which 18 are gold, over three Olympics. He has brought an end to his career with a feat which will long be remembered.
- Despite the immense pressure on his shoulders, Teddy Riner dispatched each of his rivals one after the other without batting an eyelid, much to the great despair of Japan, the birthplace of Judo. The French Judoka, who is a five-time world champion, avenged his failure of four years ago in Beijing (when he won bronze) by winning the gold medal in the heavyweight division this time around.
- Bradley Wiggins confirmed his status as the world number one in cycling by winning the 44-kilometer time trial event. Just ten days after his victory in the 2012 Tour de France, the Briton became Olympic champion alongside his fellow Team Sky rider, Chris Froome, who took his place on the third step of the podium after winning the bronze medal.
- The USA’s men’s and women’s basketball teams achieved a widely predicted double win with both teams taking home Olympic gold. A hugely popular sport in the US, basketball remains the prerogative of the Americans, even though the Spanish proved themselves to be worthy adversaries in Sunday’s final, losing out by just seven points.
- China failed to perform as well as they had in Beijing, collecting 87 medals, including 38 golds this time (compared with 100 medals of which 51 were gold in 2008); but the Chinese still managed to make their mark across a range of disciplines. We remember, for example, the 16-year old swimmer, Ye Shiwen, who beat the world record as she won the gold medal in the women’s 400 meters. In doing so, she swam faster than the winner of the men’s race, a feat which went on to become a great talking point. In Badminton, the Chinese hardly gave the other nations a chance as they won five titles; and the same was true in Table Tennis, where they picked up all four gold medals on offer.
- Renaud Lavillenie was crowned the Olympic pole vault champion after clearing the bar at 5.97 meters during a gripping contest with Germany’s Björn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe. The Frenchman won gold in the presence of the master of the discipline, Sergey Bubka, the pole vault world record holder who has been keeping a close eye on the man from Clermont-Ferrand’s performances.
- You could have easily mistaken Taoufik Makhloufi for a 400-meter runner as he won gold in the men’s 1500 meters race in a time of 3:34:08. The Algerian blasted past the Kenyans in one of their flagship events, although he almost didn’t make it to the start line. He was barred from competing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for showing “poor sportsmanship and a lack of effort” during the 800 meters race, but was eventually reinstated.
In addition to the sporting moments, the Olympic Games are also the setting for some incredibly emotional moments, including:
- The participation of South African double amputee, Oscar Pistorius, who runs using legs made from carbon-fiber, thus becoming the first disabled athlete to race alongside able-bodied competitors. He managed to reach the semi-finals of the 400 meters, but finished last in that race, and went on to also compete in the 4×400 meters relay.
- The distress and tears of Shin A-Lam, a South Korean fencer who was beaten in the semi-final of the epee fencing tournament, but then refused to leave the arena and concede defeat amidst a row over the clock being reset.
- Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi leaping into the arms of France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi at the end of the 3,000m steeplechase. The Kenyan was unable to contain his joy upon becoming the Olympic champion, as he literally threw himself into the arms of his silver medal winning French friend. After exchanging running vests, the Kenyan went to run a lap of honor with his friend’s vest.
- Laure Manaudou’s tears of joy after her brother’s victory in the final of the 50 meters freestyle swimming. Eight years on from winning three gold medals at the Athens Olympics, the French swimmer seemed even happier for her brother than she had for her own victories.
- Liu Xiang’s fall in the heats of the 110 meters hurdles; a disastrous scenario which you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Having already been unlucky in front of his home crowd at the Beijing 2008 Games, the Chinese favorite missed his chance once again, this time falling at the first hurdle – a fall which caused a serious injury to his Achilles tendon, but we are happy to report that he has already undergone a successful operation for this.
- Robert Harting’s explosion of joy. After becoming the men’s Olympic discus champion, the German exploded with joy: like the Incredible Hulk, he yelled as he tore apart his vest, before setting off on his very own hurdles race, which he leapt over in impressive style!
The list could go on, as these Olympic Games have generated some wonderful moments and kept us enthralled for 17 days. Don’t forget to add your own highlights in the comments section below. Also, remember that the Paralympic Games will be held from August 29 to September 7, where you’re sure to see athletes putting in stronger performances than ever before, proving that sport can help you to go beyond your limits. As a famous French commentator once said, “Long live sport!”