Team GB and The Greatest Show on Earth
As the London 2012 Games arrived, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
It’s very exciting. I think there is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation, because Britain is ready to welcome the greatest show on earth.
Prior to 27th July, ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, the London 2012 Olympics, was a cause of concern by many a doubter. However security issues, transport fears and money woes all seemed to disappear as soon as Britain undertook the opening ceremony a fortnight ago. The history, music, colour and vitality of Danny Boyle’s show inspired commentators such as the Guardian's Richard Williams to say:
Danny Boyle made it happen. He made the stadium seem bigger than it is, as big as the world. He gave a party, full of jokes and warmth and noise and drama, and he got the Olympics started.
What followed was the best performance from Team GB for over 100 years. Some speculated the effect of a home advantage on British athletes, others claimed it was part of the hard work put in by athletes and the outstanding resources and expertise in the form of trainers that made sure Great Britain ended up third on the medal table, behind only the U.S and China.
Highlights of some of the British talent include:
Jessica Ennis, dubbed Team GB’s poster girl, carried the weight of the country’s expectations on her shoulders (seemingly) effortlessly during her event. The morning after the opening ceremony, she got off to an amazing start when she got through the 100m hurdles in 12.54 seconds. The next day she finished the 800m heptathlon in dramatic style when she moved from third to first place by the time she reached the line. Ennis set a UK record for the women’s multi-event.
Ben Ainslie became the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, when he won his fourth gold against Jonas Hogh-Christensen. Around 70,000 people watched the dramatic medal race where he moved from behind to moving right past and beyond the Dane.
Mo Farah is a name on every Olympic-goer’s lips since the Londoner became the first Brit to win the 5000/10000 distance double. Not only did the Olympian manage to break Kenya/Ethiopian control over these two events in modern times, he set an example to future generations on what it takes to be a world-class athlete:
It's all hard work and grafting. It's been a long journey grafting and grafting, but anything is possible.
Another endearing story of Team GB was the instance of the two brothers from west Yorkshire, Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee competing in the triathlon. Jonathon, the younger brother, was given a 15-second penalty during his change-over between the swimming and cycling. He recounts the time:
I saw the board with number 31 on it and thought my brother had got a penalty. I thought 'What an idiot Alistair, you've got a penalty'. Then I looked at my arm and realised I was number 31.
Alistair took gold at the event, whilst Jonathan took his penalty and still managed to win the bronze medal. This was a story of two brothers supporting each other towards victory for both, as well as Great Britain.
In terms of Boxing, Anthony Joshua will become an inspiration to many after him. An amateur boxer, Joshua came into the Olympics as the underdog. He powered his way to the final where he had to match the skills of the reigning Olympic champion and former twice World Champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy – beating the 32 year old, despite only having started up boxing in 2007. The women in Team GB were no less; Nicola Adams fought spectacularly and made history as the first woman to have won an Olympic boxing gold medal.
Last but not least, Great Britain’s cyclers brought in many gold medals (not to mention the silver and bronze medals) this year. Starting off with Bradley Wiggins, recent winner of the Tour de France, beat Luis León Sánchez for gold in the time trial. Laura Trott won a gold medal for the team pursuit alongside Dani King and Joanna Rowsell. This year also saw Sir Chris Hoy become the most successful British Olympian of all time after his two gold medals in the keirin and team sprint, which he can now add to seven Olympic medals (six gold and one silver) from previous games.
These individual successes just show the breadth of British talent available in sports, and they have also united a nation when only a year previously there were questions over the existence of such a united front between the people of the United Kingdom. As the Queen stated today:
As the 2012 London Olympic Games come to a close, I offer my congratulations to the athletes of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, whose efforts across the range of Olympic disciplines have truly captured the public's imagination and earned their admiration
Thus it seems that the hosting the Olympics couldn’t have come at a better time for Britain, as it has demonstrated in the international arena that there is still a lot more in store for the future of this historically and culturally rich island.
Now that the Paralympic games are coming to London on the 29th August, with the most tickets in the history of the competition being sold (2.1 million compared with 1.8 million in Beijing 2008), it will be interesting to see what else Great Britain and the British can offer up to the world stage.