It had an opening ceremony that split the world into two kinds of people- those who thought it looked like a Farmville request, and those who thought that Danny Boyle showcased his genius in a new light.
Bangalore girl Madhura Nagendra then stole the spotlight for a bit, and every Indian overreacted with a sense of forced patriotism normally reserved for young cricketers caught spot-fixing. But then, the Games began.
And for 17 beautiful days, London enthralled everyone who cared to watch. By the end, we learned about names, stories, people, superhuman feats, disappointments, scandals and winners that we don’t hear of for four years at a time. These athletes, day after day, put themselves on the biggest stage of them all- and laid bare their dreams for us to watch. Women, children, Husbands and grandmothers sat themselves in front of their tv sets every day, and hoped to see a new champion, and a human story to go with it. Their moments of delight, their culmination of years of struggle, their dreams bearing fruition were parts of the Olympics that can’t be associated on an hourly basis with any other sport in the world.
And now that it’s over, there is massive hole in our days- with no new faces and no new competitions to learn about.
Hence, just for our memories- for something to value and cherish for the next 4 years- here are the greatest moments over the last fortnight:
The new face of GBR
Men’s 800m Final (Athletics) If Kenya failed to win any of their usual long-distance events thanks to one of the greatest British runners of all time, this was an event that has etched itself into the memories of millions- thanks to Kenyan David Rudisha’s phenomenal record-breaking burst that lasted more than a lap. He went on to win the ‘Greatest 800m race of all time’, and broke the 1:41 barrier in a sterling run that underlined one of the most dominating performances of an entire generation. Rudisha is arguably the greatest runner of a generation that includes Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Tirunesh Dibaba. He holds 10 of the 20 fastest times in his category, and comes from a family of athletes. This, for many, was the moment of the Games- and one of the first Athletics World Records to fall at London.
Men’s 5000m Final (Athletics)
Mo Farah, following the success of fellow Brits Jessica Ennis and Andy Murray, was the story of London 2012. Born in Somalia, Farah moved to Britain when he was 8, and now becomes only the 7th person ever to win the 5000-10000 double. After shocking the world with a 10k win, Farah went on to do the impossible- pacing himself to perfection in front of thousands of screaming home fans on the last day of Athletics. He kept himself not too far behind from the pack, and attacked with 2 laps to go, constantly being attacked by Gebremeskel and Longosiwa- both having to settle for silver and bronze after Farah kept them at bay with a final run that won millions of hearts all over the world.
26 year old darling of the masses, Jessica Ennis, began her competition as former World and European Champion. In two relentless days of competition, she became the first British Heptathlon Olympic Champion. 6955 points was enough to finish on top, with her first day total of 4158 her highest ever first day total. Her 100m hurdle run was a record-breaker, the fastest ever at a Heptathlon. After winning the 200m and 800m races in her event, she pulled out of her individual races later on- citing exhaustion and great success as the reason. She let it sink in, bowing to a crowd of her countrymen- all of whom were thrilled to watch their woman win a gold in probably the toughest all-round competition at the Olympics.
Women’s Singles (Badminton)
The final between No. 3 seed Li Xuerui and World No. 1 Wang Yihan was one of the most fiercest battles in recent times- a contest which saw Li blow off 2 Championship points to let Yihan take it to a third game. Li, who looked spent by then, summoned supernatural powers to outplay Yihan in the third and shock the no. 1 during her greatest victory ever. In the semi-final, she took out No. 2 Wang Xin, and was the hottest player on the women’s circuit in 2012- with 5 consecutive titles coming into London. Wang Yihan, who demolished Indian hope Saina Nehwal in the semis, couldn’t win the crucial points- despite her pointed screaming and Sharapovaisque reactions.
Men’s Time Trial (Road Cycling)
Bradley Wiggins established himself once again as the greatest cyclist in the post-Lance Armstrong era. Much like wine, Wiggins has matured at the ripe young age of 32- using all his experience to win everything there is to win in 2012. Already a 3-time Gold medalist coming into the Games, Wiggins had the added intoxication of being the first ever British winner of Tour De France. Nothing was going to deny him his third straight time trial in a row- again beating teammate Chris Froome (the time trial specialist) this time earning him his 4th Gold medal- and the title of Britain’s greatest athlete of the decade.
Men’s Football Final
Mexico pulled off one of the big Olympic upsets after beating yet-to-win-Gold Brazil in a pulsating Final that saw them score within the first 40 seconds of the match. A 90th minute equalizer by Hulk saw Brazil push forward until Oscar miss an
absolute sitter of a header- a miss that broke the hearts of the greatest footballing nation of all time. Final score 2-1.
Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol
An event that saw India’s Vijay Kumar finish second saw Cuban Leuris Pupo equal the WR (34) in the final with relative ease, after coming back from a disastrous 3 in the first series. Three consecutive fives saw Pupo never to be caught after the fourth series, and saw Vijay Kumar fade away along with Ding Feng. Nevertheless, this made for one of the most exciting shooting contests in recent times- purely due to the fact that all the finalists started with a clean slate in the final.
Women’s 200m IM and 400m IM (Swimming)
Ye Shiwen was the story of the Pool at the Aquatic center. The 15 year old Chinese girl smashed the World Records in both these events, and took off a good 5 seconds from her previous bests. Her ability to accelerate in the last 50m was so stunning that it took most American coaches off guard, prompting them to play spoilsport and raise suspicions about doping. Shiwen never looked back, even beating Ryan Lochte’s final 50m freestyle time in her 400 IM sprint to the finish. Nobody came close to her in her events, and a new superstar was born.
Women’s 800m Freestyle (Swimming)
It was Phelps who stole most of the headlines once again this year, but he was generous enough to not win it all so that his fellow Americans could grab a few headlines. One of them was stunning teenager Katie Ledecky– a surprise winner of the 800m freestyle event, where she beat favorite and home hope Rebecca Adlington by a massive margin. Her expression of innocent shock, followed by unbridled joy and tears during the medal ceremony became one of the moments of the year- a child that saw all her dreams come true in only her 16th year of existence.
Special Mention: Rebecca Soni’s breathtaking and defining 200m WR-shattering breaststroke win was one of the most decisive swims of her career, after losing the 100m crown to an unknown 15-year old Lithuanian swimmer named
Men’s 200m Butterfly (Swimming)
The pool saw many close contests, but none like this one. With Phelps yet to win a Gold, and this was his third race- with just a silver to show for-
he was in command for most part until he faded away during the final 20m. A blur called Chad Le Clos from a relatively unknown swimming nation (South Africa) snuck through, taking advantage of Phelps gliding touch schoolboy error- winning the closest race of the year and taking Gold. Phelps couldn’t believe it, but he was to have his revenge later (100m), but it was Le Clos’s time, and it could be, in the years to come.
Roger Federer v/s Juan Martin Del Potro (Tennis)
This wasn’t the gold medal match, and none of them went on to win the Gold after this- such was the toll taken on their bodies and minds, after a world-record breaking match for the ages. Federer won the third set 19-17 in a best-of-3 match that could put most 5 setters to shame with its running time of 4 hours 26 minutes. The longest in the history of 3-setters, and the longest ever played in Olympics history had Federer win his first individual medal in 4 attempts- and saw the lanky Argentine break down into tears by the end of this marathon. What is most impressive is that Del Potro showed true spirit and went on to beat Djokovic in the Bronze-medal match, 2 days later.
Men’s 4×100 Relay (Athletics)
Jamaica came in with the two best sprinters in the world at the moment- Bolt and Blake. Jamaica finished the race by smashing their previous WR by a massive 0.2 seconds (in the 36s), with Bolt running the anchor of his life to secure the closing event of Athletics at London. He even dipped at the line to secure the only thing missing from his CV in 2012- a World Record. It was also the only WR that Bolt was to break this time, with Blake running the crucial third leg and reigning in Tyson Gay. The race was so quick that USA, who won silver, equaled the previous WR of 37.02. At the end, Bolt walked away once again with 3 Gold medals to his name, and young Blake with 1 gold and 2 silvers- second best to the greatest sprinter of all time.
Men’s 200m (Athletics)
A special mention on this list, Usain Bolt will remember this race for a long time-because he was stretched till the very end- when Blake threatened to take him down after the curve into the straight. But Bolt found an extra gear that he deliberately never used all year, and switched on the style by the end, silencing his critics and young training partner in the process. A heroic run by Blake secured him silver, and Rio in 4 years could just see the rise of Yohan Blake- the phenomenal Beast.