What an amazing opening week of London 2012
CHARLIE INGLEFIELD gives us some of the highlights of the Olympics so far at the Games of London 2012…
SO many superlative performances. So many heroic failures. And throw in a topping of the distinctly bizarre just for good measure. Where to start after a fascinating first week of the London Olympics?
Well the Opening Ceremony set the trend, a brilliant Danny Boyle-inspired extravaganza to get things going. The first half was rather like watching Usain Bolt in the 100m, electrifying pace, intensity, colour and utter brilliance. The second half was rather similar to the performance of chief weapon of mass distraction…I mean destruction, Australian team swimmer James Magnussen. Plenty of swagger, lots of noise and no end of potential but ultimately not getting to the finishing line first.
The ceremony even led to one perplexed and confused South African political activist Zak Mbhele to tweet that viewers outside the country needed to have taken a hallucinogen before watching the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony to get it. Quite how the NHS was brought into it, only Mr.Boyle will know. One commentator said that in the health service the medicines and treatment were free, but added: “Of course you have to wait several weeks to be treated.” It was way over the top, utterly ridiculous but we loved it. We will keep the team GB golden collars quiet for the time-being.
The swimming event has been thoroughly entertaining. Ian Thorpe’s dreadful dress sense did not take anything away from his thoughtful and wise insight in combination with the very jealous Gary Lineker. Poor Gary had to lease out Ian to the excellent duo of Clare Balding and the silver fox, Mark Foster, as the finals started to heat up. The new trio enthusiastically jested, gesticulated and could only admire the incredible Michael Phelps, who was so laid back that you felt he may even be falling asleep at the medal ceremonies as they kept mounting up. Then again 22 Olympic medals, you could understand the late nights he has been dreaming of the past 12 years. And who could forget the men’s 200m fly, with the emotional Chad Le Clos, disbelieving that he had just beaten Phelps to gold. That is until his father, Bert, memorably celebrated with the crowd and the BBC. So much love in the air, that even the most ardent sports fan, would have reached for the box of tissues.
There were disappointments, namely team GB and Team Australia flattering to deceive with a number of so nearly’s that Sharon Davies spent most of her time consoling them in the post swim interview as they trooped in without a medal. There were heroes and plenty of them. The splendidly named Missy Franklin, won the hearts with her smile. Ryan Lochte just looked too cool for school and Stephanie Rice, with a dodgy shoulder still looked utterly beautiful when stepping out from the unforgiving pool.
The less said about the Australian team in the 4×100 men’s freestyle (so not wise to call them the weapons of mass destruction) the better. We all laughed in 2000, when the US team said they would smash the Australians like guitars. I fear that there were a number of stifled laughs in the crowd when the Aussies limped in fourth trailing way behind the rampant French.
The support from the crowds has been utterly astonishing making events such as shooting, more popular than the FA Cup Final. 30,000 people crammed Eton Dorney every day cheering the rowers through with the memorable commentator Gary Herbert, squeaking higher and higher as the finishing line came into view in the races, and most of those were just in the first heats.
We have had controversy with Chinese and South Korean badminton players ‘not trying’ and rightly getting booted out of the competition. Team GB’s epic cycling performances were overshadowed by a disastrous miscalculation from Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish. The 16 year old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen has hit back at critics for her incredible times in winning gold, simply putting it down to hard work.
There have been world records aplently particularly in the pool and in the cycling velodrome. US swimmer Rebecca Soni broke her own world record twice, just to prove to herself that it wasn’t a fluke. Ye Shiwen destroyed her field in the 400m individual medley, coming down the last 50m quicker than Ryan Lochte.
There has been lots of glamour and beauty on show, lest we forget. Of course we should be concentrating on performances but one cannot help but admire the ‘athleticism’ of these athletes as well. The impossibly beautiful Romanian gymnast Catalina Ponor pouted and inspired her team to bronze in the women’s team event. Beach volleyball has been without question the most popular in which Prince Harry has been a keen spectator. I am sure for the ladies that there has been a peak or two at the swimmers passing through the lanes. And that’s even before we get to the track and field!
So a summary of the first week and highlights from the pool:
1). Best swimmer so far: a tie between the legendary Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ye Shiwen.
2). Most attractive swimmer: Stephanie Rice, imperious.
3). Best/worst dress sense (depending on how you look at it): Ian Thorpe.
4). Favourite fan: President Obama kept waiting to congratulate Michael Phelps.
5). Happiest father: Bert de Clos, a great bear of a man and a proud father to Chad de Clos.
6). Most embarrassing moment: Fellow US swimmer, Tyler Clary, questioning Michael Phelps’ commitment? 20 medals. Walk the walk, talk the talk Tyler.
7). Second most embarrassing moment: The name given to the Australian 4x100m relay team – ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It was never going to end well.
8). Most flirtatious commentator: Sharon Davies constantly patting the shoulders of the male swimmers post-race.
9). Best newcomers: Ye Shiwen, Missy Franklin and Ruta Meilutyte.
10). Champagne moment: Tied between Bert de Clos and the Michael Phelps medals, and the surprise on Ruta Meilutyte’s face as the 15 year old realized she had won gold.