A quick recap of what caught my attention in the last few days of this wonderful Olympics.
On Friday I used my last free zone 1-9 travelcard to journey to the North Greenwich Arena, or the Millennium Dome, for the second of the men’s basketball semi-finals. One of my favourite aspects of this home Olympics has been being able to share my massive enthusiasm for the games with the people I love. I went to the hockey with my whole family for what felt like a proper day out. I took my sister to the only thing she showed interest in, the archery. I was able to sit down for the 100m final with my girlfriend, who promptly screamed through it and on Friday I went to the basketball, like I did every other week in my mid teens, with my two oldest sporting friends. Excitable little boys, the three of us, then and now.
It was a funny situation, where we were thrilled to have got the semi-final with Team USA in it, a chance to see Lebron, Kobe and Melo but at the same compelled to support the underdog Argentina, who were trying desperately to do what no one else has managed this games and give the US a run for their money. They played some lovely basketball, they had to, there was no other way to score but the Americans were too strong, too quick and too skilful. Quite literally Citius, Altius, Fortius.
In the stadium Friday saw a spectacular women’s 4x100m relay world record from the USA. Their time of 40.82s smashed the 41.37s set by the steroid boosted East German team of 1985, one the oldest records in all of athletics. The men’s 4x400m relay was very disappointing for Team GB after a strong showing in the semi. I don’t think they should have dropped Nigel Levine for Dai Greene in the final. Greene may be the team captain but he clearly hasn’t had his legs at these games. You can’t help but think the original quartet would have had the extra five metres needed for the bronze medal. An excellent win for the Bahamas though, tightening the Caribbean grip on sprinting and highlighting the USA’s comparative decline. Tirunesh Dibaba looked like her phenomenal 10,000m win had taken a bit out of her as she finished third in the 5,000m and wasn’t able to do the double, unlike…
Mo Farah who on Saturday ran the grittiest 5,000m I can remember and claimed his place as Britain’s greatest male distance runner of all time. His massive step up from good runner to great runner over the last year or so has been a joy to watch. What a great champion. I don’t mind telling you that I did my fair share of crying on Saturday night, in front of the telly. Things got a bit too much for me when the Beeb showed Brendan Foster’s beautiful happy face during the closing moments of Crammy’s commentary. Even Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis, whose weaksauce punditry has been shown up by the class of Michael Johnson got to me, Jackson’s voice taking on a maniacal tint and Lewis high-fiving a random fan below. There will be people invoking the names of Foster, Pirie and Bedford over the next few days, trying to claim they are still the greatest distance runners this country has produced but it will be nonsense. Mo has done the unthinkable in dethroning the Ethiopians and Moroccans who have dominated these two events and he is the first Brit to win gold in either of the long distances, let alone both, in the one games. He will be the long distance runner that all young British boys look to for inspiration for the foreseeable future. Perhaps he can inspire future British runners in the way Paavo Nurmi did for Finland and Haile Gebrselassie did for Ethiopia. This is new territory entirely.
Is Caribbean success spreading from the track to the field with the shock Trini win in the men’s javelin? There’s a lot of love for T&T around these parts of North London so I always cheered extra loud for them in the stadium. Good stuff. The Russian women’s team had an incredible meet, grabbing golds in the 20km race walk, high jump and 800m on the last day alone. It was only right that Jamaica and that man Bolt should get the final act in the Olympic stadium and boy did they perform, ending on a fantastic world record in the 4x100m relay, even with a shoddy last baton change. Blake’s bend was devastating. Game over.
Needless to say I’ve loved the Olympics and I’ll need to write up some summary of my thoughts on it over the next few days but coming into this last weekend I was pretty overwhelmed. With so much positive feeling about the games it was a joy to join the wonderful people at Good Gym, for their closing ceremony party in East London last night. It’s only a shame the ceremony itself was so utterly execrable. I don’t really care to write up how awful I thought the closing was, especially in comparison to the opening ceremony but even then I don’t think it was bad enough to undo the fantastic glow the games has lent to London. Bringing us back to earth will require the return of the summer rain, more government cuts and an ugly start to the football season, so give it a week or two.