The week that London was announced as the hosts of the 30th Olympics, back in July of 2005, was without doubt the strangest of my eight years living in the city. It started with a huge concert in support of a political movement, reached a height when London won the bid to host these Games, then ended in tragedy and senseless destruction. Here is the time line of events from that week:
Saturday, July 2nd – Live8 Concert in Hyde Park
As part of the “Make Poverty History” movement, there was a series of concerts held across the world to encourage the leaders of the G8 countries to work towards fairer trade practices, forgive the debt of the poorest nations, and provide more and better aid. At Hyde Park in London – a concert I was fortunate enough to attend as my sister won tickets in the text lottery – artists such as U2, Paul McCartney, The Who, Coldplay, Madonna, Elton John and, for the first time in 24 years, the four original members of Pink Floyd, all performed in a show that lasted for more than ten hours.
Sunday, July 3rd – The British 10K Run in Central London
Less than twelve hours after it had hosted a huge concert, the middle of London then shut down between Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge to host one of the largest road races run in the UK each year. Side note – it is hard to run 10km after standing at a concert for a long time the day before, with little water or nutrition readily available.
Wednesday, July 6th – London Wins Olympic Bids
Trafalgar Square was once again the focal point of the capital, as people gathered to watch the International Olympic Committee announce its decision for the host of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Beating off strong competition from New York and Paris, London was selected to host the games for the first time since 1948.
Thursday, July 7th – The London Bombings
Four British terrorists carried out a series of orchestrated attacks against the London transportation network on the morning of 7/7. Three home-made bombs were detonated their homemade weapons on Underground trains, while the fourth explosion was on the top of a bus in Tavistock Square. In all, 52 people were killed – plus the four suicide bombers – and more than 700 people were injured.
Seven years later, many are still living with that tragedy and nothing has gotten better for the poorest nations on earth, but London has been preparing and rebuilt the East End ready for these Olympics. The next two weeks are all about celebrating sport, as well as the history and multiculturalism or London and Great Britain. Brand new stadia and infrastructure have been constructed around Stratford, existing venues have been transformed to host events, and football grounds across the country are being utilised for the men’s and women’s tournaments that are already under way.
When a host nation enjoys success at a major sporting event – be it the Olympics or the World Cup – it increases the enthusiasm of the locals and adds to the narrative of the games. In 2008, Great Britain secured 19 golds; 13 silver and 15 bronze medals – the second biggest haul they had ever enjoyed and the most in a century. Eight of the golds were gained in cycling, four in sailing and two apiece in swimming and rowing. This time, there is a hope for even more success, particularly in track and field where the 2008 Games saw Team GB on the podium on just four occasions.
Here is a breakdown of the sports that are to be contested at the 2012 Olympics and what prospects there are for the host nations to win medals in each of them.
Men: The men’s 100m final is considered the biggest ticket of the whole Olympics and the big question is whether the Jamaican, UsainBolt – World Record holder and reigning Olympic Champion – can overcome troublesome hamstrings to retain his title. Bolt’s
main challenge in both the 100m and 200m will come from his compatriot, Yohan Blake, while US hopes of a sprinting gold lie with LaShawn Merritt in the 400m. The Kenyans are likely to continue their domination of the middle distance events – in particular the 3000m steeplechase, in which they may take a clean sweep of the medals through Kipruto, Mutai and Kemboi. The 5,000m and 10,000m promise the most excitement, with Britain’s Mo Farah expected to finish in the top 2 in both races and is favourite for gold over the longer distance. Puerto Rico will be hoping for their first ever Olympic gold – and first of any colour since 1996 – through Javier Coulson in the 400m hurdles; Russian athletes Valeriy Borchin and Sergey Bakulin are the men to beat in the 20km and 50km walks respectively; Britain has medal hopes in the long jump (Greg Rutherford) and triple jump (Phillip Idowu – if he overcomes injury); and American, Ashton Eaton, will be looking to repeat his World Record Decathlon performance from the US trials. In the relays, Jamaica has a strong advantage in the 4x100m – with Bolt and Blake on their team – while the USA will aim for gold in the 4x400m.
Women: Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown (both of whom’s names sound like law-firms) should contend in both the 100m and 200m, while the USA’s Carmelita Jeter (in the 100m) and Allyson Felix (200m) will be the main challengers to break up the Caribbean nation’s dominance in the sprinting events. Over 400m, Amantle Montsho has a chance to win Botswana’s first Olympic medal, but Sanya Richards-Ross is favourite to win the gold for America. For the middle and long distance events, African athletes are expected to win most of the medals, though Hannah England could pick up a bronze at least for Great Britain in the 1500m. Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat will both be competing to gain Kenya’s first women’s marathon gold, though Paula Radcliffe can not be ruled out from overcoming injury – and the memory of failures in 2004 and 2008 – to finally win an Olympic medal to go with all of her other successes over 26.2 miles. The relays mirror the men’s – Jamaica being the team to beat in the 4x100m, USA in the 4x400m – while Britain’s Jessica Ennis will be going for gold in the heptathlon. Continue reading