Monday 13 August 2012

London 2012: I shall miss you

What an incredible two weeks it's been for the country since the Olympics started.

The Games finally arrived and now they're gone forever. I feel sad writing this but like a lot of people I want to hold onto the amazing memories for as long as possible.

London 2012 is without doubt the best thing I've ever experienced about living in this country. It's been so emotional, so uplifting and inspiring, I feel the country will be a better place for holding the Games.

London 2012 has been my favourite Olympics and the best major sporting event I've watched.

I've been 100% behind the Olympics ever since London announced its bid. I've never doubted we wouldn't put on a decent show - I just never realised it would be this good and this memorable.

What's been so special about London 2012?

Seeing so many of Team GB athletes rise to the occasion to win so many medals including a record number of Golds in the modern era.

What's been great is that our medalists have been a real reflection of the British population with medalists coming from all walks of life. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, everyone would be able to identify or relate to at least one medalist.

Public enthusiasm

I said earlier in the week, that London 2012 have been the people's games. I really believe it's been the passion, enthusiasm and support from the public that have made these Olympics so special.

We really are obsessed with sport in this country and there's been huge crowds for the big events like athletics, swimming and cycling, but also the more obscure. Whoever thought Handball could be so popular.

I was at the Olympic stadium for the second day of athletics. Just a morning of qualifiers but the stadium was full. The support for Jessica Ennis competing in the heptathlon incredible - I will never forget it.

Emotional highs and lows

I've never watched an Olympics that have been so emotional. I've been moved to tears watching the success of Britain's athletes. Mo Farah's victory in the 10,000m springs to mind.

There's the back stories you hear such as Gemma Gibbs in the Judo. After securing victory in her semi-final to guarantee at least a silver medal, she looked up and mouthed 'I love you mum' in memory of her mother who died of leukemia when Gibbons was 17 years old. It was hard not to be moved by that scene.

There was also the disappointments. Those people who have waited years for this moment only to find that when the time eventually arrived they were out of form, injured or just the fact that London 2012 wasn't going to be the Games for them. It was tough to watch at times but it's very much a part of sporting life.

Being patriotic is okay

Has there ever been a time when the Union Jack has been so visible with people feeling so comfortable and at ease with the flag? I don't think there has been.

I'd like to think that any negative connotations associated with the flag have truly disappeared once and for all.

The flag felt inclusive and we saw different athletes, black, white, and mixed race all embracing the flag when celebrating success.

For the last two weeks it really has felt as if the entire country was all in it together. It feels a bit cheesy to write that, but that's how it felt. I experienced that feeling at the Olympic Park, watching the athletics on a big screen. There was a real communal feel to the experience - one that suggested we were all together.

Great performances from the athletes

I've called London 2012 the people's games, but lets not forget it's the athletes themselves that produce the performances that inspire us and bring us to the venues.

From a British point of view, Bradley Wiggins became an even greater sporting legend by winning the Olympic time trial only a week after becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France.

This was brilliant, but my bias when it comes to the Olympics is always with track and field and the most vivid memories tend to come from the Olympic stadium. Jessica Ennis winning the 800 at the end of the Heptathlon.

Mo Farah becoming one of the all time greats of Olympic distance running. David Rudisha running the greatest 800m ever in a new world record, a race I'll remember for ever.

But when you talk about athletics then you have to talk about one man and that's Usain Bolt. Now a living legend. An incredible athlete but a great person with personality, character and charisma. Three Gold medals, to add to the three from Beijing and 100 & 200m double double.

The world of athletics and sport is lucky to have him.

Having the Olympics on my doorstep

The Olympics weren't just taking place in the Britain or in the city in which I live. They were taking place only 20 minutes from my house. I walked to the Olympic stadium and back when I went to the Games.

You always dream of one day being able to go to the Olympic Games but being able to walk from your house in less than 30 minutes makes the Games even more special.

Everyday for four years I've passed the Olympic Park, slowly watching it take shape. I've seen the regeneration of Stratford, and even though I'm not from the town or the East End of London, I've felt a great sense of pride in the fact that this is my home in London.

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