Athletics Weekly’s editor picks his highlights from the London Olympics. In reverse order, they are…
No. 10: Brownlees on deadline
Unfortunately, the men’s triathlon coincided with AW’s deadline day of Tuesday, so I watched the race unfold on a media monitor while typing furiously on my laptop.
AW doesn’t usually cover triathlon, but it has closer ties with athletics than most sports and Alistair and Jonny Brownlee have a strong running background. Alistair won the English Schools cross-country title in 2006 and both are regulars on the road, cross-country and especially fell running scene during the winter months.
I also spent a weekend with the brothers once and came away massively impressed with not only their talent and application but also their down-to-earth, friendly personalities. In short, I’m a big fan and this was the main “non-athletics” moment of the Games I was interested in. I’m sure I was not the only runner cheering them on either as they won gold and bronze.
No.9: Meeting the mastermind
It was only a brief moment, but nice all the same. Passing through a security check one day, I saw Seb Coe approaching and thought, ‘even if he spots me, he’ll surely be too busy to say hello’. But Seb stopped, smiled, shook my hand, said hi – and carried on with his organisation of possibly the best Olympics in history.
Countless athletes have lit up these Games, but Seb is the ultimate Lord of the Olympic Rings and the incredible success is largely down to his drive and vision.
No.8: Park life
Like some athletes, I’d never been to the Olympic Park before the Games. So the first time I strolled through Stratford Gate and saw the Olympic Stadium was special – and I imagine most spectators felt the same judging by the enormous numbers of photos that were being taken with the arena in the background.
With its unique ecosystem of sport, smiles and super-expensive snacks and drinks, the whole Olympic Park was magnificent, too. I was staying near King’s Cross St Pancras, so enjoyed the experience of the Bolt-esque Javelin trains before running the gauntlet through the busy Westfield shopping centre and finally toward the magnificent stadium itself.
No.7: The noise
I was lucky enough to experience magic Monday at the Sydney Olympics when the 112,000-capacity stadium woke the gods with an incredible roar for the 49 seconds it took Cathy Freeman to win the 400m. I’ve also been to a few football matches over the years, including the 98,000 capacity Nou Camp in Barcelona several times, and put my ear plugs in at events like the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne’s giant MCG.
If there was such a thing as a noisometer to measure the sound, then surely the audio levels would have set records at London 2012. Whenever British athletes were introduced – either in evening or morning sessions – the cheers were incredible. I’m still rubbing my ears now.
No.6: Bolt’s 200m presser
“You better all write that I am a living legend,” grinned Bolt, as he held court at a packed press conference at almost midnight on Thursday night after winning the 200m title.
Exuding the same kind of charisma Muhammad Ali displayed in his heyday, Bolt pondered his love life, repeated his desire to be a footballer, talked about a potential showdown with David Rudisha at 400m and slated Carl Lewis.
Afterwards, I left the stadium sure that I’d enjoyed three huge treats that night – Rudisha’s world record, Bolt’s 200m victory and a press conference ensemble that also included entertaining chit-chat with Rudisha and decathlon medallists Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee.
No.5: Two-lap history created
The men’s 800m was a “woah moment”. There aren’t many “woah moments” in sport, but this was a woah-and-a-half.
Seb Coe called it the most impressive performance of the Games, saying that “Bolt was good but Rudisha magnificent.”
Not only did Rudisha front-run 1:40.91, but he headed the greatest race in history. Andrew Osagie went No.4 on the UK all-time list with a big 1:43.77 PB but finished last!
No:4: Keeping it in the family
During the ticket ballot scramble in 2011, I was desperate for my two daughters, aged 11 and 9, to get a taste of the Games. Rejected in the first round, we got up at 6am for round two and struck lucky with two morning sessions of athletics and a women’s basketball semi-final for the princely sum of £790.
So it was a thrill to see their faces when they first walked into the Olympic Park, sat so close to the Olympic cauldron they could almost feel the heat from its flames, watched a UK hammer record by Sophie Hitchon and then cheered one of their biggest heroes, Mo Farah, in the 5000m heats.
Later, they bought giant Wenlock mascots and GB kit so they could look like Jess Ennis. That cost a fortune too but I didn’t care.
No.3: Blue riband 100m final
It was noticeable that press seats were busier for the men’s 100m than any other event. Jess Ennis and Mo Farah had huge home support, but the men’s 100m has true global appeal. It is athletics’ equivalent of a world boxing heavyweight title fight or the World Cup final in football.
It lasts less than 10 seconds but is a must-see moment in world sport. It is the race that decides the world’s fastest man – and the 2012 title was won by an athlete every bit as charismatic and talented as Ali or Pele.
No:2: Ennis on fire
Her face was everywhere in the run-up to the Games. She was the poster girl of London 2012. The pressure was immense.
So when she won the heptathlon with such incredible ease, I was in total admiration of not only her physical ability but the mental strength she showed to cope with the hype.
Not that Ennis seemed to find it that difficult. She says she handled it by simply making a joke of it constantly with her fiancé Andy.
No:1: Farah flies to gold
Since watching the 1995 World Cross Country Championships in Durham – my first event while working for AW – I have been brainwashed into thinking that Africans are invincible in men’s distance running. Certainly Brits or Americans have no chance. Or so we thought.
Watching Paula Radcliffe rule the world of women’s distance running and set a world marathon record that is several minutes quicker than anyone else was one thing. But to now see a British man and his American training partner place one-two in the Olympic 10,000m and then hammer the nail in the East African coffin with 5000m victory a few days later was something else altogether.
Amazing performances, they were made all the more special by taking place in a London Olympic Stadium filled with 80,000 largely British baying fans.
After being dunked out the heats in the Beijing Games, it was also a huge lesson to runners of all ages and standards in what can be achieved with hard work and a plan. So, even at my age, it inspired me to pull on my trainers and hit the road. Sub-40-minute 10km, here we come…
» London 2012 was Jason Henderson’s fourth Olympics for AW. He tweets at @Jason_AW