There was so much expectation for the London Games right from the moment the city was announced as the host for the 2012 event and such expectations were indeed not cut short as the memories of these last 14 days will linger for a long time to come. The extravaganza began on July 27 with a lot kept to the chest of the organisers who preferred to offer the viewer surprise packages. Even the episode with Queen Elizabeth that was publicised long before the opening ceremony, still reeled out in a mind boggling fashion. Until the 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins lit the conundrum only very few knew exactly who was going to enjoy that honour. And when he stepped up hardly anybody disagreed that he deserved the limelight this season.
Tonight the same pattern is running for the closing event scheduled to start officially at 9pm. The details have not been revealed but like the first day, expectations are high for the final event. The Chairman of the Local Organising Committee Lord Coe and his men have remained at the background and were only heard few times with breathtaking events like the men’s 800m final on a cool Thursday night in London.
In that race Kenya’s David Rudisha, 23, stormed through the first lap in 49.28 seconds and powered to a stunning victory in one minute 40.91secs, taking 0.10s off his previous record as all eight finalists set record times.
Eighteen-year-old Nijel Amos of Botswana claimed silver in a world junior record of 1:41.73, ahead of 17-year-old Kenyan Timothy Kitum, with Britain’s Andrew Osagie taking 0.71 off his personal best despite finishing eighth.
Coe who was at the stadium remained on his feet as the men took the last stretch.
“That was simply an unbelievable performance. David Rudisha showed supreme physical and mental confidence to run like that in an Olympic final.
“Instead of just doing enough to win the race he wanted to do something extraordinary and go for the world record as well. Rudisha’s run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories. I feel privileged to have witnessed it in London.”
But Rudisha’s feat was only a forerunner to the man everyone waited for that night and like lightening, Usain Bolt was electrical in the 200m race.
The Jamaican successfully defended his 100m title on Sunday night and he followed that with another imperious performance on Thursday, leading a Jamaican clean-sweep in the 200m ahead of 100m silver medallist Yohan Blake and Warren Weir.
Bolt’s winning time of 19.32 was outside his own world record of 19.19, which he felt might be a possibility, but the 80,000 crowd had already witnessed one such record after a stunning performance from Rudisha.
There was more to celebrate that night as the USA’s women beat Japan 2-1 to take Football gold at Wembley. It was a replay of their Germany 2011 World Cup final which the Japanese won.
And incidentally on the same Thursday that a lot was celebrated in London turned out to be the very day the Nigerian delegation sat down before the public and officially admitted failure for Team Nigeria in London. The written statement of the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, summarised the country’s participation in an Olympics hailed as one of the best of all times.
He said, “About two weeks ago, we arrived London for the 2012 Olympics with a contingent of 51 sportsmen and women competing in eight sports namely, athletics, weightlifting, taekwondo, boxing, wrestling, table tennis, canoeing and basketball. We were competing in the last two for the first time ever.
“Even though we did not expect to win the competition, we had arrived hoping to make a decent showing. We even had reasons to believe we could surpass some of our recent achievements at this level of competing. Why not?
“We had arrived London riding on the wave of a short but intensive preparation of our athletes in different parts of the world where they did not only have the benefits of high quality facilities and technical support but also had the opportunity to match up against some of the best athletes from other parts of the world, and on some occasions, beating them.
“Many commentators agreed that while not ideal, we have had one of our best preparations coming into this competition in recent years. This, coupled with a system that put athletes’ welfare at the heart of planning and an atmosphere devoid of rancour and acrimony, we believed would guarantee us a couple of medals.
“However, here we are, only a few days to the end of the competition. Team Nigeria is still not on the medals table. I must say this is as disappointing for my team and I, as it is for all Nigerians everywhere. But even as painful as this disappointment is, we must have the courage to see it for what it is. This, therefore, is a scientific diagnosis of our condition; a clear testimony to how far our sports have fallen behind.”
The highest the country had reached as at Friday night was getting pass mark or medals some of the athletes awarded themselves by faith.
But whichever way the Nigerian contingent may feel, the event has to come to close tonight. The next chance to win medals comes with Rio 2016 which begins four years from today.
The hosts have had good times running through the Games. For a country that won just a gold medal at Atlanta ’96 to stand at the third position with gold medals from so many different fields is surely real achievement. But visitors to London may not be interested in counting the number of medals the host country won. What they may like to hold on to is the wonderful organisation they put up for the weeks many of the visitors spent here. They will not easily forget the warmth and friendliness of the hosts and their staff and will surely be glad that despite the heavy attention given to security in the Games planning, the show is ending without incidents.
What the world awaits now is to see the final chapter and then begin to look across the Pacific Ocean for the Rio Carnival 2016.
Before that, we can herald the beginning of another football season, as English Premier League starts next week….