Hosting the Olympic Games for a record third time in 2012, London put on a spectacular show that will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest Games of all time.
A city with a long and storied history, London did an outstanding job in showcasing its popular landmarks, ensuring that the setting for each event was almost as captivating as the competition itself. The likes of Horse Guards Parade (beach volleyball), Hyde Park (triathlon and open water swimming), Lord’s Cricket Ground (archery), The Mall (athletics road events and road cycling) and Greenwich Park (equestrian) took on new roles as Olympic venues and the world looked on in awe.
These icons of London’s landscape were joined by a new city idol, the Olympic Stadium, situated in Olympic Park at Stratford in East London. The Stadium enjoyed sold out crowds of over 80,000 at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies which featured Paul McCartney, James Bond and the Spice Girls to name a few. The Olympic Stadium was also the centrepiece for some of the most enduring moments of the Games including Usain Bolt’s triple gold medal haul, home town hero Mo Farah’s 5000m/ 10000m double and our own Sally Pearson winning the 100m hurdles in a photo finish.
Michael Phelps confirmed his status as the greatest ever Olympian with his 22nd medal. The American returned home from London with four gold medals and two silver medals.
With the added element of the Ashes rivalry between the British and the Australians, the hosts rose to the occasion and claimed a well deserved third position on the medal table behind the USA and China. Great Britain bagged an impressive 29 gold medals.
Australia at these Games
On July 27 the Australian Team marched into the Olympic Stadium behind one of the proudest of all 410 athletes, Lauren Jackson. The basketball superstar carried the Australian flag on the eve of her fourth Olympic campaign and went on to win bronze with her teammates adding to her three silver medals.
Malcolm Page was the only Australian to defend an Olympic title in London and he did so in Australia’s strongest sport at the Games- sailing. Page won the 470 class in 2008 and teamed up with Mathew Belcher to take the crown in 2012. Page was named Closing Ceremony Flagbearer after Australia finished on top of the medal tally for sailing with three gold medals and a silver medal.
Fellow gold medallists on the seas of Weymouth included Tom Slingsby in the laser class and best mates Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49er class. For Slingsby, the 2011 World Sailor of the Year, it was the ultimate reward after a disappointing Beijing campaign. Similarly, Outteridge painfully missed out on the gold in Beijing after capsizing on the approach to the finish line. In London he and Jensen left nothing to chance, having a large enough lead to be assured of the gold medal before the medal race. The young women’s match racing team of Olivia Price (20) Lucinda Whitty (21) and Nina Curtis (24) took silver on their Olympic debut after an undefeated run through the round robin stage of competition.
The Australians had a strong start in the pool when the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team won gold on the opening night of the Games with Melanie Schlanger, Brittany Elmslie, Cate Campbell and Alicia Coutts racing the final.
Coutts and the Australians also won silver in the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle relays, with the men’s 4x100m medley relay claiming bronze. Coutts was the star of the pool also winning silver in the 200m individual medley and bronze in the 100m butterfly. Australia’s other individual medallists in swimming were Christian Sprenger (silver - 100m breaststroke), James Magnussen (silver - 100m freestyle), Emily Seebohm (silver - 100m backstroke) and Bronte Barratt (bronze - 200m freestyle) to take the medal tally at the pool to 10.
The cycling track was another solid hunting ground for the Australians with five medals won by Anna Meares (gold – sprint, bronze – team sprint with Kaarle McCulloch), the men’s team pursuit team (silver), Annette Edmondson (bronze – omnium) and Shane Perkins (bronze – sprint). The Aussies had to overcome parochial home crowds, with Meares’ success over home favourite Victoria Pendleton capping off a remarkable journey. Meares had clinched bronze in the event in 2004 and silver in 2008 after coming back from a broken neck. In London she became the first female cyclist from any country to win five Olympic track medals and the first to medal at three Games.
Hours after Meares’ success, another queen of the track, Sally Pearson, proved why she is the best 100m hurdler in the world. Under immense pressure the Queenslander cleared all ten hurdles and broke the Olympic record to win gold in a photo finish at London’s Olympic Stadium. Fellow track and field athlete Jared Tallent won silver in the 50km race walk to add to his silver and bronze medals from Beijing. Tallent equalled the record for most Olympic medals won by an Australian male track and field athlete.
The world renowned Eton Dorney course also yielded Australia gold as kayakers Murray Stewart, Jacob Clear, David Smith and Tate Smith powered to the top of the medal dais in the men’s K4 1000m.
In week one of the Games Eton Dorney hosted rowing where Australia won five medals. Kim Crow became the first Australian female rower to win medals in two events at the one Olympics with silver in the double scull alongside Brooke Pratley and bronze in the single scull. The men’s four secured silver in a gallant stoush with the Brits and Drew Ginn collected a fourth Olympic medal to go alongside his three gold. In the women’s pair Kate Hornsey and Sarah Tait also took silver, with the men’s quad sculls returning as bronze medallists.
In one of the tightest triathlons in Olympic history, Australia’s Erin Densham produced an inspiring run to collect bronze in London’s iconic Hyde Park.
Across the team sports the women’s water polo team and men’s hockey team won bronze to add to the Opals’ bronze medals in basketball. All three teams came agonisingly close to berths in the gold medal matches and have the talent and hunger to go for gold at the next summer Games in Brazil in 2016.
Headlining a host of young guns that are set to fire in Rio de Janeiro, kayaker Jessica Fox claimed an unexpected silver medal in the women’s K1 slalom event. The 17-year-old showed maturity beyond her years after capsizing in qualifying to make the final and beat all but one of her more experienced rivals onto the podium.
The youngest member of the Australian team, 16-year-old diver Brittany Broben, held her nerve to nail a strong last dive in the women’s 10m platform and win silver. Twenty-year-old World Champion Sam Willoughby also claimed silver in the helter skelter men’s BMX competition, with compatriot Caroline Buchanan making the women’s final.
Also on Olympic debut, long jumper Mitchell Watt flew to silver on a night where the Brits claimed three gold medals including the long jump crown. Teenage teammate Steven Solomon was a revelation on the track, producing personal bests to make the coveted 400m final on his Olympic debut.
Aussie archer Taylor Worth knocked off world number one Brady Allison (USA) in the round of 32 before just missing out on the quarter finals in a sudden death shoot off at Lord’s, but will be looking for a medal in Rio.
Australia finished seventh in the overall medal tally and tenth on the gold medal tally with 35 medals - seven gold medals, 16 silver medals and 12 bronze medals.
Australian Chef de Mission Nick Green said that the Team performed “exceptionally well.” In his first campaign at the head of a senior Olympic Team, Green was “proud of the way our athletes have conducted themselves. They were humble in defeat and gracious in victory. We have a very strong culture which is embedded and passed on.”