I know this is a tennis blog, but as the London Olympic Games just came to a close, I feel it's fitting to write about them. We saw many great moments and I want to pay tribute to London. So here it is, my piece on the Games!
The Games of the 30th Olympiad in London, England were, by all standards, an incredible fortnight of competition, heart, determination, courage, strength, heartbreak, and sacrifice. This has been the 3rd Olympic Games that I have really followed seriously, and just as the other two were (Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010), these Games hold a special place in my heart.
What did we witness in these Games? Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in history, and Usain Bolt defended the 100m, 200m, and 4x100 relay track events, the first man to do so. American swimmer Missy Franklin won four golds and one bronze, and at 17 years of age, this is only the beginning of her stellar career.
For the home British, or "Team GB" as they became known, it was a remarkable two weeks. As a Canadian, I completely understand what the nation went through, as I and the entire country of Canada rejoiced in our country's success during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, where Canada did incredibly well.
Among the successful Brits were Andy Murray, who captured gold in emphatic fashion. The day before, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah won golds in their respective competitions, the heptathlon and 10,000m race. Farah also won the 5000m race. Tom Daley, at 18 years old, won the bronze in the 10m diving individual platform, a year after his father passed away. Those four athletes were only a small part of the great success for Great Britain - they won 65 total medals and 29 golds, good for a rank of third in gold medals and 4th overall.
Perhaps more important than the successes of the athletes were what these particular Games meant to the future of the Olympics from a cultural perspective. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei were represented by female athletes for the very first time, and for the first time ever, women's boxing became an event. That means that it was the first time ever that every country and every sport included female athletes. That is a remarkable achievement, especially when talking about the advances in culture in some of those Middle Eastern countries.
And the significance of these Games cannot be stated without mentioning Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee who competed in the men's 400m race. He had to fight for his place in the Olympics (he will be competing in the Paralympics), and his story will be an inspiration for every disabled athlete striving to the best, in sport or otherwise.
My home, Canada, did pretty well at the Games, capturing 18 medals, but only 1 gold. However, the Winter Games are the country's bread and butter, and we won many medals in events that we didn't think we could even get on the podium for.
Arguably the most special medal won for Canada was the bronze in women's soccer (football). After a controversial loss to the Americans in the semifinals, the women stormed back strongly and showed tremendous resiliency and heart to win Canada's first medal in a team sport since 1936. Christine Sinclair, Canada's star forward, was the flag bearer for the closing ceremony.
Overall, these were the the Games of Great Britain, as they should have been. The nation rallied around their athletes and they responded by putting together their best overall performance at the Games in over 100 years, since the London Olympics in 1908.
These London Olympics were very special. The opening and closing ceremonies were remarkable, and everything in between brought out the best of the Olympic spirit (except for that badminton controversy). It is so wonderful that once every four years the world can come together and rejoice as one - forgetting about all the troubles of the time - and just appreciate the hard work, sacrifice, emotion, triumph, and motivation that is showcased by the thousands of athletes that gave their all in front of the masses.
It is a shame that they are only once every four years (the bigger Summer games) because that feeling of closeness to all of the athletes through your television screen is a unique experience. We feel their pain, their joy, and all other emotions that make up an athlete's journey. Remember, four years of sacrifice can sometimes come down to a few seconds.
The next Summer Games are in Rio de Janeiro, and hopefully they will put on an event as good as London did. For two weeks, the world watched, and London delivered spectacularly. Thanks to all the athletes and volunteers that dedicated their time so passionately. It seems as if this is said after every Olympic Games, but in this case, it is surely true: the last two weeks in London will inspire a generation, whether you hail from Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Jamaica, or any other country.