London 2012 Revisited – Olympics Highlights – Days 9-16

Welcome to the next part of my trip down memory lane to the London 2012 Olympics, following on from my detailed reviews of the Opening Ceremony and Days 1-8 of competition.

This time I’ll be looking at the second half of the Games, as I continue going through the highlights on the BBC’s Blu-ray box set. As I explained last time, my main focus is inevitably on Team GB’s performances, but there are other stars who get a mention here as well, including Usain Bolt for starters.

I’ve also created an Olympics playlist on Youtube with lots of highlights, often from the official Olympics Youtube channel with their American commentators, along with interview footage and other related videos. There was certainly plenty going on, and I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of sporting memories!

Contents

Days 9-10

Just over 50 minutes on Disc 3 of the BBC’s Blu-ray set are devoted to so-called Super Sunday, followed by half an hour for Day 10. I wouldn’t rate them quite as highly as Super Saturday, as not all of the sports or athletes featured are of as much interest to me, and consequently there isn’t so much for me to talk about. However, they were still busy days with some exciting and historic moments nonetheless.

A third (17 minutes) of Day 9’s coverage on the Blu-ray is devoted to tennis at Wimbledon, where the big headline was of course Andy Murray thrashing Roger Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in the men’s singles final, becoming the first British man to win that final at the Games. The enthusiastic crowd were loudly behind Murray all the way, and had to be told to quieten down several times – until there was the biggest roar of all, with everyone leaping to their feet, as he aced his final serve to win the match.

Even though I’m not into tennis, this was exciting to watch, and we all knew how hard Andy Murray had trained and worked for it, so it really did feel like such a proud and special moment for him. And it was all the sweeter considering he had been left in tears after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final the previous month, so he got his revenge. In his interview afterwards he said that it was the greatest win of his life, as well as praising the crowd and the previous day’s inspirational win by Mo Farah.

He would later go on to become the first male player to win 2 singles titles at the Olympics, after beating Juan Martin del Potro at the Rio 2016 Games.

Back to 2012 though and, later that same day, Murray made a second appearance on Centre Court with Laura Robson for the mixed doubles final against a pair from Belarus. The British pair win the first set 6-2, and lose the second 3-6, resulting in a closely fought tiebreaker set where it was the first to 10. Sadly Andy and Laura lose by 10-8. But a silver medal is still a great achievement, especially for Laura at just 18 years old.

The other major event on Day 9 was the men’s 100m race in the stadium. This was the first time ever that the 4 fastest men of all time had been together in the same Olympic final. Usain Bolt from Jamaica wasn’t the fastest out of the blocks, but he didn’t need to be, as he still won well ahead of the others in 9.63 seconds. It was a brilliant race, and it was actually the second fastest 100m ever at the time, with all but one athlete running in under 10 seconds.

Usain lapped up the adoration of the crowd of course – pun very much intended – and he did his famous lightning bolt pose for them and the swarming journalists, before giving a nice interview alongside teammate and silver medalist Yohan Blake. The BBC team were also hugely excited by the win, with commentator Steve Cram firmly declaring that “the champion becomes a legend”, and pundit Colin Jackson is shown in the studio screaming for “the big man” to win during the race. We also see a bit of Usain’s medal ceremony at the end of Day 10’s coverage, and he was back later in the Games for more events.

Also in the stadium, Christine Ohuruogu got silver in the women’s 400m final with a great effort, having won gold 4 years earlier. Dai Greene, Team GB’s athletics captain, came 4th in the men’s 400m hurdles, while winner Felix Sanchez had a picture of his late grandmother attached to his bib, and he gets emotional on the podium. And in the men’s 400m final, world champion Kirani James won Grenada their first ever Olympic gold. It was such a big deal that his government declared a half-day holiday in his honour. In the same race at later Games he went on to win silver in Rio and bronze in Tokyo, and to date he is still that country’s only Olympic medallist.

Elsewhere on days 9 & 10:

  • In the sailing, Ben Ainslie won his 4th Olympic gold, making him the greatest sailing Olympian in the history of the Games. Iain Percy and Simpson got silver in their event.
  • Gymnastics was still going on in the North Greenwich Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome and these days known as The O2). Louis Smith & Max Whitlock won silver and bronze for Team GB after superb routines in the pommel horse final. Louis only just missed out on gold, as he was tied with winner Krisztian Berki from Hungary on total score, but had a slightly lower execution mark. And for Max Whitlock, his bronze was his first individual Olympic medal, so it was a big moment for him. In Rio 4 years later, Louis had to settle for silver again, but this time behind Max, who got the gold.
  • Elsewhere in Greenwich, the showjumping team event came down to a very tense jump-off between Great Britain and the Netherlands, after they ended up level at the end of the competition. It meant all 4 riders from each team had to go round the course again, which had a final fence designed to look like Tower Bridge. It was really tight, with one or two riders on each team clipping one or two fences, but the British quartet prevailed and won their first team showjumping gold in 60 years.

Apart from the main highlights, Disc 3 also includes a bonus feature called Extra Sporting Moments. This is a reflective montage lasting nearly 10 minutes, including reactions of spectators, controversial moments and protests, special moments for non-GB athletes, notable successes for women, the Torch Relay and the legacy of the Games. So it doesn’t cover anything in detail, but it acknowledges a few bits and pieces they couldn’t squeeze in to the main feature, and gives a little bit of food for thought.

Days 11-12

Disc 4 presents the highlights from the final 6 days over the course of 2½ hours (as well as the Opening Ceremony extras I mentioned in my earlier post). And Day 11 gets the first 40 minutes, as it had further moments of big significance for the British squad. Day 12, on the other hand, was unusually devoid of medals for Great Britain, the only other instance being the very first day of the Games, and as such it only gets 10 minutes of coverage on the Blu-ray.

But Day 11 made up for that, largely thanks to our super cyclists in the concluding events in the velodrome. And it began with Laura Trott winning the women’s omnium, which had been very close throughout. She had been in the lead after yesterday’s first 3 events, with a win in the flying lap time trial, 10th in the 20km points race, and then a win in the elimination race. Then today she came 2nd in the pursuit and 4th in the 40-lap scratch race, before winning the 500m time trial over 2 laps to clinch the gold. So it was an exciting set of events right up to the end.

In addition to her gold from the women’s team pursuit earlier in the Games, it meant she was a double Olympic and world champion at just 20 years old. She then did the same again in 2016, snapping up another world omnium title before winning Olympic golds in Rio for the women’s team pursuit and individual omnium, making her the first British woman to win 4 Olympic golds.

And as if that wasn’t enough to make her happy, her blossoming relationship with fellow champion Jason Kenny also came to light later on. It had started in the build-up to the Games, but was kept out of the public eye until after their events had finished. And they kept it as private as they could, marrying in secret in 2016 before having their first baby in 2017. Sadly things haven’t been so good for her during the past year, so here’s hoping things improve for her again soon.

Victoria Pendleton, in the final race of her glittering career, then came second to Australia’s Anna Meares in the women’s sprint, and it wasn’t without drama. The first race in this best-of-three final was so tight that it had to be decided by a photo finish – and Victoria won on the width of her tyre, just one-thousandth of a second ahead. But the judges then relegated her after watching a slow-motion replay, which showed she had strayed out of the narrow sprinting lane. It appeared to be by accident, and it resulted in a lot of booing towards the officials, but rules are rules. Anna had a clearer victory in the second race, however, securing her gold medal with a score of 2-0.

Victoria was happy enough with the result though, getting emotional in her interview, and she had a lot of love from the crowd. And she had already beaten Anna Meares in the keirin a few days earlier. With 9 world titles, 2 Olympic golds and and an Olympic silver, she is undoubtedly a champion. And she didn’t shy away from competitive challenges, as she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing later in the year, but was eliminated in Week 8, while fellow Olympian Louis Smith won overall.

Finally, another cyclist bringing their career to a close was Chris Hoy, and he went out in a blaze of glory, by winning the 8-lap keirin event. His 6th gold medal (plus 1 silver from his very first Games) makes him the most successful British Olympian ever, passing the record held by Steve Redgrave – who was there and gave him a big congratulatory hug afterwards, joking that he would come out of retirement to get his title back. Chris’ parents were also in the venue, and a clip is played of them watching his tense race, with his Mum barely able to watch, before they celebrate when he wins. So with all of that going on, it’s understandable that Chris couldn’t completely hold together his emotions in his medal ceremony. It was a stunning end to a stellar career, so he thoroughly deserved all the praise he got.

His victory also wrapped up an impressive haul by Team GB’s cyclists in these Games. We had won 7 out of the 10 available gold medals, along with 1 silver and 2 bronzes – all very well deserved!

Away from all that, though still involving a bit of cycling, The Brownlee brothers won gold and bronze in the men’s triathlon. Alistair claimed the top spot, while Jonathan was delayed by a 15-second penalty for getting on his bike just a tad too early. Alistair’s lead was so great that he was able to jog towards the finishing line and then casually walk through the victory banner. And his time over the 10,000m course was just 97 seconds slower than Mo Farah’s athletics win over the same distance on Super Saturday. He also went on to win triathlon gold again in Rio in 2016, with Jonny moving up to silver. They really are a special pair.

Over in the Olympic Stadium, Robbie Grabarz won bronze for Great Britain in the high jump – but last year he was upgraded to silver, after a long-running investigation led to 12 Russians being stripped of their medals for doping offences, including original high jump winner Ivan Ukhov. Robbie retrospectively received his rightful medal in a special ceremony during the Müller Birmingham Diamond League event in May 2022.

All of those British medals, along with our first ever gold in the team dressage (beating long-standing champions Germany), and Nick Dempsey’s silver in the windsurfing (which he won again 4 years later in Rio), meant we had 48 medals, 22 of which were gold. It was already our most successful Games for 104 years, and we hadn’t even finished yet!

As for other nations, Dutch gymnast Epke Zonderland stunned the crowd at the gymnastics on Day 11, with one of the most difficult horizontal bar routines to win gold. And back in the Olympic Stadium, the USA had a golden half hour in the stadium on Day 12 with victories in the women’s 200m (Allyson Felix), long jump (Brittney Reese) & men’s 110m hurdles (Aries Merritt).

But there had been a much more historic moment earlier on Day 12 in the opening rounds of the 800m, when Sarah Attar became the first woman to compete in athletics for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She was one of two female athletes attending from that nation – the other being 16-year-old Wojdan Shaherkani in the judo – despite very mixed feelings in their home country about it. Sarah was well behind the rest of the field in the 800m and so didn’t get through, but the crowd were right behind her with loud encouragement, as they appreciated the significance of the moment. She was one of many lesser-known athletes at the Games who warranted a bit of attention.

Days 13-14

There was much more action for Britain on these two days, which have a total of an hour on the Blu-ray between them. The athletics in particular became rather a talking point, though not always for the right reasons.

On the plus side, it was a Jamaican clean sweep in the men’s 200m, with Usain Bolt unsurprisingly grabbing the gold, making him the only man ever to have defended both Olympic 100m & 200m sprint titles. Meanwhile, David Rudisha from Kenya won the men’s 800m with a world record, the USA broke a world record held by East Germany since 1985 in the women’s 4 x 100m relay, and the Bahamas won the men’s 4 x 400m relay with Britain in 4th.

However, the women’s 1500m final had a much less prestigious outcome. Asli Cakir Alptekin won Turkey’s first ever Olympic athletics gold in the race – but was then stripped of that title in 2015 for doping and banned for 8 years. She had served a previous 2 year ban as a junior in 2004, so it wasn’t a first offence. That new ban was later backdated and halved, so she was able to run again in 2017, but clearly had no respect for the sport as she offended again and was immediately banned for life.

And she wasn’t the only dodgy athlete. By that point, 6 of the top 9 finishers in the race had been linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and it has since been dubbed ‘the dirtiest race in history’. British entrants Lisa Dobriskey & Laura Weightman were safe, as they’ve never failed drugs tests. Lisa had in fact voiced her concerns to reporters straight after the race, and Shannon Rowbury from the USA has also spoken about it. Ultimately, the most up-to-date result has disqualified 7 of the athletes, completely wiping out Turkey’s historic medal achievements, and has elevated the Brits to 6th and 7th place.

Still, moving on to much better things:

  • The final equestrian event was individual dressage, with horses dancing and trotting impressively to their riders’ choices of music. Britain had 3 entrants, out of which Charlotte Dujardin won her second gold of the Games (following GB’s success in the team event) and Laura Bechtolsheimer bagged the bronze. Charlotte’s performance used music from The Great Escape, Live And Let Die & The Planets Suite, while Laura’s ride was accompanied by music from The Lion King. Our other rider was Carl Hester, who came a respectable fifth.

Days 15-16

With all that had gone before, you might be forgiven for thinking that the final weekend of the Games surely couldn’t have much left to offer. But it still had plenty going on, enough for 40 minutes of closing highlights on the Blu-ray, and with more historic moments.

The most significant was, of course, Mo Farah winning gold in a fantastic 5,000m final, exactly a week after winning the 10,000m. It made him the first Briton to win the double, and only the seventh man in history to win both events at a single Games. It also meant he was one of just 5 British athletes to win 2 gold medals in these London Games.

We see the last 2 laps in full on the Blu-ray, with the BBC team getting very excited about it. Commentators Steve Cram and Paul Dickinson were once again hugely impressed by the unique spectacle they were witnessing, while pundits Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis got really hyped up as well. And it wasn’t just the stadium that erupted – the crowds watching on big screens went absolutely crazy in places like the Olympic Park, Hyde Park & Haggerston Park as well, showing just how much these Games really did bring people together. And I’m pretty sure I was shouting at the telly from home as well!

Mo also gave another nice interview afterwards, thanking everyone who has supported him, and we see the national anthem played at his medal ceremony, with the crowd once more in fine voice as they sing proudly in his honour.

Mo went on to repeat the double win at Rio in 2016, making him only the second person ever to retain both titles, and the first Briton to win 4 athletic gold Olympic medals.

Mo’s friend and fellow athletics legend Usain Bolt was also there on the final night in the stadium, bringing the baton home in the men’s 4 x 100m relay to seal a stunning win for Jamaica with a new world record. So that meant Bolt had done the ‘double triple’ by defending that title alongside his 100m and 200m victories. He and Mo celebrated together by doing each other’s signature poses. Meanwhile, the USA won the women’s 4 x 400m relay, with Great Britain in 5th.

Meanwhile, in the boxing, Anthony Joshua won gold in the super-heavyweight final, packing a punch in every sense of the phrase to turn around a 3-point deficit going into the last round. It was so tight that the score ended up level at 18 apiece with his opponent – the defending champion Roberto Cammarelle – but Anthony won on countback. A brilliant result for someone who had first tried putting on the gloves 4 years earlier after his cousin dragged him to a gym.

There was further success for Team GB in the ring as well, when Luke Campbell beat Ireland’s Jon Joe Nevin 14-11, making him the first British boxer to win gold in his bantamweight division since 1908. And Fred Evans got silver in the welterweight final, making him the most successful Welsh boxer of all time. Altogether this had been Britain’s best boxing performance at an Olympics since 1920!

Falling in the boxing ring might not be a good idea, but falling into the pool can net you a medal if done right, as Tom Daley can testify. He finally got his chance to prove it in the 10m platform diving final. But the bright lights of some flash photography, which is prohibited during competition, distracted him on his first dive, and after appealing he was given permission to retake it. The Blu-ray then shows his final 3 dives out of the 6 he did, and by the end of round 5 he was ahead by just 0.15 over his 2 closest rivals. But he ultimately got bronze after the final round, which he was still very happy with, especially having endured a difficult year in which he had lost his father Rob to cancer.

Team GB also did well in the 200m kayak races at Eton Dorney, with Ed McKeever winning gold in the singles final, while Liam Heath & Jon Schofield got bronze in the doubles final.

We didn’t have a team in the men’s football final, but it was quite a surprise to see Brazil losing 2-1 to Mexico, as that meant it was still the only major title that Brazil were missing, and they had been the favourites to win, plus it was Mexico’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport. Brazil were up against it from the start though, as Oribe Peralta from Mexico smashed home a goal just 32 seconds into the match, which is the fastest goal in an Olympic final! Brazil managed to hold them off until Mexico scored again in the 74th minute, and Brazil finally managed to pull one back in stoppage time, but after missing another opportunity to score with a badly aimed header it was too late.

In some other sports from the final day shown on the Blu-ray:

We did win one final medal on Day 16 though, with Samantha Murray earning silver in the modern pentathlon at her first Olympics. This is a one-day event consisting of fencing, a 200m freestyle swim, showjumping, and a 3km cross country run combined with pistol shooting, so it’s a lot of hard work! Samantha later won gold in the USA World Cup in 2015, pushing her to the top of the world rankings, before 8th in the Rio Olympics the following year.

In the end, Great Britain finished with an extremely impressive tally of 65 medals, consisting of 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze (since adjusted to 18 silver and 18 bronze given the high jump reallocation mentioned earlier). That placed us comfortably 3rd in the medal table behind USA and China, the best we could have possibly hoped for. It was widely regarded as our best Olympics performance ever, and arguably still is compared to our other Olympic tallies. At Rio and Tokyo we had fewer golds, but the total was still much the same as London’s.

In a sense though, all of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic medals were British, because they were designed by British artist David Watkins and produced in Wales, and were the biggest for any Games to date, weighing around 375-400 grams each. And they were dished out to 85 nations who won at least 1 medal, three of them for the first time (Cyprus, Guatemala and Grenada).

Anyway, the BBC’s Blu-ray coverage ends with a montage of clips, with extracts from Seb Coe’s opening ceremony speech, over an instrumental of the First Steps theme tune. It’s a nice way to end it.

Highlights Documentaries

After the Olympics was over, the BBC naturally capitalised on its success by reminding us how awesome it all was later on. So there were a couple of programmes that I recorded using a combination hard drive and DVD recorder I had at the time (I mentioned a few others in my previous posts about the Opening Ceremony and Super Saturday as well). And I still have those discs. They’re not in HD by any means – and it’s a great shame these particular documentaries aren’t extras in the Blu-ray set, as they’d be perfect for it. They’re no longer available on the BBC website either. But my copies are in reasonable quality, and it’s been great to watch them again.

A Golden Games

This is a slickly-edited hour-long compilation of highlights, with poetic narration by Eddie Butler, who has the perfect voice for these kind of programmes. It lays out the countless reasons why the Olympics were such a massive boon to the country, while also acknowledging the scepticism and financial concerns understandably levelled at the Games from some quarters. While it’s not officially available online, at the time of writing there are lower resolution uploads on Youtube and the Internet Archive.

The first half hour is devoted to Great Britain’s successes, naturally focusing on the gold medals in particular, but acknowledging all of our other medal winners too. Then the next 15 minutes focus on athletes from other nations, including Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, the battle between the USA and China to be at the top of the medal table, and world records that were smashed in the stadium.

After that there’s a quick glance at just a few of the controversies that arose during the Games, which aren’t noted on the Blu-ray set as they naturally wanted to keep that cheerful, and because the incidents mentioned weren’t connected to Great Britain’s athletes. Apart from several instances of doping, which come as no surprise unfortunately, there were also a few stranger moments that are fleetingly mentioned in the documentary:

Of course, there were many other strange or curious things about the Games as well – the BBC website has lists of 20 lesser-spotted things and 20 more oddities that you may find interesting.

Anyway, after all that, the documentary focuses on happier things again, looking at some more victories for other athletes, celebrating the greater inclusion of women across different countries and sports, the impact on London and the public’s reaction to the games. It wraps everything up very nicely, before we get the full BBC credits for the coverage of the games, alongside a montage of clips and a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine by Emeli Sandé.

The programme really does emphasise what a wonderful Olympics it was, with so many great memories, and Eddie Butler sums it up nicely at the end:

“Could we afford it? Probably not. Was it worth it? The people who came out and made the Games, these London Games of 2012, have already answered that question. Inspire A Generation – the billboard slogan that became the Olympic wish, that came true.”

Through The Lens

This enjoyable half-hour programme, narrated by Dan Walker, takes us behind the scenes of the BBC coverage. Many of the presenters and commentators are interviewed, giving us candid insights into how they felt during the most significant moments, what it was like to do some of the most memorable interviews, and the challenges they faced in conveying the significance and atmosphere of what was happening to viewers at home. We also get to watch several of the commentators in action, so we can actually see how they were reacting when things got particularly exciting or emotional. It’s so rare that you get to see behind the camera like that, so quite interesting.

They can’t cover everything in just 30 minutes of course, but they do talk about:

  • The surprises that even the presenters didn’t know were coming in the Opening Ceremony – such as the Queen‘s involvement in the James Bond sketch, and how the Olympic flame would arrive in the stadium and light the cauldron.
  • Tom Daley in the diving, including the poor fourth dive that put him out of the medals in the synchronised event, then the prohibited flash photography that put him off his first individual dive before he came through to win bronze.
  • The nerves before the first rowing gold medal for Heather Stanning & Helen Glover, and the joy at Katherine Grainger finally getting hers after all the silvers she’s had. Plus there’s movingoff-air footage after the emotional interview with disappointed silver medallists Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, when it all gets to John Inverdale and he ends up crying in Steve Redgrave’s arms.
  • Mo Farah’s win in the 5,000m on Super Saturday, and Usain Bolt’s 100m victory the next day, with Steve Cram jumping up with excitement in the commentary box, and pundits Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis going crazy as they watch through the studio window.
  • Ben Ainslie winning gold in the sailing, and how Rob Walker was able to sail alongside his boat to interview him straight afterwards.
  • How Claire Balding ended up interviewing Bert Le Clos, after his son Chad had beaten Michael Phelps.
  • Chris Hoy becoming the greatest British Olympian ever in the velodrome.

So it’s a nice set of highlights, and it’s lovely to hear things from the perspectives of the presenters. We take their expert contributions very much for granted when we watch events like this, yet they have many years of knowledge and experience under their belts, and they put in a lot of time and effort to bring us informed and engaging coverage.

Conclusion

And there you have it. That’s the end of the sporting highlights from the London Olympics, which I’ll always love looking back at. It was genuinely a very special time to be British.

And of course it wasn’t quite over – keep an eye out soon for my review of the Closing Ceremony, which wrapped up the Games nicely!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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