What a difference a day makes, or so warbled Dinah Washington. She should try a week in that case. Just 6 days ago, team GB was sitting in 12th place with just a pair of silvers and bronzes to their name. This morning’s table sees them basking comfortably in 3rd, behind only the Olympic superpowers of the USA and China. And miles ahead of France… Cue ferocious amounts of whinging from across the channel.
After Glover, Stanning and Wiggins got us up and running on Wednesday, team GB has gone into overdrive. Canoeing, cycling, rowing, tennis, equestrian, sailing… We won it. An avalanche of gold from all corners preceded the greatest day of athletics in the country’s history as Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah and, of course, national treasure Jess Ennis all brought home the ultimate prize in their events.
Then of course there was the small matter of the 100m final on Sunday evening. The hype, the drama, the legend… Was Bolt fit? Would he break the world record? Was Yohan Blake ready to steal his crown? The answers were resoundingly: Yes, bloody nearly and no, but that does no justice to another sensational performance from the big Jamaican, as he set a new Olympic Record to defeat one of the strongest fields in history.
So, as we enter the final 6 days (or in Usain terms, the last 38m…) what excitement still lies in store?
Tuesday 7th August
The story of the day is at the Velodrome, where the heroic Sir Chris Hoy is looking to bow out of the Olympics with a sixth gold medal in the Men’s Keirin. Hoy, who according to the BBC website is my body double (ahem, creative licence…), added team sprint gold to his stash last week and victory here would be a fitting exit for the man from Edinburgh. The final is at 6pm and may involve some more tears.
Half an hour earlier, Victoria Pendleton goes head-to-head with legendary Australian rival Anna Mears in the Women’s Sprint final. Mears form in these games would seem to make Pendleton the favourite, but it should be a classic final between two outgoing greats of women’s cycling.
One event where GB appear to be assured of a gold medal is the Men’s Triathalon, where Yorkshireman (and if there was a county in a rice vein of form, it’s the tykes) Alistair Brownlee is red-hot favourite. Amazingly, should he not win, the main competition comes from… His younger brother Jonathon! Should GB fail to win here, you sense there will be some long, contemplative silences over Sunday lunch in the Brownlee household.
Down at Weymouth, Nick Dempsey and Briony Shaw have great chances in the men’s and women’s versions of a sailing event called the RS:X. No, I’m afraid I haven’t a clue either…
Back on the track, the Women’s 100m Hurdles will not see Jess Ennis compete, much to the relief of Australian Sally Pearson, who is favourite for gold. Given the games that the Aussies have had so far though, it would be no surprise to see her come in second.
Wednesday 8th August
Moving swiftly onto Wednesday, the “event du jour” is the Men’s 110m Hurdles in the Olympic Stadium. British hope in this event has been tempered since the days of Colin Jackson, but it still promises to be a hell of a race. Chinese (yawn) favourite Liu Xiang was supposed to win a home gold four years ago, only to pull out with injury He faces two talented Americans here in Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson. All three have run under 13 seconds this year and are in peak form.
The ladies of the GB Hockey team take on Argentina in a pretty tasty-looking semi-final. Both teams have strong history in the sport, and that’s before you even get to the facetious “To practice for playing on British land, we warmed up by playing on Argentine land” promotional video that the Argentine Hockey Association used before the games. It is set, very obviously, on the Falklands. Anyhow, lets hope our lasses can summon the spirit of Thatcher and sink their hopes like the General Belgrano.
The mad, perverted carnage of the Women’s Beach Volleyball comes to a climax (poor choice of words) at 9pm with the most likely finalists representing Brazil and the USA. I have no idea who the likely winner is, but my guess would be all the men in the crowd. Expect much leering and vigorous thigh stroking. The Men’s event is the following night. Anyone care? No? Moving on…
Last time I said it would be a quiet day, GB won three gold medals, so with that in mind, I’d like to predict that the rest of the day will be fairly quiet (*crosses fingers*).
Thursday 9th August
A cracking day of athletics lies in store on Thursday night. It would be impossible not to kick proceedings off with the mouthwatering prospect of Bolt vs Blake, round 2, as the Jamaican pair face off again in the Men’s 200m (8:55pm). Worryingly for the rest of the field, this is considered Usain’s best event, so given the outcome of last Sunday’s final, I’d be expecting him to come close to his own World Record of 19.19.
Earlier in the evening, at 7:20pm, the flamboyant Philips Idowu should be competing in the Men’s Triple Jump final. The reason I say “should” is that Idowu comes into these games shrouded in more mystery than a Scooby Doo plot and Austin Powers combined. No-one but him seems to know what sort of condition he is in, as he first fell out with his coach, then disappeared completely for a week. Anyhow, he has now resurfaced (on Twitter) and, if fit, could be in line for one of the most unusual GB medals in history. A space certainly worth watching… An additional athletics highlight sees unstoppable Kenyan David Rudisha in Men’s 800m Final action.
Off the beaten track, Beijing silver medallist Kerri-Anne Payne is looking to go one better this time in the 10km Open Water Swimming event. The Excel Centre will also be hosting the terrifying sight of two burly women battering each other in the first of the Women’s Boxing Finals. Britain’s Savannah Marshall has a great chance in the Middleweight division, where the final is at 5pm.
Friday 10th August
You know those days when we win medals in things that make you sit up and think “I didn’t know that was an Olympic sport”? Today is that day.
Shanaze Reade puts on her fattest tyres and takes on all that the world of BMX racing can throw at her. Reade won the 2011 test event and has an awesome record in the sport… When she finishes the race… She has failed to finish about half the major championships that she has competed in, and won most of the others. As a casual observer, I like those odds. Go hard or go home, I say. And it would appear she does too. 4:30pm is the time to wallow in her all-or-nothing lunacy.
Later that evening, at 10:15 (allowing ample time to calm down post-BMX), Sarah Stevenson will hopefully be kicking the shit out of her opponent in the Women’s 67kg Taekwondo Final. Frankly, any sport where you have to wear body armour deserves respect, so lets get behind genuine medal-hope Stevenson, cometh the hour. Additionally, the Women’s Hockey Final could involve the impressive GB team, should they win on Wednesday.
Saturday 11th August
The athletics reaches its conclusion on Saturday with a race that could see all existing records smashed to pieces. The Men’s 4x100m relay at 9pm will see the quickest team in history competing for Jamaica, even with the probable exclusion of Asafa Powell, who pulled up in the 100m final. Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Nesta Carter and Michael Frater (assuming he takes Powell’s place) are chasing their own world record of 37.04 seconds and could well become the first 4×100 team to break the 37 second mark. The US team, including three 100m finalists itself, is not too shabby either, while the performances of Dwain Chambers and Adam Gemili in the individual event (the two quickest runners outside the final) suggests GB are in bronze contention.
Before then, Britain’s favourite Somalian (and to those who watched last Saturday night, possibly favourite athlete) Mo Farah takes to the track in the Men’s 5,000m. Given that he considers himself to be stronger at this event than the 10k that he won last week, it’s fair to say that there will be an air of hope and expectation bounding around the stadium. Fans of ladybodys will be right behind Caster Semenya (can we say that?) in the Women’s 800m final. Now that the finest scientific minds have proved that she is a woman, the South African will be trying to break the longest-standing women’s athletics record (set in 1983, in case you were wondering).
Over amongst the verrucas of the lido, Tommy Daley attempts to put his synchronised problems behind him in the Men’s 10m Diving. Predictably, the Chinese stand in the way, but Daley has been world champion in this before and will fancy his chances, no matter how slim they are.
Sunday 12th August.
Like all good things, the London 2012 Olympics must come to an end, and boy has it been good.
Today sees the culmination of the final events. From a British point of view, this should centre on the Men’s Boxing, where Anthony Joshua (Super Heavyweight), Tom Stalker (Light Welterweight) and Anthony Ogogo (Middleweight) lead a strong team of home contenders up a path that will hopefully echo that of Audley Harrison… Except without being so shit after the Olympics are over, hopefully.
The Modern Pentathlon, a fairly obscure event involving pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping and a cross-country run, takes place on Sunday too, with GB hopes in Mhair Spence and Sam Murray. We actually won the women’s in 2000 through Stephanie Cook, so appear to have some pedigree in the competition.
Finally, there is the Men’s Basketball Final. The 2nd most popular sport in the world, the dream team, superstars like LeBron James, all here in London… Yes, it really is astonishing how little I care about this event.
Then it’s over to the Stadium for the Closing Ceremony, where we will sadly have to pass the baton over to Brazil. There are strong rumours that the Spice Girls are set to perform, which would be just horrendous in my mind, but I’m sure 30-odd million girls would disagree. The theme will be that of a Rio street carnival, so I’m sure there will be something for the fellas to watch too.
And that is that. Lets hope that the last week can continue the joyous success of the games. Onward, team GB!
by Harry Harland