Ready for Rio to inspire like London
PUBLISHED: 19:00 05 August 2016
Let the Olympic Games begin!
The London 2012 Olympic Games seem like an absolute lifetime ago.
I was privileged enough to get our access-all-areas media pass and bore witness to some of the greatest moments in GB sporting history.
My 19-day shift began in Cardiff, watching the women’s football, followed by a trip to Manchester to see the men score their first Olympic goal in 52 years.
But then it was a case of criss-crossing the capital, racing around the Olympic Park in Stratford mostly, from the Aquatic Centre to Copper Box Arena, Velodrome to Basketball ‘bubble’, hockey stadium to the Olympic Stadium.
But I also got to watch Olympic sport at Lord’s (archery), Lee Valley (canoeing), Earls Court (volleyball), the ExCel Arena (boxing, judo, fencing), Woolwich (shooting), Greenwich (equestrian), Hyde Park (open swimming) and Horse Guards Parade (beach volleyball).
And there was a certain trip to Eton Dorney on what turned out to be ‘Super Saturday’ for GB and a day I expect will be unsurpassed in my career.
In a nutshell, GB won six gold medals and one silver on August 4, 2012. And I saw each and every one in the flesh.
It all began with a 5.10am alarm call as I peeled myself off my makeshift bed in the old Archant London office in Seven Kings.
I made my way to Stratford and walked across to the Media Press Centre to catch the 6.20am media bus to Berkshire for the rowing finals.
After close to four hours on site, watching ranking finals and awaiting the medal races, I saw Pete Reed, Tom James, Andrew Triggs Hodge and Alex Gregory produce a “masterpiece” to beat their Australian rivals for gold number one.
Less than 30 minutes later and Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland claimed an unexpected lightweight double sculls gold, but then came the one I was most waiting for.
The men’s lightweight double sculls final featured our very own Mark Hunter, a former Havering schoolboy, born in Forest Gate, who had won gold with Zac Purchase in Beijing in 2008.
It was not without plenty of drama as the race had to be restarted after Purchase’s seat came off its mount inside the boat and, in a nail-biting climax, the defending champions were pipped on the line by a Danish duo.
“We came for gold,” said a devastated Hunter, completely disinterested in his silver.
After riding the bus back to London, I was in the media mixed zone in the Velodrome as Joanna Roswell, Dani King and Laura Trott pedalled to a new world record in the women’s team pursuit for GB’s third gold medal of the day.
Then it was just a case of finding a seat in the Olympic Stadium for the evening’s athletics session, where hopes were high for more GB success.
Jessica Ennis delivered the goods in the heptathlon, winning her 800m heat amid deafening noise to be crowned Olympic champion around 9pm, with Greg Rutherford claiming an unexpected long jump gold minutes later after a best leap of 8.31m, as Chris Tomlinson finished four inches away from silver.
And then came Mo Farah, holding off all of his challengers in the 10,000m to record an unforgettable victory and make it six golds in about 10-and-a-half hours.
It was utterly breathtaking
I was lucky enough to see GB win six other gold medals at those Games, with four of them in the Velodrome for the men’s team pursuit, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy (both keirin) and Trott (omnium).
I also witnessed Nicola Adams win women’s boxing gold, before Farah’s fantastic finish in the 5,000m to complete his own golden double.
There were silvers for Michael Jamieson (200m breaststroke), Christine Ohuruogu (400m), Pendleton (sprint) and Gemma Gibbons (judo), plus bronze for Robbie Grabarz (high jump) and Beth Tweddle (gymnastics) for a personal total medal count of 18.
Sadly I am not going to be in Rio this summer to watch Team GB in their pursuit of more glory, but producing this souvenir edition has brought back a lot of wonderful memories.
And in an ever-changing world, I know sport has the lasting power to create joy for hundreds of millions of people across the planet, so I will be watching and waiting to experience more thrills as our men and women chase sporting immortality, but also to see underdogs have their day on the biggest stage of all.