Little Britain, great success: We might be small but we're world beaters
22:48 GMT, 13 August 2012
Sportsmail columnist Daley Thompson looks back on a truly tremendous fortnight of action.
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The world will go away impressed and with treasured memories that will last a lifetime. We are the biggest little country in the world and a little shy to say how great we are at times. My friend, former Australia cricket captain Steve Waugh, told me the facilities and atmosphere were the best he’s ever seen.
I don’t know what we can do to thank Sebastian Coe. He’s brought the country together and put a smile on everybody’s faces. He’s done an unbelievable job.
Hats off: Lord Sebastian Coe delivered a quite remarkable spectacle
THE PROPER THANK YOUS…
The blazers will be putting in their orders for New Year honours about now, but we should save our heartfelt thanks for the people who really deserve it — the athletes, their coaches and their parents who have all spent many years preparing their charges for these Games. It’s the early dark mornings, training in the snow and rain, and the long car journeys to competitions in the middle of nowhere when nobody knows your name that build the belief and attitude which win you a place on the team. In Beijing there was no involvement from the local people. London has been a happier place and a more inclusive Games. The volunteers have been amazing and one of the best things that happened was G4S not being able to complete their job. It meant the armed forces came in and they were brilliant.
Heroes: Troops stepped in at late notice to become an integral part of the Games's success
Three British moments I loved
Watching Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott win the canoe slalom. They had seven pairs going after them so it was really tense for about 25 minutes.
The 45 minutes in the Olympic Stadium on the first Saturday was magical. First Jess Ennis won gold, then Greg Rutherford and then Mo Farah. You can’t beat that.
Katherine Grainger winning after all the pain of those silvers at other Games. I was so happy for her.
THE GREAT DEBATE…
If you follow Sir Steve Redgrave’s theory, then there is a new greatest in town — Sir Chris Hoy. He has six gold medals so should therefore be considered the best Olympian we’ve had, overtaking Redgrave. The greatest is dead, long live the greatest. However, if you agree with my theory that such a title is impossible to give to one athlete, then we can all still enjoy endless hours of pub talk about who our favourites are and their merits. So welcome to my round table of greatness, Chris, where there is room for many.
MOAN No 1…
I don’t understand why the relay team failed again. They are fast enough and they should have won a medal. Our sprinters are rubbish on the world stage — an Olympic semi-final is the best they can hope for — but as a relay team we have a chance. It’s their only way on earth of winning a medal, so they should have been prioritising it ahead of the individual event, practising all the time. It’s delusional to think they can do anything on their own and a real shame.
Over the line: Great Britain's relay team should have won a medal
BEST OF BRITISH…
I thought we’d do as well as we did and it’s great because we want and need British heroes. Now it’s important that the sports clubs across this country are ready for all the kids who are going to want to get involved. That’s what will ensure our success for the next 20 years. The Australians were brilliant from 2000 till about a year ago. They’ve become complacent. They haven’t continued to change. Look at the cycling. They did well in the World Championships and thought that would be enough. It wasn’t. Sport is so competitive that you always need to look to improve and we must do that if we want to keep being this successful.
Backward step: Australia won six cycling medals at the velodrome – one gold, two silver and three bronze
And three non-British moments
My favourite of the whole Games was David Rudisha winning the 800 metres. The way he ran the race was unbelievable.
The 200m butterfly where Michael Phelps just got beaten in the final length by South Africa swimmer Chad le Clos was so exciting. Phelps could never lose that event — it was unthinkable.
The women’s volleyball final between Brazil and the USA was incredible, with some great rallies. I went to a pool match and the USA won so it was a surprise to see Brazil beat them.
THE BIG DIP…
Most of the athletics competitors will be out earning a living again in the next few weeks. But this will be the end of the year for some other sports. And a lot of competitors will go back to normal life and their jobs. It is tough for some people — most feel a bit flat after an Olympics because coming off that high and back to normality is difficult. I never found it a problem because I was so focused on training for the next event. The key is to go back to training only when you feel comfortable. In the meantime, just enjoy it, see your friends and family, and ride the wave. Then one day you’ll wake up and want to train again.
MY SPORT SHONE…
It was the best athletics meet ever. The performances to win events were staggering. Nobody would have thought that Andrew Osagie’s 1min 43.77sec would be good enough only for last place in the 800 metres. Mo Farah was unreal, too. Everyone thought he had a good chance of a medal but he surpassed that. Some people think that Usain Bolt was not as successful as he was in Beijing, because he wasn’t breaking as many records. But no-one has won those titles in consecutive Games like he has. He can continue if he wants — he’s a young man — but he might struggle to find the motivation because he could have better things to do. You have to really want it. Moving up to the 400m won’t happen either because it takes much more training.
Motivation: After two consecutive gold medal triple-hauls, where does Usain Bolt go from here
MOAN No 2…
The Badminton World Federation’s decision to ban those players for trying to lose to secure an easier match after their round-robin was the worst thing at the Games. They had created that format, they knew what was going to happen. All the athletes were trying to do was improve their chances in a system they’d been given. It’s not that much different from a runner deliberately slowing down to save energy and finishing fourth when he knows the top four qualify from a race. The BWF created rules which made losing appealing — it should be a straight knockout in future.
He must stay: Charles van Commenee has done a splendid job
DON’T GO, CHARLES…
Charles van Commenee hasn’t done a bad job. His problem is that he’s backed himself into a corner by saying he needed to deliver eight medals. But, of the six we did win in athletics, four of them were gold, which is the equivalent to 20 silvers, in my opinion. What else is he going to do He’s already the highest paid in that job in the world, so where else would he go
Interview by Alex Kay