Fri, September 20, 2013

50 great memories of London 2012

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canada's Christine Sinclair (12) celebrates scoring on the USA in the women's semifinal soccer match against at the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford in Manchester, August 6, 2012. (REUTERS)

LONDON - The XXX Olympiad is winding down its five-ring circus and we are left with a crazy mosaic of performances, quotes, moments and memories.

Some gut-wrenching with their pure emotion.

Others just funny.

Emptying the Olympic notebook, here are 50 thoughts, observations, views, notes and quotes from the last three weeks at the greatest show on Earth:

1. Having the opporunity visit Old Trafford, one of soccer's iconic venues, was treat enough, even for a non-footy like myself. Having a chance to see the Canadian women play the semifinal against the United States in one of the most dramatic games in Canadian Olympic history turned out to be the highlight. What a venue. What a game.

2. Christine Sinclair. Canada's captain turned in one of the greatest Olympic performances by a Canadian in that game against the Americans. It'll be tough to forget those blazing eyes and her running, arms outstretched, after scoring one of her three goals.

3. Diana Matheson. She scored the winner against France in the bronze medal game. Has there been a smaller athlete (she can't even be five feet tall) who has done a bigger deed for Canada?

4. Russian boxer Sofya Ochigava didn't leave any doubts about how she felt about Irish opponent Katie Taylor: "Ireland is in a financial crisis because they've spent all their money on Taylor's referees."

5. More Ochigava on battling Taylor and her supporters: "Key to victory is to land more punches and then file an appeal."

6. Given what they wear at beach volleyball, this couldn't have been pretty: "I don't have words for it. At the end of the second set I was sh----, sh---- in my pants," said the Czech Republic's Kristyna Kolocova.

7. As compelling as the stories of victory are the ones of defeat. Triathlon was a sad story for Canada. Veteran Paula Findlay refused to quit and finished last, crossing the line in tears and apologizied to Canada. "Sadder than I've ever been. Thanks for the love. Life goes on," she tweeted. No need to apologize, but that she did speaks volumes of her class.

8. Simon Whitfield's triathlon ended with a bicycle crash. He came to a spirited defence of Findlay, taking to Twitter to question how her hip injury was handled. "gutted 2c Paula so upset. There are some people that need 2b held accountable here, total incompetence before they jumped ship. #shameful" he tweeted.

9. There was a big crowd around a TV in the Main Press Centre one afternoon. Turns out it was a shootout in women's field hockey. Involving the Dutch. The crowd was all men. Just Google "Olympics hottest athletes" and you'll see what I'm talking about.

10. "If I knew that, I would have won the game." China's Zhang Xi and teammate Xue Chen lost the bronze medal match in beach volleyball. Knowing Prince Harry was there apparently would have made the difference.

11. The Pub Names, Part 1: best pub names, fauna-related. Cart and Horse

12. Parents often play a huge role in Olympians' lives. Thai boxer Kaeo Pongprayoon had a shoutout after his quarterfinal win guaranteed him at least a bronze medal. "I want to say to my mum 'I have done it mum. I am going to bring back a medal.'"

13. The venues were often the stars of these Games. The rowing basin at Eton College (yes, the playing fields of Eton) was impressive, but I don't think the sheep who grazed along its banks really cared.

14. The English breakfast. How is this not the fattest nation in the world?

15. Mabel's Tavern. It became my local for the Games. Cozy and a great staff.

16. Drinking under the stars. A nice touch here is the ledges they have outside the pubs, allowing you to sip your beer on the sidewalk. Very civilized.

17. The Pub Names, Part 2: best pub names, fauna-related. Coach and Horses

18. James Bond and "The Queen" floating over Olympic Stadium under Union Jack parachutes at the opening ceremony.

19. Canada's men's eight which won a silver in rowing. A great performance after a dreadful heat.

20. Canada's women's eight won silver, too. Five Olympic medals now for coxie Lesley Thompson-Willie in what was likely her finale.

21. The Pub Names, Part 3: best pub names, fauna-related. Elusive Camel

22. The easiest job at the Olympics: the people who lie on the docks holding the stern of the boats at rowing.

23. Best job at the Olympics: raker at beach volleyball.

24. Bangers. The British serve sausages with everything, including sausages.

25. The controversy over 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, the Chinese swimmer. It's a fact of life at the Olympics now that as soon as an athlete does something extraordinary eyebrows go up.

26. British marathoner Paula Radcliffe beautifully summed up the downside of the Olympic experience after suffering a foot injury: "My sport is a beautiful sport, it gives so much fun and enjoyment. However, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over when your body is simply unable to match what your heart and brain want it to do."

27. Hamadou Djibo Issaka. The other sculls were dry by the time the 35-year-old Nigerian finished his race in single sculls. He was a minute and 40 seconds behind the winner of his repechage. He was given a wild card "to strengthen the principle of universal representation." "I have no technique; I only have strength," he said.

28. In a world of pampered athletes, it's always good to see the rowers hefting their own boats out of the water.

29. The Pub Names, Part 4: best pub names, fauna-related. Dog and Fox

30. The fact Paul McCartney played the opening ceremony for $1.57 (apparently the performers had to sign contracts, so he took £1.)

31. The best ticket to the opening ceremony cost £2,012 or about $3,200.

32. The Pub Names, Part 5: best pub names, fauna-related. The Cock

33. Judging at the Olympics is often, well, a joke. The International Judo Federation overruled three judges and made Japan's Massahi Ebinumba the 66kg winner. "The referees weren't told to change their minds, they were merely reminded about an incident that should have influenced their decision," said federation general secretary Jean-Luc Rouge.

34. London mayor Boris Johnson getting stuck on a zip line over Victoria Park and dangling above the crowd. He has been shooting down suggestions he run for Prime Minister. He said: "There you have got it, how on earth could you elect that guy? How could anybody elect a prat who gets stuck in a zip wire?"

35. Sadly, another Olympics claimed a life. A cyclist was killed when he tangled with an Olympic media shuttle.

36. You can't have an Olympics without some scandal. Step up, badminton.

37. The Pub Names, Part 6: best pub names, fauna-related. Fat Cat Cafe and Bar

38. Kim Collins, a four-time Olympian from St. Kitts & Nevis, was apparently turfed by his NOC because he stayed with his wife. "This can't be right. Olympic number 5 and no Kim Collins," he tweeted. "Even men in prison get their wives to visit."

39. The Pub Names, Part 7: best pub names, fauna-related. The Bull

40. Mo Farah, born in Mogadishu, but racing in the 10K for Great Britain, was asked if he would rather run under the Somali flag. He gave a passionate response: "Look mate, this is my country. This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud. I'm very proud."

41. I guess at the Olympics you find out who your friends really are. "As soon as the final was over I said sorry but Choi told me, 'It's okay, I'm glad I got silver,'" recounted South Korea's South Korea's Jin Jong-oh, who won the gold over countryman Choi Young-rae in the 50m pistol. "Then just 30 minutes later he was saying, 'I hate you'."

42. Ryota Murata, a Japanese middleweight boxer, must have felt like he was at home in London. "My wife is here and I could hear her screaming," he said of one of his matches. "She has got a very high-pitched voice."

43. The Pub Names, Part 8: best pub names, fauna-related. Thirsty Bear

44. Abs.

45. Did I mention the Dutch field hockey team?

46. A lot of the talk here is about the beautiful bodies. It wasn't so much in the case of Australian swimmer Lesiel Jones. Pictures in Aussie papers suggested she was out of shape after which she got an outpouring of support from the public. "Thanks to the journalists who wrote not such nice things about me because you have never made me feel so loved in my life," she said.

47. The Pub Names, Part 9: best pub names, fauna-related. Theodore Bullfrog

48. You have to love stories like this: Hurdler Felix Sanchez lost his grandmother during the Beijing Olympics. After winning the 400-metre hurdles here, he said: It's just an amazing feeling. Then when I was on the podium and it started raining, it felt like my grandmother was crying tears of joy."

49. The Pub Names, Part 10: best pub names, fauna-related. Spread Eagle

50. Like I said, parents often play a huge role in athletes' lives, living each tense moment with their children. Beth Tweddle's father was interviewed on the BBC as she competed on the asymetric bars.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson