Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

16 Days We Will Never Forget

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

16 Days We Will Never Forget

Article excerpt

Byline: Ian Chadband

First for success: Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt leaves his rivals trailing in the 200metres (top) and the 100m (left) at Beijing's imposing Bird's Nest Stadium (right) Pool of talent: Michael Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale (far left) lead another American triumph Cammarelle was too powerful in the semi- finals. " I feel like all the good work I've put in here has just gone down the pan," said the 25- year- old scouser.

JACQUES ROGGE could not have put it any better as he brought the Games of the XXIX Olympiad to a close and marvelled at what he had just seen.

"That was 16 days which we will cherish forever," the International Olympic Committee president said as he passed the baton on to London.

On that last party night in Beijing, taking in one last awed look at the scarlet glow of the iconic Bird's Nest Stadium, it was hard not to bid farewell without a sense of trepidation. The XXX Games were now Great Britain's but how could we follow that in 2012? Especially after all the marvels we had seen over two glorious weeks? Remember the opening ceremony and that flying man, suspended like magic in the night sky and floating round the stadium carrying the Olympic torch? Who could have believed we would see that trumped during the Games itself by a flying man on the track called Usain Bolt and his 9.69 seconds of magic in the 100 metres followed by another 19.30 seconds worth in the 200.

Then we looked across the vast Olympic Green to the incredible illuminated space age Water Cube.

There, we wondered how one man, American Michael Phelps, could light up its interior by powering up and down a swimming pool with such purpose that he would end up taking home one more gold than the whole French team.

We savoured unmatched venues, clockwork Chinese organisation and an overwhelming national enthusiasm for the festival which, even if choreographed to the last minute detail, never felt anything but genuine.

And even if, as the smog disappeared,

Beijing was still able to conceal the secrets it did not want the world to see, few visitors could have departed feeling less optimistic about the country's future than when they had arrived.

So fast forward seven weeks. The gold rush has made way for the credit crunch.

Beijing's extravagances have become an idealised memory amid gloomy predictions that London's will become the flat-pack Games complete with slashed budgets and temporary venues. And again it nags away; why should London think it can follow Beijing? Well, if you're anywhere on the route between Mansion House and Trafalgar Square today, the answer lies on top of a bunch of floats.

Look up and you will see the finest sports team ever to represent Great Britain. They are the champions who brought back 19 gold, 13 silver and 15 bronze medals from the Olympic Games the best haul in 100 years. …

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