Olympics showed power of sport

  • By: Frank Malley, Chief Writer, Press Association Sport
  • Last Updated: December 24 2012, 10:19 GMT

Frank Malley reflects on the London Olympics, which he describes as "six weeks which changed lives and perceptions".

Jessica Ennis lit up the London Olympics

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It was six weeks which changed lives and perceptions.

It brought 29 gold medals and 65 medals in all for Great Britain at the London Olympics and a further 34 golds and 120 medals in total at the Paralympics.

It was the summer which illustrated the power of sport.

From the radiant smiles of London 2012 poster-girl Jessica Ennis and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, whose images adorned London buses and entire sides of apartment buildings, to the sight of the Union flag raised time and time again to record another mercurial home triumph.

It was the summer which made us gasp and chuckle. Gasp at a quirky and humorous Olympic Opening Ceremony, which featured the Queen, the real live Her Majesty, in a James Bond sketch with actor Daniel Craig.

And chuckle at 'Mr Bean,' otherwise known as actor Rowan Atkinson, and his impromptu cameo as a pianist with the London Symphony Orchestra.

  • The spectacular Opening Cermony of the London 2012 Olympics is underway at the Olympic Stadium...
  • The stage is set inside the stadium for the spectacular ceremony, the brainchild of Oscar winning director Danny Boyle
  • Dark clouds have gathered over the stadium, but nothing will dampen the spirits of this London crowd, as the Red Arrows pass over the stadium
  • Music written by the great British composer Edward Elgar signals the beginning of the ceremony
  • Tour de France Champion Bradley Wiggins sounds the Olympic Bell to signify the start of the ceremony
  • The ceremony begins with a pastoral scene depicting the classic image of the British countryside
  • Kenneth Branagh plays the part of the great industrial innovator   Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and delivers a rousing speech from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'
  • The oak tree is uprooted, and workers begin to emerge from the ground; signifying the uprooting of the British countryside during the Industrial Revolution
  • The towereing chimneys synonymous with this period in British history rise from the ground, to turn the stadium into an industrial landscape
  • The six molten rings formed on the pitch ascend skywards and link together above the stadium to form the Olympic logo
  • After a short film entitled 'Happy and Glorious' showing James Bond escorting the Queen to the ceremony, the pair parachute their way into the stadium
  • Her majesty is in her seat in time to hear the 'Chaos' deaf and hearing impaired choir perform the national anthem of Great Britain
  • The next sequence pays tribute to one of the best loved British establishments, the NHS. The scenes are performed by real NHS nurses
  • The stage transforms again to reveal characters from children's literature in a celebration of British storytelling
  • The crowd are now treated to a special performance of Chariots of Fire; as the LSO are joined by one of Britains favourite comedy characters, Mr Bean
  • The final stage of the performance documents the technological revolution, featuring Grime artist Dizzee Rascal and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners Lee
  • The flag parade begins with Greece, the motherland of the games,and they are followed by the other 204 nations who will compete in the games
  • After a very long wait Team GB take to the track, led by flag bearer Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy; as David Bowie's 'Heroes' blasts around the stadium
  • The great mystery is over as Sir Steve Redgrave is revealed as the final torch bearer on the Olympic Flame's 8,000 mile journey; but there is a twist...
  • Britain's greatest Olympian passes on the flame to seven promising young athletes; and it will be these young people who light the Olympic Cauldren
  • They light the bronze petals carried by each nation which rise to form the cauldren. Paul McCartney and a spectacular fireworks display close the show
Live pictures from the hotly anticipated opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

It was the summer played out to the backdrop of roars detonating the length and breadth of the land heralding feats which enthralled and entertained in equal measure.

But do you know what was best of all about the summer of 2012?

For the first time on an international scale sports fans did not appear to differentiate between the Olympics and the Paralympics. They were viewed as one, with the same passion from spectators who really did seem to get that it was about ability, not disability.

So the feats of David Weir, who won four wheelchair golds, were celebrated just as fervently as Mo Farah's historic double Olympic gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000m.

The gold of Jonnie Peacock, the 19-year-old blade runner from Cambridge who took on and blitzed Oscar Pistorius in the Paralympics 100m, was heralded in much the same manner as the London Olympic crowd saluted the great Usain Bolt, a man who professed himself to be "a living legend" after successfully defending his titles in the 100m, 200m and sprint relay.

In the thrilling yellow vest of Jamaica, Bolt was the unmissable international story at the London Olympics. But, in truth, they were a Games dominated like no other by the support for home talent.

  • Helen Glover and Heather Stanning got the gold rush under way in the women's pair
  • Bradley Wiggins: King of the time trial
  • Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie: Memorable gold in the canoe slalom
  • Moments later Peter Wilson picked up a shooting gold at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
  • Chris Hoy, Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny won the team sprint in the velodrome
  • Katherine Grainger's wait for Olympic gold ended with Anna Watkins
  • There was team pursuit glory for Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh
  • Victoria Pendleton delighted the velodrome crowd with victory in the keirin
  • Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge triumphed in the men's four
  • Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking 'won the Olympics'
  • A stunning gold for Joanna Rowsell Laura Trott and Dani King in the team pursuit
  • Jessica Ennis lit up the Olympic Stadium with heptathlon gold
  • Moments later Greg Rutherford claimed long jump glory
  • And Mo Farah capped off the first of two 'Super Saturday's' with victory in the 10000m
  • Ben Ainslie won a fourth straight sailing gold medal
  • Andy Murray got his revenge on Roger Federer to claim tennis glory
  • Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles won gold in the showjumping
  • Jason Kenny picked up his second gold of the Games in the sprint
  • Alistair Brownlee was an impressive winner of the triathlon
  • Carl Hester Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin teamed up for victory in the dressage
  • Laura Trott emerged as a cycling star as she won the omnium for her second London 2012 gold
  • Chris Hoy couldn't hold back the tears as he became Britain's most successful Olympian of all time with his sixth career gold - this one in the keirin
  • Charlotte Dujardin stole the dressage show to clinch individual gold
  • Nicola Adams won the hearts of a nation with her big smile and by winning the first women's boxing gold
  • Late on day 13, Jade Jones delighted the crowd with her taekwondo triumph
  • The Usain Bolt of the canoe world - Ed McKeever - stormed to glory in the K1 200m sprint.
  • Mo Farah etched his name into Olympic history by joining the elite group of men to complete the long distance double
  • Luke Campbell gave the men's boxers their first gold of the Games
  • Anthony Joshua won Britain's 29th and final gold of an incredible Olympics with victory in the super-heavyweight final.
All the best pictures of the athletes who won Great Britain's 29 medals at this summer's Olympic Games.

There was Bradley Wiggins, fresh from becoming the first man to win the Tour de France, taking gold in the cycling time trial amid the splendour of Hampton Court and crowds reminiscent of the Royal Wedding.

There was the delirium of the velodrome which rocked as Jason Kenny and Laura Trott won double gold and Victoria Pendleton won gold and silver before bidding her farewell to the sport.

There was also the touching sight of Sir Chris Hoy embracing Sir Steven Redgrave after having surpassed him as Britain's greatest Olympian, the cycle king's two victories in the team sprint and the keirin taking his golden tally to six over four Games.

Not that Hoy or Redgrave could touch the achievements of Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey, who added four gold cycling medals in London to the two she won in Beijing, all after having gained five golds, eight silvers and three bronzes as a swimmer in previous Paralympics.

But if Storey was the epitome of quality and endurance then London 2012 was resplendent with sporting heroes.

  • A spectacular Opening Ceremony came to a fitting end, as seven young athletes were handed the responsibility of lighting the Olympic Cauldron
  • Archer Im Dong Hyeun of South Korea broke a World Record before the Olympic ceremony had even begun. He is legally blind in one eye
  • Michael Phelps did not quite match his haul in 2008, but the American won his 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Gold Medals to become the greatest Olympian ever
  • Chinese prodigy Ye Shiwen blew away the competition in the pool, overcoming false accusations of foul play to smash the 400m Medley World Record
  • Tour de France hero Bradley Wiggins became the most decorated British Olympian of all time as he cruised to Gold in the Time Trial
  • After so many near misses veteran rower Katherine Grainger finally won her first Olympic Gold alongside partner Anna Watkins
  • Zhou Lulu of China shattered the Women's weightlifting World Record by lifting 333kg, more than four times her own bodyweight
  • Cycling great Chris Hoy took up the mantle of Britain's greatest ever Olympian, as he secured his sixth gold medal in the Keirin
  • Victoria Pendleton's loss to Australian rival Anna Mears in the Sprint final proved a poignant moment, as the great cyclist took her final bow
  • Laura Trott however proved that women's cycling in Britain is by no means on the decline, as the 20 year old took double gold in the Velodrome
  • Britain's men's gymnastics team made history, as they became the first Brits for 100 years to win a team gymnastics medal
  • The American Women's team blew away the field in the women's event, with McKayla Maroney and Gabrielle Douglas leading the way
  • Golden Girl Jessica Ennis' Heptathlon win was celebrated the nation over, as she set World Records and Personal Bests on her way to Gold
  • Mo Farah sent the crowd in the Olympic Stadium wild, as his Gold in an enthralling 10k Final capped the most successful day in British Olympic history
  • Usain Bolt silenced any doubters, proving he is the fsastest man ever with convincing wins in the 100 and 200 metres
  • Double amputee Oscar Pistorious of South Africa makes history as he competes in the 400m heats
  • The USA's women's 4x100m team broke one of the longest standing world records, as their time of 40.82 seconds shattered the 1980 record set by East Germany
  • One gold was not enough for Mo, as he became the first Brit to win both the 5000 and 10,000 metres; becoming a national hero
  • Bolt and Blake were on hand to guide the Jamaican men's 4x100m team to another Gold Medal and a World Record time
  • British Super Heavyweight Anthony Joshua announced himself as the new star of World Boxing with a Gold Medal winning performance
Pictures rounding up the greatest moments of a memorable Games; as London 2012 reaches its conclusion

None perhaps as understated as Kenya's David Rudisha, who set a stunning world record of one minute 40.91 seconds in the 800m final, running from the front, in a race which pushed the frontiers of the discipline and which Lord Sebastian Coe, Games organiser and a former record holder at the distance, described as "unbelievable".

But it was not just the athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics who deserved a medal.

It was the volunteers, all 70,000 of them, whose enthusiasm oiled the gargantuan service vehicle which kept the Games rolling.

Security fears proved groundless, mainly due to the sterling service of Britain's professional soldiers who made light of the personnel shambles caused by security firm G4S. Transport also coped admirably.

Not that everything was wonderful. London 2012 organisers were forced to apologise to the North Korean Olympic team after the South Korea flag was flown at their opening women's football match against Colombia.

Badminton non-tryers, two from China, four from South Korea and two from Indonesia, besmirched the Olympic ideal and were summarily disqualified.

That was embarrassing and the location of the Olympic cauldron, at pitch level in the stadium, was a mistake, depriving all but those with stadium tickets a view.

But they were incidentals compared to the myriad of highlights.

There was Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic winning the 400m hurdles and sobbing like a baby on the podium.

There was Michael Phelps, at first seemingly vulnerable when he came fourth and second before normal service was resumed, the American taking four golds and two silvers to overtake Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian in history with 22 medals, 18 of them gold.

It is a record which could last a century.

But the mind keeps returning to that tidal wave of British success, splashing the feelgood factor around an Olympic and Paralympic Park which heaved with packed venues night after night.

All successful Games need the home factor and it is doubtful whether any Games in history have embraced it quite as passionately as London 2012 with a British team ruled by girl power in a Games where every sport and country were represented by women for the first time in history.

  • London grinds to a halt as the victory parade makes it's way through the streets.
  • The Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonathan show off their medals from the triathlon.
  • A marching band make their way down the victory route and lead the parade.
  • Also leading the parade are two British Lions.
  • Sir Chris Hoy and an emotional Victoria Pendleton wave to the crowds.
  • Rebecca Adlington enjoys the parade after what could have been her last Olympics.
  • Nicola Adams from Leeds became the first woman to win an Olympic boxing gold medal and she's loving every minute since.
  • Team GB's long jump hero Greg Rutherford lifts his gold medal in front of St. Paul's Cathedral.
  • The streets of London are ram packed with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the Olympians.
  • After his fifth Olympics, Ben Ainslie enjoys a unique victory parade following the end of London 2012.
  • Diver Tom Daley shows off his bronze medal...
  • ...the young diver has plenty of admirers in the crowd today.
  • Some people take extreme measures to get a good view of their heroes.
  • Here's what many travelled to see, double gold medallist Mo Farah doing the 'Mobot'.
  • British Paralympian Ellie Simmonds greets the waiting crowds.
  • Zara Phillips poses with her silver medal won in the Equestian team eventing.
  • Trafalgar Square is a sea of bodies as the Olympic parade winds it's way through the City of London.
  • Face of the Games, Jessica Ennis proudly shows off her Olympic gold to the joy of the crowd.
  • The gymnasts Beth Tweddle and Sky Sports Scholar Louis Smith share a float together.
  • Tennis doubles silver medallist Laura Robson greets the fans.
  • The sheer scale of the turnout today says it all, but just in case the athletes weren't sure, there are plenty of banners with messages on display.
  • British Airways send over a plane with a special message on the underbelly.
Pictures from Team GB's victory parade in the City of London following the end of London 2012.

Among them, to name but a few, Ennis, Trott, Simmonds, Katherine Grainger and Nicola Adams, the latter who won the first women's Olympic gold medal in boxing history with magnificent exuberance because "I want to make my mum proud of me".

She certainly did that. They all did that. What's more, they made all those who witnessed them in their finest hour proud to be British.

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