The Olympics have been tremendous fun. I'm not quite sure what we do now as a nation. Ever since Nicole Cooke cycled across the finish line two weeks ago to win Britain's first gold of the Olympics, but particularly since 'Super Saturday' where we won four golds in a day and had our best medal performance in a single day for 100 years, we've been basking in sporting success in a way I can't remember happening since we beat the Aussies in the Rugby World Cup in 2002. Every day, more good news. Being third in the medal table from Super Saturday until about 24 hours before the end when the Russians' stronger performance in track and field just pipped us to the post. For a country of our size, not bad. Although not as good as Jamaica, New Zealand or the Bahamas, who beat us convincingly in the medals/head of population table.
I understand the Americans have been using a different medal table than the rest of the world, one which compares countries on total medals won. We do ok on that one, although we don't beat the Aussies, which is at least part of the point. But it amuses me that the Americans need a table which shows you beating the Chinese, when the Chinese beat the USA so convincingly in the table the rest of the world uses, which starts with how many gold medals have been won, and only in the event of a tie includes silvers and bronzes. Steve Ovett, in one of his commentating chats with Gabby Logan, complained about both tables and suggested one which gave three points for gold, two for silver and one for bronze. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the positions on that one don't change much from the standard world one, so we end up feeling pretty good however you measure it - interested to hear how those from the USA feel about being second in both the 'standard' table and one which ascribes relative values to the different medal classes.
I'm also wondering about the iconic images of this games. Obviously each country will have its own medal heroes, but there are some medal winning events which transcend country patriotism, or at least I hope so. I think the US television deal with Beijing may have affected which images stay in my mind from this Olympics. Because the big piece of the deal involved putting the swimming and gymnastics on in the morning Beijing time, so that US audiences could watch before going to bed, these events were on in the small hours of the morning in Europe. So we only watched them in highlights in the breakfast programmes, or occasionally in full length races in the case of Rebecca Adlington's swims, and perhaps a couple of Michael Phelps's . Or if you were dedicated you could use the BBC's red button service to watch anything in full length if you had the time. But the major broadcasts necessarily showed excerpts.
Since we were on holiday for a week of the games, we therefore missed seeing almost all of the gymnastics apart from the two British medal contenders, and a few highlights of the rest of the competition, and just heard about Michael Phelps from the highlights and the 'Phelpsometer' in the BBC's transmission room. I'm imagining that in the US Phelps will be all over the images from these games, but for us I bet Usain Bolt's runs will stand out more, along with our own medallists, particularly the cyclists, who would have been something like 10th on the medal table all by themselves, and the men's coxless four, coming through to beat the Aussies at the last minute. Not to mention the outstanding opening ceremony.
Particularly heartwarming was the unspoilt nature of some of our athletes. Watching Rebecca Adlington, for example, on the BBC's evening show the day she won her second medal, I realised she really had no idea what she'd done or the level of interest in her story. Gabby Logan asked her if she'd spoken to her parents and she said she'd spoken to her dad but her mobile prepaid card had run out before she could speak to her mum, although she hoped to get a new one the next day. Gabby Logan said gently "you could call her from the BBC's phone, Rebecca," and the swimmer looked chuffed and rather over-awed. It was adorable. Not to mention the Independent's interview with her when she got all excited about maybe being allowed to go on 'Top Gear' and talk to Jeremy Clarkson, and her excitement about owning a pair of Louboutins. You have to warm to a girl like that.
It was great. I, the ultimate un-sporty intellectual, always walking out of the room while my family watched the football, or H watched the Rugby, was completely sucked in. I'm looking forward to sharing the excitement with Pob in 2012 - and I just hope London can make a good showing after the immaculate performance that Beijing put on. Well done, team GB, thanks for a great 16 days.