Much has been written about the preparations in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, including implementation of what's being called "The Biggest Security Plan Since World War II".
Lost in all of this is the fact that there are athletes with compelling stories in the build up to the games. No list can ever be comprehensive, but here are a couple of the more compelling stories making the news in the host nation:
Paula Radcliffe: Women’s Marathon
Radcliffe’s chances of representing Britain in the Olympic marathon are completely up in the air, following recent questions about her fitness. When asked by The Guardian about the 38-year-old world record holder's fitness, Britain’s head coach, Charles Von Commenee responded "Shall we flip a coin?"
The culprit is osteoarthritis in her left foot, an issue which has plagued the Briton the past 18 years, following an injury. With just 10 days to go until the women's marathon, Radcliffe admitted that she was "in a bit of a panic" (via the Mirror).
This after a disappointing season in which she recorded her slowest time for a half marathon, running a disappointing 1hr 12min 3sec in Vienna, attributed to a bout of bronchitis.
Even so, the star-crossed Olympian predicts that a time of 2:20 would be necessary to be competitive in the marathon– a time which six other women have already equaled this season, while she herself has failed to meet the mark in seven seasons.
Phillips Idowu: Triple Jump
Injury concerns also surround former world triple-jump champion Phillips Idowu, who according to The Guardian has withdrawn from four consecutive competitions since June. Not only that, but he has isolated himself from United Kingdom Athletics, sparking a row with his coach who declared:
"I have one sanction, not to put him in the Games, I decided not to put that sanction in place, because I don't want to be in the way of this athlete fulfilling his dream."
As it stands Idowu is still in the UKA set up despite spurning the organization’s medical resources, but the rancor threatens not only public morale, but team morale as well.
Gareth Bale: Football
One month after withdrawing from the Olympic Games with a an alleged aggravation of a back injury, Bale has sparked an uproar in Britain by going on tour with Tottenham Hotspur, and scoring in a friendly against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.
FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter has even weighed in on the brewing controversy by threatening to ban players who withdraw from the Olympics in order to represent their club. From ESPN:
"The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to FIFA and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics. So far nobody came to FIFA to say we should, but it is a possibility we could ban these players if they are not at the disposal of the national team.”
Even former Spurs great, Gary Lineker has weighed in critically:
Gareth Bale who pulled out of the Olympics through injury played for Spurs last night. Once in a lifetime opportunity thrown away #baffled— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 25, 2012
Bale welcomed his 74-minute run-out as an opportunity to regain his fitness ahead of the upcoming season, Meanwhile the English FA For its part, appears to be focusing efforts on preparations with the team as constituted, rather than filing a complaint with FIFA.
Team Great Britain seems set to be the good hosts by serving the tea and then getting out of the way, unless they dramatically improve their form after getting walloped by Team USA in a 40-point rout one week ago.
His story offers an insightful lesson on the gratitude and determination of many immigrants, a lesson lost on the likes of Voula Papachristou, who now finds herself rightfully ostracized after her alarmingly insensitive comments about Greece’s African immigrants on Twitter.
The opening ceremonies are still two days away, but quiet as is kept, the 2012 London Olympic Games have begun, with Women’s Football literally kicking off the festivities.
Coach Hope Powell’s team began their historic participation in the Games with a hard-fought victory over a game New Zealand side. Perennially overshadowed by the men’s game, the ladies acquitted themselves and the sport well, in what promises to be an exciting tournament.
Admittedly not the most glamorous of sports, but Britain has quietly embarked on a quest for world domination in the sport, and over the course of the past ten years, has largely achieved just that.
The New York Times recently published a terrific article chronicling the rise of British dominance in the sport, starting with Chris Hoy’s world sprint championship in 1999, and culminating in Bradley Wiggin’s victory in the Tour de France, the first such victory for a Briton.
The intervening years saw a remarkable rise to dominance by British track cycling at both the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. British cycling has continued to grow in dominance, and the team is once again expected to dominate at these Games.