London 2012: Winners and Losers of Incredible Olympic Games
The 2012 London Games have been a stunning success in almost every single sport and discipline since it kicked off a little over two weeks ago.
While every Olympic Games has its fair share of memorable winners and losers during the events, it is often the unsung little people who stand in the background urging, coaching, cajoling, helping and supporting that are the real heroes of events such as these.
Here, I look at 10 winners who truly deserve gold and 10 losers who will have to wait another four years to redeem themselves in the eyes of the public.
Which athletes, people and, lest I say it, social networks have captured eyes and stood tall when others around them have wilted?
Who had the strength of character to lead his or her country to magnificent defeat when others only dreamed of gold?
And who has just been amazing?
Here I look at the top 10 winners and losers of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Read on, and be sure to leave your top stars, moments and comments in the section below.
Winner: Women's Boxing
With professional boxing in a bit of a mess at the moment, due to the ongoing issue of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport, it was always going to take something special to elevate the sport to Olympic levels, but women's boxing dragged the pugilistic sport back onto the front and back pages for all the right reasons.
Women's boxing was always going to be part off the 2016 Rio Games, but it was fast-tracked into the 2012 Games after the outstanding success of the sport over the last couple of years.
The beautifully cheerful and permanently smiling Nicola Adams claimed an historic gold when she became the first woman ever to win gold for boxing at the Olympic Games when she beat Ren Cancan of China 16-7 in the fly final. It was an outstanding victory for the youngster, who now has the Rio Games and retaining her title firmly in her sights.
It was also fitting that Team USA's only boxing gold medal came in the women's arena as Claressa Shields held off a stiff challenge from Russia' Nadezda's Torpolova to hold that gold aloft. Amateur boxing in the USA has fallen way behind the rest of the rest of the world over the last decade, and as things stand, the 17-year-old prodigy remains their best chance in four years.
The 26-year-old from Bray Co. Wicklow is a four-time and reigning world champion and five-time and also reigning European champion and is nothing less than a phenomenon as far as the sport is concerned.
Her 26-15 quarterfinal battle, the best fight of the entire Olympic Games, with Natasha Jonas of Great Britain set the decibel level record for the games, which was then broken again in her semifinal victory over 19-year-old Mavzuna Chorieva. This set up a mouth-watering finale against world No. 2 Sofya Ochigava and one of the most technical contests of the Olympics as both fighters looked to pick their opponent off while trying to make them make mistakes.
As Taylor won her gold medal, only Ireland's 23rd of all time, her entire country had ground to a standstill. But in the end she delivered as expected.
And as the boxing community had expected.
The world had finally seen their best-kept secret and perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
The sport may have found a saviour in the women's code, but how it goes from here is anyone's guess.
Loser: Men's Soccer
I live and breath football, but men's soccer at the Olympic Games was nothing but an epic fail for the sport, unless you come from Mexico, of course.
For the most part, the football was insipid, uninspiring and incredibly boring to watch. There was very little pace to the games and the fact that each team was allowed bring three over-23 players just didn't sit well with me in the slightest.
To give 38-year-old Ryan Giggs a place in Team GB's squad was nothing more than a pat on the back for his service and allowing the legend to play in what could have been a major tournament.
Instead, it was quite frankly rubbish.
Sports like football, tennis, and golf in the 2016 Rio Games do not deserve to be in the Olympics. The games do not represent the pinnacle of their sport and they would be better served, perhaps like boxing, into making the game a completely different one than the one we pay to see on digital television every week.
If FIFA persists with football at the Olympics, then it should either make it completely under-23 or make it so that full internationals cannot play or make it something like seven-a-side, where it represents something different completely.
Because as it stands, it is boring and does not deserve to go on.
Unlike women's football where it is obviously a huge event, and as a result, it is played in the right manner.
Winner: Danny Boyle
The Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire director has seen his status rise to untold levels after what can only be described as an amazing opening ceremony.
The ceremony had such an impact and has drawn such interest from around the world that Boyle has now been commissioned into making a DVD of the event.
Hailed as the greatest musical and most humorous opening extravaganza of all time, the "show" featured music from the likes of Pink Floyd, The Jam, Underworld, Dizzee Rascal and numerous others. We also saw comedic turns from the likes of Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean, Daniel Craig as James Bond and even the Queen, who set herself up wonderfully with a spoof parachute jump over the stadium with 007!
The event became a celebration of British history and pop culture over the last 200 years and was so expertly imagined and put together that it would not be surprising to see the Englishman take on an epic movie over the next couple of years—but he will be doing well to surpass either the opening or closing ceremonies.
Loser: Kim Gavin
Where the hell did Danny Boyle go? The opening ceremony was phenomenal and was a joy to behold, while the closing ceremony was awful and celebrated everything that is anathema to sport and even the pop-culture of the opening show.
In effect we went from Trainspotting to well...trains spotting.
We were forced to listen to One Direction, Annie Lennox on a Viking ship, Jessie J, bleeding Jessie J, kill, murder and destroy Queen with the help of Brian May doing his best Gandalf impression. We had, God forbid, the reformation of the Spice Girls, Russell Brand singing The Beatles (yes you read that right) and a million other insults and assaults on the senses of the soul.
And to top it all off, we were subjected to a celebration of London fashion and models.
I cannot think of a larger insult to Olympic athletes than a celebration of the vacuousness and skill-less soul-destroying phantom that is fashion.
In the end the opening ceremony was brilliant. The closing one was not, and that's being nice.
The London Games became the first Olympics to fully use and embrace social media and that is not just the organising committee.
Each and every day, the Twitter machine was almost burst to capacity and on days like Michael Phelps' record-breaking gold, Usain Bolt's 100-meter and 200-meter double and Katie Taylor's boxing gold win it did actually break down such was the use of the social networking site!
Of course, it inevitably had it's bad side too as many in the US read the results there first before seeing it later on NBC...
So it came as no surprise to see the hastag #NBCFail featured quite prominently throughout the entire Games.
While Twitter was an undoubted victor at the Olympic Games, it was also an undoubted loser after British diver Tom Daly was forced into cancelling his account after receiving a barrage of abuse.
The 18-year-old prodigy received the abuse after he had been eliminated from the synchronised diving competition with one particular fan making a serious of threatening tweets on top of an antagonistic tweet referring to Daly's late father which read; "You let your dad down i hope you know that."
The offending tweeter then threatened to drown Daly if he ever came face to face with the star.
In the end the fool turned out to be a 17-year-old boy from Dorset in England, and he was issued a harassment warning about his future conduct.
Twitter also fell foul in the Olympics after a Swiss footballer, Michel Morganella, made racist tweets about South Korea after they had beaten Switzerland 2-1.
Following the defeat the Palermo defender went online and said; “I want to beat up all South Koreans! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards!”
The 23-year-old was immediately kicked off the Swiss Olympic team and sent home, but only after issuing an unreserved apology for his actions.
Morganella was the second athlete to be removed from the Games after making racist insults on Twitter. In the run up to the Games, Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachirastu had said, in reference to the growing African immigrant community in Greece, “With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!."
Papachirastu also retweeted comments from an extreme right wing politician regarding his views on immigration in the economic hit country.
She too also retracted her previous Twitter statements before issuing an unreserved apology, but it was another case of too little too late and ahe too was also removed from the Games.
Twitter, while it remains an incredible tool for communication, also remains a dangerous tool in the hands of the unthinking.
Winner: Team GB Cycling
To say that Team GB had a great games would be something of an understatement, and no other section of the group personified this more than its cycling team.
Team GB contested 12 gold medals at the London Games and won eight!
Bradley Wiggins followed up his stunning Tour de France win with yet another Olympic gold, his fourth of all time. Chris Hoy then trumped his teammate by claiming his fifth and sixth gold medal and his seventh medal of all time, such is Britain's dominance in the discipline.
They were followed up by gold in the men's team oursuit, Victoria Pendleton taking gold, as expected, in the women's kerin, gold in the women's team pursuit, Jason Kenny in the men's sprint and Laura Trott in the women's omnium.
While some sporting nations have questioned the Olympic Council in Britain for specialising in non-core Olympic events, nothing can be questioned about Team GB firmly putting these sports on the map and now everyone else is in the peloton playing catchup.
Loser: Group 4 Security
G4S, the world's largest security firm, won the lucrative contract to provide over 10,000 members of staff for security and screening across every event at the Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, they forgot to tell anyone, until one week before the Games, that they had only hired roughly 10 percent of the required amount of people needed. As a result, the issue reached British political levels and became a serious issue in Parliament.
The end result was that G4S were removed and that all their duties were fulfilled by a large number of British police, who were drafted in from around the country, as well as large numbers of soldiers who were on R&R after coming home from Afghanistan.
The resulting storm helped wipe just over $1 billion from G4S' market value on the stock exchange, but one wonders if the resulting view of the company as a whole will be far more damaging in years to come that losing so much money.
Winner: Olympic Volunteers
The Olympic volunteers were quite rightly hailed as heroes for their roles during the Games at the closing ceremony, and none personified this more than the volunteer that tried to cheer up the passing crowd on opening ceremony day.
Whether they were guiding people towards the events, helping people on and around the Tube or providing information, the people who volunteered from the great British public deserve huge recognition for their pivotal role in making the Olympics so accessible for the millions and millions of fans that packed into every arena.
Badminton is one of those sports that you really only watch when the Olympics are on. But when you do you realise the skill, power and pace needed to compete at the highest level.
Unfortunately for badminton lovers everywhere, the sport was irrevocably tarnished at the 2012 London Games after eight athletes were caught in a match-fixing scandal.
Under normal circumstances, the sport is a straight knockout with each player seeded in a traditional manner that sees first on one side of the draw and second on the other side and so on. But for the 2012 Games, the organisers decided to use a round-robin format with two leagues where your future opponent in the next stage was determined by where your team finished in the league.
However, with the groups all but decided the two Chinese, Indonesian and South Korean teams all deliberately lost to manufacture the knockout stages in their favour.
As a result, the governing body was forced to step in and amidst furious, farcical and confusing scenes all four teams were rightly eliminated.
Winner: Expected Champions
This was the Games that the underdog was well and truly out-shouted and out-cheered, as almost each and every one of us roared the favourite on because of what the victory could mean.
Go on admit it, there was barely a person in the world cheering against Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or Chris Hoy.
Everyone wanted Phelps and Bolt to achieve legendary status, and they did it in spades. Their reach for glory provided these London Games with incredible highlights, particularly after Phelps had started by losing so unexpectedly.
In the end, they rose to the occasion like we want all our top athletes to, and they performed miracles the likes of which we may never see again.
Loser: Olympic Timing
Shin Lam of South Korea was the victim of poor timekeeping in her fencing semifinal defeat to Germany's Britta Heidemann.
Lam, leading the contest with just one second remaining on the clock, lost when Heidemann somehow managed to score three times in one second to turn the tie on its head.
It later emerged that the timing instrument being used did not use milliseconds, and after each hit, the time was reset each time to one second rather than count the clock down.
Lam and her team were obviously distraught at the manner of her defeat, but old fencing rules dictate that any if any result is to be questioned, the player making the action must stay on the playing mat until the result is released.
As a result, lam was left on the mat crying for over one hour as fencing judges and the IOC argued as to whether the Heidemann's points were valid.
In the end, Lam's protest was discarded, but the IOC recognised that she had lost unlawfully and offered her a consolation medal, which she understandably refused.
Winner: The Little Man
During the Olympic Games, I genuinely feel sorry for superpower countries like the US, Russia and China.
They go into every Games and on a smaller scale every event expecting to win, and when they lose it's failure and when their athlete gains gold, it just becomes another statistic in the medal's chart.
Not so in small counties.
Take Grenada for example. To describe their country as small would be an insult to small—it is infinitesimal when compared to the likes of the US.
With a population of just 110,000, the entire country stopped when Kirani James reached the final of the men's 400-meter.
Having never won a medal at the Games before, most were hoping for a good performance from the 19-year-old and one that could result in a podium finish. However, few would have guessed at the blistering performance he was about to produce. As the entire country settled down to watch the ex-University of Alabama athlete, no one could have been sure they were about to witness Grenada's most important sporting 44 seconds ever.
As a result, Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Thomas gave everyone in the country the rest of the day off work to celebrate!
Could you see that happening in the States? Never mind China or Russia...
The same could be said of Usain Bolt's track successes as far as Jamaica was concerned.
The little, and now the use is more appropriate, Caribbean country of just 2.7 million people dominates both the male and female disciplines of sprinting and when Usain Bolt took to the track to win his 100m/200m double double and become the first athlete in history to win the two events in successive Olympiad's the country also shut down. Lest we forget, the legendary athlete also won gold in the 4x100m!
Jamaica is a country that likes a celebration, and when they have reason to celebrate it almost becomes a religious experience.
And then you have a country like Ireland, who have only ever won 26 medals and not a gold since Barcelona in 1992.
The entire country came to a standstill to watch a pretty little 5'5" girl in a lightweight boxing final. She won and almost everyone to a man cried with such joy and pleasure and danced like no one was watching and cheered and everyone felt proud, so proud and for those eight minutes of the fight and the seconds after, nothing else mattered in the world.
Can the same be said of the US? Maybe in parts where loved ones and relations cannot make it to the games. China and Russia? Who knows.
But one thing is for sure. Athletes competing in the Olympics, regardless of result, is something that has the power to bring an entire country together. During those few seconds, life is at its most purest and most enjoyable.
Nothing but sport can achieve that.
NBC has drawn huge flack for the way it programmed its coverage of the Olympic games for prime-time television and its heavy-handed approach to only events featuring Americans.
Right from the opening ceremony, where an eight-minute interview with Michael Phelps replaced one of the most beautiful and poignant moments of the ceremony, a tribute to the 7/7 London bombings, it was clear that NBC only had two things in mind.
Inheritance audience figures and advertising.
The hastag #NBCFail became an absolute monster when NBC moved to have the Twitter account of Independent journalist Ryan Adams closed down after he criticised the network's coverage of the Games. The end result was a huge backlash of almost biblical proportions.
However, NBC, crafty buggers that they are, had already bought up the rights to online screening of every single event at the Games. If anyone wanted to see other events not shown on TV, they were forced to sit through the advertising that came with it.
In the end, NBC's viewing figures were the largest since Montreal 1976, and their advertising income for the 16 days of the Games earned them some $1 billion. It also gave their fall shows an inheritance lift. So it looks like their chief executives are very happy.
Which is unfortunate, because their refusal to show live events when they had the chance could have really seen those figures rise.
But I guess we'll have to wait unto Brazil 2016 to be sure, as NBC have the rights to that too.
Winner: Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius, better known as "the Blade Runner," might not have come away from the Olympics with any precious medals hanging around his neck, but he comes away a hero nonetheless.
Pistorius deserves huge credit for becoming the first Paralympic athlete to compete at the Olympic games.
The reigning paralympic champion at 100m, 200m and 400m was sensationally disqualified from competing at Beijing after a series of scientific tests concluded that he had an advantage, as he used up to 30 percent less muscle power than able bodied athletes.
It was a bitter blow to the double amputee but true to form, he refused to let the decision knock him back. Four years later he was back to compete in London. It took him almost the entire four years to achieve the A standard time for qualification, but when he did he didn't look back.
Pistorius went to London knowing he had no chance of winning a medal, but for pure force of body and mind and in reaching London 2012, he deserves to be held on the same pedestal as the likes of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.
To further recognise his contribution to South African athletics and the games as a whole, Pistorius proudly carried his country's flag during the closing ceremony.
While the Olympics was full of athletes who retained their dignity despite crushing defeat, it was also the home to a rather new phenomenon when we were forced to sit though a new fad, as the sprinters showed us their pre-race poses.
As the camera moved across the line of sprinters, each and every one of them made some kind of gesture to the camera in an effort to come off more memorable or individualistic. But being a cynic, I reckon it was for advertising and sponsorship or an effort to get it.
For the most part, it came off as pathetic and reminded me of a child who will try anything to gain attention.
I'd be embarrassed if WWE wrestlers reduced themselves to such banality, never mind the cream of the crop of the athletics world.
Winner: Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani & Sarah Attar
Sarah Attar and Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani forwarded women's rights in Saudi Arabia when the two became the desert kingdom's first female athletes to compete at the Olympic Games.
The fact that Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani only lasted 80 seconds against her Puerto Rican counterpart should not be lost on anyone, as the welcome the teenager received in the Excel Centre was almost as loud as the one that greeted Katie Taylor, and there were very few Saudis in the crowd.
For her part, Sarah Attar also deserves huge credit, even though she too was painfully outclassed by her opponents. Finishing last in the 800m, some distance behind the field, the Olympic Stadium crowd cheered her every step because of the huge steps forward they signified.
The combined amount of time the two athletes competed in London 2012 barely makes three minutes, but as far as furthering the rights of women in a country where they are sometimes brutally oppressed, those three minutes should signal a watershed and a welcome move forward as far as women's rights is concerned.
Loser: North Korea or Naughty Korea for Having No Sense of Humor
Australian newspaper Mx published its daily medal chart as expected, as every news source on the planet did while the Olympics was ongoing.
As consumers we love to flick through quick stat charts and see how our own country in doing. However, on August 7 Mx decided to have a little bit of fun by using Nice Korea to describe South Korea and Naughty Korea to describe North Korea.
Perhaps the North Korean government were still sore at a South Korean flag being mistakenly used beside the photos of their women's football team as the Games was in its infancy, or perhaps they just take some things a little too seriously.
Either way, the end result was the North Korean State News Agency, in other words the government, if you can call it that, releasing a statement that condemned Mx for their folly.
The statement said: "This is a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicizing sports.
"Media are obliged to lead the public in today's highly-civilized world where mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level. [mX] deserves criticism for what it has done.
"The paper behaved so foolish as to use the London Olympics that has caught the world interest for degrading itself."
Bullying? I don't think so. A joke in bad taste? Yes, but still a joke.
Winner: Watching Events You Would Not Normally Watch
Let's face it, there are a huge amount of Olympic sports that nobody understands but everyone watches, because they recognise that they are watching the very best at what they do.
Sports that you would not walk across the road to watch under normal circumstances become something else completely when the Olympics come around.
Take dressage for example.
At its most basic, it can only be described as horses dancing for rich people.
But when the Olympics come around, it becomes this almost mythical contest that can captivate entire audiences who wonder where the best part of the day has just disappeared.
The same can be said about sailing, high diving, BMX racing and synchronised swimming for God's sake. However, if there is a medal at stake, we can become experts in a matter of minutes and break down exactly where our heroic athlete went wrong on the way to losing or where they went right on the way to immortality.
For instance, I don't for one second imagine that archery is a hugely popular sport in the US. Obviously, given the sheer size of the country, hundreds of thousands of people must compete in the sport, but did you know that at one stage archery was the No. 1 watched Olympic sport in America?
The Hunger Games and #NBCFail has a lot to answer for. But yes, the sport as an Olympic spectacle was, at times, nothing less than spectacular.
We go back to the equestrian games at the Olympics. Over 50,000 people packed in every day to watch the "dancing" or show jumping or some other horse based sport I can barely remember. In short, equestrian sports were a monster success.
And each and every time the viewing was brilliant.
It provided Sport, and I use a capital letter on purpose, and its ultimate level. Competition so raw that tears were shed whether the athletes won or lost or whether they had beaten their own personal bests, or not.
Because not every athlete goes to an Olympics to compete against the field. Most go to compete against them selves and against their own greatest enemy—the mind.
I think we recognise that, and I think that is why we cheer sports that we wouldn't normally watch. We know that the athletes on view deserve our respect, we know they have poured every inch of their fibre into qualifying for the games and we know that they will spend every inch of that fibre for just one more inch.
Respect. That's why we watch. Respect.
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