August 4, 2012
It is already seven days since the start of competitive action in the London Olympic Games, even though the official start of the Games was two days later. Sports fans will have enjoyed many hours of scintillating competition resulting in a number of great athletes winning the ultimate prize of an Olympic gold medal.
Even though the sporting action will continue for another ten days, we have already seen a number of Olympic legends made through sporting endeavour. We will all sit around and talk about some of these sporting feats in the pub for years to come, but other athletes have had a bad experience that could haunt them for years to come.
The Medal Table
Officially, the Olympics does not rank countries by their success or failure in competition, but the unofficial medal table makes good reading for the USA. After the first week of competition, Team USA are in second place behind China with both countries taking a total of 18 gold medals. Once the track and field competition starts this should see USA pull clear of their rivals.
Often the swimming competition forms the first part of the Olympic program, and many of the famous faces have had a great competition. Some new swimmers have appeared seemingly from nowhere to be overnight sensations in the pool.
American swimmers have had a great Olympics, with a total of 23 medals so far. Leading the count is Ryan Lochte with an amazing five medals, but his great haul pales behind the most successful Olympian of all times. Michael Phelps has added another four medals (two gold, two silver) to his record from previous games to now hold an amazing 20 medals. This record will certainly take some beating.
Away from the two most famous rivals in the pool, American women have also been successful with Allison Scmitt (two gold, one silver, one bronze) and Missy Franklin (two gold, one bronze) sharing the limelight with the boys.
Not all the medals have gone to American swimmers though, with swimmers from China, France and Australia also having a great meet. One of the most controversial of the swimmers is 16 year old Chinese sensation Ye Shiwen, who won both the 200m and 400m individual medley races. This led to some critics, including American swim coach John Leonard, suggesting that she was doping but many other experts suggest that her rapid improvement is due to a growth spurt. As all medal winners are drug tested after the competition we can be sure that she is going to be around and winning races for years to come.
The swimming competition is nearly over, but some medals are still up for grabs – both in the pool and the open water 10km swim.
The American women’s gymnastics team have had a great competition so far, with the team winning the all-around and Gabrielle Douglas also taking the individual all-around gold with a fantastic display. The men have not had such a good meet, but Danell Leyva taking a bronze in the men’s individual all-around, but a number of costly errors left them down in fifth place in the men’s team competition.
Athletes from the USA have also claimed gold medals in a number of other sports, including cycling, judo, rowing and shooting. More medals are sure to come in the next few days.
As always in such a high profile competition as the Olympics, things do not always go according to plan. The stress of competing in a once-in-a-lifetime competition can lead to athletes going too far in a quest to win one of the elusive medals.
One of the biggest issues so far has been the expulsion of eight badminton players from the women’s pair’s competition. Due to the round-robin format of the early rounds, teams from South Korea, China and Indonesia qualified for the later rounds and then tried to lose their last match to get an easier path to the final. The result of this was matches where players were deliberately serving into the net or knocking the shuttlecock out of the court. The longest rally in these games was a mere four strokes, making a mockery of the competition.
In the end, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) ejected four teams from the knock-out stages of the competition although the competitors were allowed to continue in the singles and mixed double’s competitions.
This is one of the first Olympic Games where many of the competitors are active on social media. Twitter already has two victims with the Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou and a footballer from Switzerland going home after sending racist tweets.
Games organizers also blamed the volume of tweets and text messages from spectators at the men’s cycling road race for problems with time checks during the race. Over 500,000 spectators lining the roadside apparently sent enough texts to overwhelm the communications network and stop GPS signals from the bikes. Many broadcasters, commentators and the viewing public were left without timing information during the race leading to frustration and a number of complaints.
The success of the American gymnasts in the qualifying led to one of the favorites, Jordyn Wieber missing out on the individual all-around final. The rules only allow the top two gymnasts from each country to qualify for the final and Wieber was only the third best America gymnast in qualifying – even though she came fourth overall.
Like every Olympic Games, London 2012 has had some great successes and failures already. With another ten days of competition we are sure to see some new legends born and over masters giving away to the new generation of champion while we get to enjoy the sporting spectacle.