London Olympics: the best of times, the worst of times
The London Games was one of the best Olympics, as all of Britain rose to the occasion to match—and at times better—the Games in Sydney and Beijing.
There was certainly much to cheer about—South Africa's "blade runner" Oscar Pistorious making it to the 4x400m men's relay final; the first women from Saudi Arabia to compete; Michael Phelps' stunning achievement in the pool; Malaysia's two medals including our first female winner; Danny Boyle's glorious opening ceremony; the Spice Girls reunion at the closing party...
But it's not been without its share of blunders, fiascos and mishaps that have proved embarrassing—and at times even funny—to the Brits and the world.
Lost bus drivers, missing stadium keys, controversial results—these seem like minor hiccups compared to the security problems that plagued the Games even before it began. The British government ultimately deployed over 10,000 servicemen to protect various venues after private security contractor G4S failed to hire and train enough guards.
Official coach drivers then became unofficial tour guides as they got lost and brought the athletes round and around London and to everywhere but the Olympic Village. Teams USA and Australia were taken on an hours-long ride after they boarded the bus at Heathrow, in what was supposed to be a 45 minute trip on the special Olympics Lane to the Village.
Both teams were over four hours late getting to their destination after waiting close to two hours for busses that was supposed to have been waiting for them at the airport. "I think we visited everywhere on the Monopoly board except Mayfair," said Australian media officer Damian Kelly.
"The driver from Dublin said he hadn't been shown how to use the satellite navigation system. They also hadn't loaded the Village into the GPS system and some of our guys guided him to Stratford," he told The Australian.
There were also complaints that the Village residence was more college dorm than Olympic sized as the beds were just 173cm long, far shorter than the average height of some male athletes. Hundreds of sportsmen ended up sleeping on the floor, while the US basketball team checked into a hotel for bigger beds.
The Olympic cauldron was temporarily extinguished two days after its grand igniting, as the flame was taken out and placed into a miner's lamp in order to move the cauldron to where those without tickets to the main stadium could see it. The cauldron was fired up again after six hours by former Olympic torchbearer Austin Playfoot, making him the actual last person to spark it up.
Police lost a set of hi-tech laser keys to Wembley Stadium that cost about £40,000 (RM195,000), which was later revealed to be internal keys. The keys had been mislaid after a police team inspected the venue prior to the football matches and all the locks had to be changed.
Meanwhile, some 600 tickets with poor views to the diving heats at the aquatic centre were sold for £185 to £295 (RM900 to RM1,440). Despite hundreds of empty seats available—in another ticketing debacle—venue staff refused to shift the spectators to a better view.
Nearly 4,000 people showed up for the preliminary round of the archery event and found themselves locked out, as the opening stages weren't open to the public. They apparently mistook the word "unticketed" listed on the event to mean "free entry" and weren't amused by the confusion caused by the ambiguous term.
Temporary seats set up for the archery, hockey and rowing heats collapsed and caused one woman to suffer a hip injury. Meanwhile, hundreds of empty seats were seen in the early rounds of the gymnastics, swimming and tennis events, despite the public being informed that all tickets were sold out.
Hungarian fencer Aron Szilagyi heard a weird song as he collected his gold medal, the fault of the national anthem (recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra) being played out of sync from its traditionally slow pacing. The off-key tune was at least better than what Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte heard when she won her country's first Olympic gold for swimming—only half their anthem was played.
The US flag was ripped from its pole by strong winds and dropped into the stands as Serena Williams stood on the podium collecting her gold in the women's singles tennis event. She later laughed about it saying that God was sending the Stars & Stripes closer to her.
South African swimmer Cameron Van der Burgh set a new world record in the 100m breaststroke event, but later admitted he added extra "dolphin kicks" (a technique used in the butterfly event) despite the move being allowed only once in his category. "I was forced to because the rule was not policed properly and illegal kicking had become common," he said. He still got to keep his gold while officials now consider underwater video judging for Rio.
South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam sat on the edge of the piste for over an hour, weeping uncontrollably as she protested a controversial timekeeping error that gave Germany's Britta Heidemann an extra one-second for a final attack in their match. It was enough to get Heidemann through to the final and win silver, while Shin rejected a consolation medal after the judges stuck with their ruling.
Japanese bantamweight boxer Satoshi Shimizu lost despite knocking down his rival, Azerbaijani's Magomed Abdulhamidov, five times. Shimizu lodged an appeal against the decision, won, and Turkmenistan referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov was kicked out from the Games. German referee Frank Scharmach was also suspended for five days after he disqualified an Iranian heavyweight.
North Korea's women's football team walked off the pitch and refused to come out for over an hour before their match against Colombia after the flag of neighbouring South Korea was mistakenly displayed.
All this and we didn't even get into the Greek triple jumper and Swiss footballer who were sent home for tweeting racist messages; the German rower who took herself out because her boyfriend posted neo-Nazi messages on Twitter; the eight women from China, South Korea and Indonesia who were disqualified from badminton for conspiring to lose the game to better their chances in the next round; and Malaysia's national costume at the opening ceremony.
Published: 15th August 2012
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