The year 2012 heralded the third time that London had held the Olympic Games and, as might expected given the fact that the two previous occasions were back in 1908 and 1948, circumstances were very different to the other two times the British capital had been the host for the world’s greatest sports event.
Not least was the competition track the athletes had at their disposal. In contrast to the ‘cinder’ varieties of old that were in the White City Stadium and Wembley Stadium decades back in the 20th century, the Olympic Stadium in 2012 was able to boast of a state-of-the-art version of the Mondotrack.
European Athletics Green Inspiration Partners Mondo had introduced their Mondotrack product to the world in 2007. What was at the time the newest generation of vulcanised rubber track surfaces had changes made to the geometry of the underlayment and also changes in its surface texture increased vertical deformation, reducing pressure on the foot and increasing overall athletic performance.
Upgraded versions of the Mondotrack had been installed for the 2008 Olympic Games and then in 2012.
Certainly, it led to some superlative performances with three world records – from Kenya’s David Rudisha in the 800m, and by the Jamaican men’s and USA women’s 4x100m quartets – and another four Olympic records set in the stadium itself.
Despite the thrilling performances by the British athletes in front of their family and friends, of which more later, France’s Renaud Lavillenie and Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk also have good claims to be Europe’s top performers in London after producing Olympic records in their specialities.
In an enthralling pole vault competition, Lavillenie initially held the advantage when he was the only man to clear 5.85m on his first attempt with Germany’s Bjorn Otto. making his Olympic debut at age 34, and his compatriot Raphael Holzdeppe going over their height with their second and third attempts respectively.
However, the situation changed dramatically after the bar was raised to 5.91m. Holzdeppe and then Otto succeeded at the first time of asking whereas Lavillenie failed.
Lavillenie gambled and saved his remaining attempts for 5.97m and with his second attempt at the higher bar, he flew clear at the Olympic record setting at watched as his German rivals could go no higher.
“Three vaulters over 5.90m in a championship, it’s like when Sergey Bubka’s generation were vaulting,” reflected Lavillenie, who was less than two years later to improve on Bubka’s longstanding world record.“It was the best fight I have ever been in.”
The initial winner of the women’s hammer in London was Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko but she was, like a significant number of her teammates, disqualified for anti-doping violations.
However, the fact that Wlodarcyzk was not able to stand on top of the podium and have the gold medal hung around her neck at the Games itself, should not distract from her magnificent series of 75.01m, 76.02m, 75.72m, foul, 77.10m, 77.60m; her last throw overtaking Germany’s Betty Heidler who had launched her implement out to a short-lived Olympic record of 77.12m in the fifth round.
Other European throwers to triumph at London 2012 were Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, who defended his shot put title from 2008, German discus thrower Robert Harting, Hungarian hammer thrower Krisztian Pars as well as Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic – winning her country’s first athletics gold medal since independence – and Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova, who took the women’s discus and javelin titles respectively.
Like Majewski, Spotakova retained her title from four years earlier while Perkovic and Wlodarczyk were both to get a second gold medal in 2016 and stand a chance of making a further imprint on the sport’s history next year in Tokyo as no woman has ever won three consecutive individual athletics titles.
Of course, what will stay in many people’s minds for ever, whether they are British or not was ‘Super Saturday’ on the second day of the athletics competition when hosts Great Britain won three of their four athletics gold medals in the space of barely 40 minutes.
Firstly, Jessica Ennis topped the heptathlon standings in style by winning her final discipline over two laps of the track, having started off proceedings the previous day with a 100m hurdles world heptathlon best and national record of 12.54.
“I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to come to my first Games, and in London, and win an Olympic gold medal,” said a stunned but delighted Ennis, struggling speak through tears of joy not long after she had crossed the line in the 800m and her victory was confirmed.
Ennis was followed shortly afterwards by an inspired Greg Rutherford who rose to the occasion and won the long jump. 'This is what I've dreamt of all my life. When I chose athletics, all I wanted was to be an Olympic champion.'
With the crowd being whipped into a frenzy as the 10,000m final progressed over 25 laps of the track, Mo Farah finished off what was described the next day in many newspapers as 'Britain's greatest night in Olympic history' by uncorking a 53-second last 400m to help secure his place in Olympic athletics history.
Farah was to triumph again seven days later in the 5000m when he again produced another blistering last lap to leave his rivals training in his wake.
Given notice by what happened the previous Saturday, technicians installed noise monitors into the Olympic Stadium on the last day of athletics in the stadium and as Farah came down the home straight the crescendo of sound reached as high as a thundering 140 decibels, the equivalent of a jet aeroplane taking off and above the accepted pain threshold for a human!