by Adrian Tahourdin
Well, the Games are over. The general feeling is that they went pretty well. They were certainly very enjoyable — even if the closing ceremony seemed interminable. Spice Girls, anyone?
I earlier expressed disappointment at not getting tickets for events at the Aquatics Centre (see post, June 21), but partly made up for it by seeing the Men’s Marathon Swim, a 10 kilometre event (10k, without any breaks!), which was held in the Serpentine in Hyde Park. There was a small temporary stand of ticketed seats, but most of us were in the unticketed areas all around the Serpentine which, I have to say, looked an absolute picture. The atmosphere was fantastic and the sun even shone.
The swimmers were attended by a whole flotilla of inflatables and canoes, while the feeding/refuelling pontoon was an extraordinary sight as the competitors poured liquid down their throats before swimming off. The Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won gold in a time under 2 hours, the first swimmer to win medals in both pool and open-water events (he won a bronze in the 1,500m freestyle). Six long laps up and down the lake, which didn’t appear to be taking it out of him at all. He seemed pretty pleased: “I can’t explain it, I can’t really describe it. What happened today is a miracle . . . “. Mellouli had vocal support too (see below).
But the biggest cheer was reserved for the swimmer from Guam, Benjamin Schulte, who finished nearly ten minutes behind the next-to-last (out of only 25) and had his own little flotilla by the end. This was the Olympic spirit at its best: the crowds driving him on coupled with his determination to finish. Great stuff.