Friday, August 31, 2012

The Paralympic Games

The London 2012 Paralympics have started with an opening ceremony that paid tribute to host Britain's achievements in understanding the universe and its rainy weather. The Olympic Stadium was filled with colourful, massive umbrellas, while Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous living scientist, urged people to look to the stars for inspiration. Disabled ex-serviceman David Rawlins flew a twin-engined Tecnam P2006 light aircraft over the 62,000-strong crowd to kick off the proceedings. After a joyous athletes' parade, the Queen declared the Games open, followed by a salvo of fireworks from the stadium roof. Read more... (In, SkyNewsYou can watch a fantastic photo gallery of the Opening Ceremony HERE.

The Agitos is the symbol of the Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Flag features three 'agitos', which is Latin for 'I move' in red, blue and green – the colours most represented in national flags around the world. The three Agitos of the Paralympic symbol encircle a centre point showing that the Paralympic Games bring athletes together from around the globe and that athletes are always moving forward and never give up.  (In,
The London 2012 Paralympic Medals have been beautifully designed with a combination of Braille and imagery. One side of the medal represents 'Spirit in motion', the Paralympic motto, and features a close-up section of an outstretched wing of the Greek Goddess of Victory. This image represents forward flight, power and lightness, a metaphor for the spirit of the Paralympic Games. The reverse of the medal represents 'The heart of victory', which symbolises inclusion and togetherness. (In,
After watching marathon heroine Claire Lomas light the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square, the Prime Minister said we were in for 'incredible' Games. The Olympic Games made our country proud. I believe these Paralympic Games will make our country prouder still. Already this is shaping up to be the best, the biggest, the most incredible Paralympic Games ever. Over these next two weeks, we're going to have more of those moments that will bring us together and make us proud.' (In,

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Mandeville, the London 2012 Paralympic Games mascot, in his words: 'I love the Paralympic sports and I think Paralympians are amazing! I love finding out about what makes us all different and also what links us together.'... (In, Mandeville's FB page) You can watch Mandeville trying out each of the Paralympic sports in THIS new animation. Last, but not least, 'Sport doesn't care where you're from, if you're a man or a woman, tall, thin, big or short. Sport doesn't care how you got here, how much money you make, what you believe in or not. It doesn't care if you have two legs, one leg or wheels. Sport only cares that you're here to take part and give your all to win.' 


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Olympic Games Closing Ceremony

Aimed at celebrating one of Britain's strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years, the musical extravaganza marked the end of the country's most successful Games in more than a century. Summing up the night in random order:
  • Prince Harry represented the Royal Family alongside Kate Middleton
  • Scale model of London took centre-stage wrapped entirely in newspaper
  • Athletes appeared through the crowd and filled Damien Hirst interpretation of the Union Flag
  • Performers included Emeli Sande, Madness, Pet Shop Boys, Ray Davies, George Michael, Jessie J and Annie Lennox, among others
  • Kaiser Chiefs and Ed Sheeran led tributes to British greats David Bowie and Pink Floyd
  • Stadium turned into huge catwalk with appearances from supermodels 
  • Black London cabs performed 'taxi ballet' before the Spice Girls' performance
  • Olympic Flag was handed over to 2016 hosts Rio de Janeiro to rousing applause

Photo credits: Reuters
The audience at the Olympics closing ceremony were treated to a taste of Britain's comedy heritage when Monty Python star Eric Idle appeared onstage. The actor led the 80,000-strong crowd through a singalong rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, while a bizarre troupe of dancers performed around him. He was followed by a performance by pop icons Queen, including vocals from Jessie J and from beyond the grave, by the band's late singer Freddie Mercury.

Evoking images of the past from Winston Churchill and Edward Elgar, through the psychedelic 60s to the highs and lows of the Games, the closing ceremony culminated with a glimpse of the carnival that awaits in Rio in four years' time. A galaxy of stars including the Pet Shop Boys, Kaiser Chiefs, George Michael, Tinie Tempah and Jessie J, The Who, along with faces such as Kate Moss, Russell Brand, Julian Lloyd Webber, Naomi Campbell and Darcey Bussell built up to the show's climax.

Photo Credits: Associated Press
IOC President Jacques Rogge stated: 'These were happy and glorious Games. The legacy of the Games of the XXX Olympiad will become clear in many ways. 'Concrete improvements in infrastructure will benefit the host nation for years to come. Many young people will be inspired to take up a sport or to pursue their dreams.The organising committee, well supported by the public authorities, did a superb job,' he said. 'We will never forget the smiles, the kindness and the support of the wonderful volunteers, the much-needed heroes of these Games.You, the spectators and the public, provided the soundtrack for these Games.Your enthusiastic cheers energised the competitors and brought a festive spirit to every Olympic venue.You have shown the world the best of British hospitality.'

Dead on midnight the flame that reached all corners of the UK over 70 days was extinguished. As the dying flame flickered in the Olympic cauldron, a new flame emerged in the form of a phoenix suspended above the audience. Rock superstars The Who ended the night with a performance of Baba Reilly and a medley of their other hits, as a fireworks lit up the London sky. The best of Britain's past and present music scene partied with volunteers, athletes and the world as London 2012 came to a breathtaking close. And the Games were over - until 2016.

Photo credits: Getty Images
In, Mail Online (abridged and slightly adapted)

Follow THIS LINK in case you feel like taking a look at a fantastic photo gallery of the Closing Ceremony!...
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

London 2012 burst in pride

Photo Credits: Reuters
The world bid farewell to London on August 12th, after a frantic fortnight of Olympic competition. More than 10,000 athletes have competed for 302 gold medals in 26 sports, across 16 days. The eyes of the world have been firmly fixed on London, from the hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe who arrived to share the Olympic experience, to the billion plus people who have tuned in to watch events unfold on TV. And they've seen a united London, a city that rose to the occasion and has basked in the spotlight. 

An Olympic fan
Great Britain's athletes achieved their greatest medal haul in over hundred years. But London 2012 is about much more than just sport. It's about the 70,000 volunteers who slipped into their purple outfits, every day without fail, to help the Games run smoothly. It's about the 1,000 plus troops who were drafted in at the last minute to help bolster security in the wake of the G4S fiasco - but did their duty without complaint. And it's about the Britons who filled stadiums and venues, and lined the streets for every race, whatever the weather, wrapped in union flags and shouted themselves hoarse, roaring on athletes from every nation. Britain and London took the Olympics to its heart and wore the rings proudly. 
Men's marathon on the final day
Few cities in the world boast the kind of landmarks London has in spades. And the organisers did their best to show of the best of London - cleverly staging events so they showcased the capital's spectacular highlights. Visitors were given a healthy dose of the city's royal heritage; from the the beach volleyball, which took place in a purpose-built stadium in the shadow of Buckingham Palace; to the rowing events at Eton Dorney, overlooked by Windsor Castle. The equestrian centre at Greenwich Park gave guests a taste of London old and new, surrounded by the Naval College and Royal Observatory, and behind it the skyline of Canary Wharf. And on the final day, the men's marathon snaked around the city's ancient streets, finishing up on the mall. 

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Britain should be proud of the way London hosted the Olympics and its athletes dominated competition. He said: 'We showed the world what we're made of, we reminded ourselves of what we could do.'  US President Barack Obama even telephoned David Cameron to offer his congratulations for a 'brilliant' London Olympics, Downing Street said. A Number 10 spokesman said: 'The President praised the organisation of the Games and the amazing performance of Team GB athletes. 'And he thanked the Prime Minister for the hospitality the UK had shown to the First Lady at the start of the Games and the US team ever since.' Mr Cameron in turn offered the UK's congratulations on the US team's 'astounding' medals table-topping performance and said Britain had 'thoroughly enjoyed' hosting its athletes.

           PM David Cameron and a volunteer
The Mayor of London among volunteers 
The Queen congratulated the athletes of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, saying their efforts had 'captured the public's imagination and earned their admiration'. As London 2012 drew to a close, the Queen said Team GB's success - the best performance in more than a century - would inspire a new generation of Olympians and remind everyone how sport 'unifies communities and nations'. The Queen herself played a starring role in the Opening Ceremony for the Games, featuring in pre-recorded film scenes with Daniel Craig starring as James Bond, before appearing to parachute from a helicopter into the stadium. 'As a nation, we now look forward to the Paralympic Games and wish all athletes every success.'
In MailOnline (abridged and slightly adapted)

Photo credits: PA

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Team Great Britain by Sir Chirs Hoy

Sir Chris Hoy: 'I always knew that London 2012 would be very special, but truthfully the Olympics exceeded my expectations in every way – and that includes the legacy I hope they will leave.'

Found picture
The greatest legacy of all is possibly not even sporting, but a shift in our mindsets. These are not easy times we are living through and for me the most powerful message from London 2012 is that anybody can achieve great things in their lives if they are willing to work hard, make sacrifices, and dedicate themselves to the dream they have.
Team GB competitors across the board, and the fantastic volunteers who made the Games possible, are great role models for our nation. Mimic them and their approach to life and we will not go far wrong. That would be a fantastic legacy.
I am not a huge fan of reality TV, although it does seem to have become part of British culture. Real life is not about instant gratification or overnight fame. There are no guarantees in life and I can assure you that even the most talented athletes in the world, the ones who seem to make their events look easy, have dedicated thousands of hours to developing that natural talent. Without that hard work there can be no lasting reward. So I could not be more delighted that the efforts and talent of Team GB brought such joy and pride. It was very special to feel the country come together for a magical few weeks, and in the months and years to come we should all try to remember exactly how we felt during London 2012. If you are a youngster in Britain thinking of taking up sport seriously, the world is your oyster. When I was young I used to watch the Olympics because I loved all sport but there was often that feeling of us being ‘plucky losers’ fighting against huge odds. Well, that’s different now.

Team GB was third in the London 2012 Golden Medal Table, as you can see HERE, getting 29 golden medals, following the United States (46 golden medals) and China (38 golden medals) in the rank. As a way to celebrate this team's achievements, Olympic medallists Sir Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Louis Smith and Pete Reed are joined by a number of other athletes from Team GB in their own version of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now'!...

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Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm back... to the Olympic Games

After a four-week break, I'm back to blog about the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Paralympics will begin soon enough; to be more accurate next wednesday (August 29). But now it's time to remember some of the dazzling moments of the Games. In this post, I will recall five history makers: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Oscar Pistorious, Muslim Female Athletes and Gaby Douglas.

Michael Phelps - the lord of the Olympic rings
Photo credits: Karen Crouse
With one last gold, Phelps caps career that inspired a Generation. In his racing finale on Saturday night, (August 4) as a member of the United States men’s 4x100-meter medley relay, Phelps collected his 22nd medal, and 18th gold. Before Phelps retired, he had one last trophy to collect: a statuette that recognized his place in Olympic history. 'It’s kind of weird looking at this and seeing Greatest Olympian of All Time,' Phelps said, adding: 'I finished my career the way I wanted to. I think that’s pretty cool.' 'It’s crazy to think he’s retiring,' Le Clos said, 'because I’ve always looked up to him. It’s going to be hard to go to a meet and he’s not there.' Phelps will be gone but not forgotten. He inspired a generation, and more than all his medals, that is his greatest legacy.
(abridged and slightly adapted)

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Usain Bolt, the World's Fastest Man, secured the legendary status he craved by becoming the first man to win the Olympic sprint double twice in succession on an historic night in London. While millions would already consider Bolt a legend for winning triple gold in Beijing and defending his 100 metres title here in London, the Jamaican insisted he also had to retain his 200m title to achieve such status. And the 25-year-old did precisely that with another imperious performance, leading a Jamaican clean sweep ahead of 100m silver medallist Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, both of whom are just 22. 'It was hard. I really dedicated [myself] to my work, I know what London meant to me. I came here and I gave it my all and I'm proud of myself. I didn't get a world record - I really wanted to do it in the 200m - but I'm happy.'
(abridged and slightly adapted)

Found picture
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius safely advanced to the semi-finals of the men's 400m during his historic Olympic appearance at the London 2012 Games. Pistorius became the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics when he ran in heat one. The athlete known as 'Blade Runner' due to his prosthetic legs finished second in 45.44. The 25-year-old had looked set to miss out on a place in the individual event after failing to run a second 'A' qualifying time to gain automatic selection. Pistorius said: 'I was so nervous this morning. Thanks to everyone for showing their support. I didn't know whether to cry, I had a mixture of emotions. It was the most amazing experience.' He fell agonisingly short at his final attempt in July, but was selected for his country's men's 4 x 400m relay team - in which he won a silver medal at the World Championships last year - which meant he could be selected for the individual event.

The Muslim women who overcame the odds and the prejudice to make history on London 2012
Photo credits:
Getty Images
For most athletes at the London Olympics, their battle starts when they take their place on the starting blocks. But for Wojdan Shaherkani and Tahmina Kohistani, just taking part in London felt like a gold medal victory. To reach the Games, they have had to overcome political, social, religious and sporting obstacles. Judoka Shaherkani's Olympics lasted just over a minute, but the fact she made it to her bout with Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica meant it was a revolutionary moment for the women of Saudi Arabia. The country's ultra-conservative clergy tried to destroy her ambitions to be Saudi's first female Olympian, before an argument about the type of headscarf she should wear jeopardised her place at the eleventh hour. And though Afghanistan's Kohistani trailed in last in the 100 metres - in a time of 14.42 seconds - the warm appreciation of the London crowd who recognised her historic feat must have been the greatest of feelings. She has suffered months of harassment from men who don't believe women should be permitted to play sport.
In MailOnline (abridged)

Photo credits: Gregory Bull
Gabby Douglas said she just wanted to go home to the United States to see her family and dogs, go to the beach and do a bit of shopping but acknowledged her life would not be the same after she struck gymnastics gold at London 2012. The bubbly 16-year-old, who is enjoying her status as her country's newest sweetheart, said she felt 'honoured' to be the first African American to win an Olympic title in the women's gymnastics individual all-round event. 'For me going down in history being the first black American to win the gold, I think more coloured people are going to start coming to the gymnastics world and say 'ok anything is possible. If Gabby did it, then I can do it',' she said. 'I feel so honoured.'
In, Reuters (abridged)

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