Britain's gold-plated Olympic night
8/7/2012 3:00:14 PM -
There was a point in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday evening, at about 9.20pm, when you wanted to put the world on pause and just revel in it all for a moment before the next wonderful thing caught you round the chops.
One day, six Olympic gold medals for Great Britain? British athletes won three golds in such dizzying, dreamlike succession that all context and precedent disappeared off into the dark London sky.
The greatest single hour, the best night, unarguably, in the long history of British athletics. The best day in British sport? It sounds like hyperbole, so apply what logic you have left.
Saturday's medal count, taken just on its own, would constitute Great Britain's ninth most successful Olympic Games tally in 118 years of competition.
In three different sports, by men and women, on water and on dry land, the golds kept on rolling in, roared on by partisan crowds at stadiums across the city and its hinterland and by millions on television, radio and electronica.
The rowers had started the celebrations with gold in the men's four and the women's lightweight double sculls before track cycling's women team pursuiters added track cycling gold.
That was quite good enough. But those lucky enough to be among the 80,000 at the athletics were about to hit the jackpot in quite unprecedented fashion.
We knew after the morning's long jump and javelin that Jess Ennis would, barring pestilence and plagues of locusts, be crowned Olympic heptathlon champion. We hoped that Mo Farah might do what no British male had ever done and win a global 10,000m title. A few even lumped some cash on Greg Rutherford to win the long jump, although a gamble was exactly how it felt.
That all three came off in 46 minutes left you laughing with disbelief at the madness of it all.
When London hosted the Games for the second time in 1948, Britain failed to win a single track and field title. Having waited 104 years for an athletics gold, three arrived in the city in such quick succession that the waves of noise barely stopped rolling.
To have predicted then the sort of giddy scenes we witnessed in London on Saturday night would have been to invite scorn and straitjackets. That it happened to Ennis, Rutherford and Farah had a neat symmetry and happy resonance.
The old sages always agree on two things: a Games needs a home medal in its main stadium to truly come alive, and it needs a definitive night for everyone to remember it by.