London's magical Olympic night

So perfect, so dreamlike was the sequence of events on the Saturday it was like something from a movie.


    When a host nation wins three athletics golds in an hour, you'd expect people to be beside themselves with excitement.

    But it's not just about the golds it's about who won them and what that will do to inspire others.

    So perfect, so dreamlike was the sequence of events on the Saturday it was like something from a movie. It was both surreal and deeply moving.

    The motto of these London Olympics is "inspire a generation". This inspired a healthy dose of cynicism in a climate where school sports budgets have been cut.

    So the people behind these Games from Seb Coe down have placed a lot of faith on the intangible, mystical power of connecting with children watching the games.

    Pity any child who was in bed when the greatest night in British sporting history - absolutely not an exaggeration - unfolded.

    The role model

    For years Jessica Ennis has been billed as the golden girl of these games. The face, the body, the role model.

    The 26-year-old had never competed in an Olympics after injury deprived her of the chance in Beijing 2008. A lot of weight on those shoulders.

    But she's from a city in England known for it's steel industry, and that steel was apparent from the start with a superb run in the hurdles.

    She was to maintain a grip on the event. Gruelling the combination of track and field may be but she was never troubled.

    And then the perfection. She had something in reserve and driven on by the will of the crowd she floated along the home straight to win the 800 metres and seal the gold in style. The chosen one had delivered.

    While the Olympic flame to my right burned brightly across the stadium, a flame-haired man was adding to the excitement and joy - gold for Greg Rutherford in the long jump.

    To win in your home Olympic, surprisingly. Wow. That's timing.

    Golden hour

    And within the hour the timing of Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres made the movie complete. Everyone got the guy, everyone got the girl. Grizzled old sports hacks, officials were in tears along with the public. They thought they were safe after the Opening Ceremony - but this night had its own special feel.

    Mo Farah came to Britain as a refugee from Somalia at the age of eight. He barely spoke English. What eight-year-old watching him in the Olympic stadium would not want to run like him now!

    It was a typical, rough, tough, tactical 10,000 metres and, oh Mo, did you pick a night to get it right! We knew he had the talent, but when he stormed away in the home straight, the joy was tinged with relief.

    And incredulity. Did that hour really happen?

    In honesty the achievements of the golden athletic trio on a record day of six golds gave me an editorial issue.

    Yes, the host nation winning three golds in athletics is a story but is it bigger than Phelps retirement? And there are 200 nations that our Olympic team at Al Jazeera has been covering.

    But then I thought again - no, this is more than just golds.

    Cathy Freeman's victory

    This is reminding me of Cathy Freeman's iconic victory for Australia in Sydney 2000. This night will be spoken about as significant many many Olympics from now.

    It will be impossible to forget Farah on the track with his wife - seven months pregnant with twins and a beaming smile. And the magnitude of gold for Ennis sinking in as she cried on the podium.

    But when I remember this night I will also remember the moments after Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic won gold. She was dominant and cool in her victory. But when she set off with the Croatian flag, I don't think she expected the outpouring of warmth and affection that came from the crowd.

    A high-achieving athlete, just for a moment in front of us, looked like a little girl. A little girl in a stadium sharing the love who realised her dream had come true.

    It wasn't the only time we saw that look on London's magical Olympic night.



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