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Gold medal weather
The much maligned British weather played its part in making the 2012 London Olympics truly memorable.
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2012 09:18

  The 50km walk took place under blue skies. [GALLO/GETTY]

The London Olympics were going to be a disaster. Let’s face it, there was no way London could match Beijing’s spectacular opening ceremony and organisation skills.

Plus, the UK’s capital city had a chronic transport system which was sure to crumble as sports fans arrived from around the world and then attempted to make their way to the roughest, toughest part of town.

And let’s not forget the weather! They had already had the worst summer on record, so two weeks of cold and wet could only pour on the misery.

Yet as final preparations are being made of the closing ceremony, the reality has been very different. The opening ceremony was a triumph – even if it left those without much knowledge of British history a little confused. The Games were breathtaking, and the state-of-the-art venues were filled by vociferous Brits, prepared to cheer on each and every athlete.

The icing on the cake was that, by-and-large, the weather was great. OK, we had some soggy days. The women’s road race took place in torrential rain and the women’s marathon was 26 miles and 385 yards of almost solid rain. But for much of the time, the sun shone. There were even mutterings that it was too hot for some events.

The weather elements were certainly variable enough to prove a real test for some of the competitions. The sailing, for instance, started with the prevailing southwesterly winds most competitors would have anticipated.

Then, on Thursday, the winds fell so light that sailing was cancelled. Yet over the weekend, brisk easterly winds brought about very different, but equally challenging, conditions.

The strengthening wind towards the end of the Olympics certainly taxed the javelin throwers who had to deal with very gusty conditions in the Olympic Stadium. Those throwers who fared best were those who could keep the tip of the javelin on a flat trajectory.

Archery competitors face similar problems to javelin throwers with arrows slowed by high humidity and easily blow off course by sudden gusts of wind.

Although conditions were relatively benign for this early competition, the enclosed venue of Lord’s cricket ground, with its high grandstands, certainly proved a challenge. One of the competitors was quoted as saying, “The wind was a problem – it was shifting quite a bit and pushing the arrows.”

The heat and wind also made for tough going in the women’s mountain-biking at Hadleigh Park, Essex. Just a few weeks previously, competitors may have anticipated a race over muddy tracks and boggy puddles, but the course was bone hard and dusty.

The open setting may have helped the television camera coverage but it gave no shelter to the competitors who were seen taking lots of fluids to compensate.

Perhaps the event whose weather best typified the British summer was the women’s road cycling race around 140 kilometres, from The Mall in central London, through the Surrey countryside and back.

At times, the weather was dry and bright, at others the rain was torrential and there was some flooding on the roads. The sprint for the line was a sea of spray as Marianne Von of the Metherlands beat Team GB's Lizze Armitstead to the gold medal.

With a generally fine forecast for the final day and the closing ceremony, the London Olympics are being hailed as one of the greatest ever. After a summer which has poured rain on the British Grand Prix, the Wimbledon tennis championship and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the British were due for a change of fortune, weather-wise.

London 2012 will be remembered for many things; thankfully, bad weather will not be one of them.

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