LONDON – Looking back at the second evening of athletics at Olympic Stadium, so many images and sounds are flashing through my mind.
There was the colorful sight of hundreds of British flags proudly waving through the gentle night breeze.
There’s the immense pride U.K. residents have for their gold medal-winning heroes on Super Saturday: Mo Farah (men’s 10,000 meters), Greg Rutherford (long jump) and Jessica Ennis (heptathlon).
There’s the contagious buzz that reverberated through the stadium, the massive number of people speaking excitedly and in animated tones about what they just saw and heard.
Here’s two more mental snapshots that will stay with me long after the 2012 London Games are finished:
London 2012 chief Lord Sebastian Coe presenting the gold medal to Ennis, a gracious exchange between a running legend and the current darling of British athletics. No words needed to be uttered between them; they understood they were sharing history, a stirring moment for themselves and the masses watching around the world.
Coe called it “the greatest night of British athletics.”
He was absolutely correct.
The sound of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” playing over the stadium loudspeakers shortly after Rutherford, Farah and Ennis had locked up their spot in the British annals of sports history as the crowd of 80,000 sang along was not your every day fill-in-the-blank moment to pass the time. It was a truly feel-good soundtrack to the night, didn’t feel forced, but happened to have the impromptu camera closeup of Paul McCartney in the crowd. He was singing along, too.
Pundits say every Olympics need a “signature day,” a special collection of iconic moments for the games to “come alive.”
This was that night.
Nearly 24 hours later, the excitement level on the streets of London, on the London Underground and, even here, at Wimbledon as I write this and watch Roger Federer battle Andy Murray in the men’s singles final, Olympic fever — hysteria, really — has practically doubled.
The momentum that Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jessica Ennis gave Team Britain is immeasurable. These British athletes now feel that they can conquer the world. In a way, some of them already have.
Fans thrilled by 100 final
Breathless, stunned and trying to make sense of it all, spectators who watched Usain Bolt win the Olympic men’s 100-meter final said seeing it live was a mind-blowing experience.
“It was really amazing to be there,” said Alex, an 18-year-old consultant as he left Olympic Stadium.
“The sensation when the crowd all went quiet before the start was amazing. I was nervous just watching it. Tingles down the spine. My hair was standing on end. It was unlike anything else.
“I’m a Londoner, it’s great to have the Olympics here. It feels like we’re hosting the best party in the world,” he added.
Paul Parisi, 25, a broker from New Jersey wearing the Stars and Stripes, said: “It was awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“I was right by the start line. I’ve never been more excited. All the energy from everybody, you could really feel it. Absolutely incredible.”
Nadine Reid, 34, from Birmingham in central England, had painted Jamaican flags on her cheeks and wore blow-up lightning bolts round her neck.
“I feel proud as a British-Jamaican, I feel elated. I could fly like a lightning bolt myself!” the make-up artist said.