Isles of Wonder: Danny Boyle’s outstanding opening ceremony helped inspire nation

Inspired by an outstanding opening ceremony that was brilliant, bonkers and right up there with the best the Great British public are the extra driving force that promises to drive Team GB to new heights.

On the streets of London our cyclists were outmaneuvered by the rest of the world who denied the world’s undisputed fastest sprinter Mark Cavendish the chance to win the Gold medal so many of us hoped he was destined to collect.

But the scale and enthusiasm of the thousands of supporters who lined the route all the way to the Mall was out of this world. And the sheer enthusiasm and fervour was a similar story right across the board.

“The crowd were ludicrous,” said GB rower Richard Chambers after helping the lightweight men’s four win their heat at Eton Dorney. “I’ve never felt anything like it. The public supporting us makes us quicker.”

Meanwhile, it spurred Helen Glover and Heather Stanning into setting a new Olympic record.  The duo, who have won gold in all three World Cups this season, clocked six minutes 57.29 seconds in the first heat of the women’s pairs.

There was a similar patriotic fervour in the Aquatics Centre where British competitors were greeted with deafening screams for the opening round of swimming heats.

“All I could hear was the crowd going haywire,” said Fran Halsall, after qualifying for the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly.”They tried to quieten them down and everyone was still shouting. It really made me smile and relax.”

Enjoying a similar experience in the table tennis Team GB’s Joanna Parker confessed after winning her first round match at the ExCel Arena: “I’ve never played in this type of atmosphere before. I’m speechless.”

Much is made every year of the pressure put on our tennis heroes to succeed at Wimbledon and Andy Murray broke down in tears earlier this month after narrowly missing out on becoming Britain’s first winner since 1936 when he lost the men’s final to world no.1 Roger Federer.

But ask any athlete if it helps having such great support behind them when they are going for glory and you will be given a resounding ‘yes!’ While passion is no substitute for genius or natural talent, at the highest level where the smallest of margins are the difference between winning and losing, there is no doubt that home support definitely helps.  And Team GB’s Greatest Team arguably have the Greatest Supporters.


FOOTNOTE: Watching the Road Race on TV along with millions of other cycling fans I was left fuming by the shocking coverage by the host broadcasters. The BBC blame OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services) for the lack of onscreen statistics and timings. But the Beeb’s commentators also made some howlers including calling fourth place to a rider clearly chasing in the peloton well down the field.

The frustration of watching was made a million times worse by the realisation that Mark Cavendish’s dream of winning Gold had been ruined by rivals who sacrificed their own medal hopes to stop him fulfilling his destiny. The world champion’s hopes died when just about every  rider avoided pushing the Brits at the front of the peloton in their pursuit of the breakaway group.

Such negativity does not belong in the Olympic Games. In contrast it was humbling to see the extraordinary effort made by Team GB heroes Chris Froome, David Millar, Iain Stannard and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who all gave  absolutely everything for their teammate Cavendish.