British athlete Jess Ennis. Photo: Supplied
Jess Ennis was to London 2012 what Cathy Freeman was to Sydney 2000. The heptathlete with abs of iron soared above everyone to become the central narrative of the home Games. The night of August 13, 2012, will go down as one of the most memorable in the history of British sport, and Ennis was centre stage. One of the most-marketed faces before the flame was lit, the 26-year-old delivered to win gold as the Olympic Stadium almost shook to the ground.
The badminton was an absolute cock-up. A new format for the doubles was in place and it created anarchy once teams realised they could jockey for better positions in the knockout stages by losing matches. And so it played out, with fans walking out and jeering competitors tanking contests and barely concealing their efforts to fail. As a result, four women's pairs, including the Chinese world champions, were punted from the tournament as the sport became a laughing stock.
Usain St Leo Bolt. No man is faster, no athlete oozes more effortless cool. And no star shone brighter in London than the electric Jamaican sprinter, who added to his 100 metre-200 metre double in Beijing with the same golds in 2012, throwing in the 4 x 100 relay for good measure. Bolt was under some pressure as he casually strolled into the stadium, having lost his national trials to Yohan Blake. But when the shot sounded and the sporting world stopped to watch, ''The Beast'' was tamed and Bolt had done it again, taking gold in a time of 9.63 seconds and declaring: ''I'm now a legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live.''
It was a series of controversies, rather than one standout. On the corporate front, American broadcaster NBC came under criticism for delaying events for up to six hours to ensure they were primetime in the US. In the pool, Chinese teenager Ye Shiwen was accused of being a drug cheat after her dazzling swim in the individual medley final. Boxing again let itself down, with two referees sent home and suggestions nations had tried to buy gold medals through bribes.
London went off without a hitch but Rio, the 2016 host city, has a number of issues. The city must ensure the safety of visitors and the Samba Games are already under pressure to deal with transport and communication issues.