Britain can make it golden year in London

Lizzie Armitstead clebrates as she crosses the finishing line ahead of Nicole Cooke to win the Women National Elite Road Race Championships in Stamfordham. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire.
Lizzie Armitstead clebrates as she crosses the finishing line ahead of Nicole Cooke to win the Women National Elite Road Race Championships in Stamfordham. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire.
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London 2012 will be like nothing we have ever seen before, certainly in this lifetime.

It is hard to imagine the 1948 games in our nation’s capital were greeted with such mass hysteria.

And before we venture any further, we here in the media hold our hands up.

We are responsible for the hype.

But there is good reason.

For the Olympic Games is the biggest show on earth and whether you are from Stratford in the East End or Shipley in West Yorkshire, there will never be a better time to cheer on your local hero as they go for gold, or to watch history being made by the fastest, most determined, most idolised sports people on the planet.

As hosts, the expectation on our shoulders is massive.

Not only in the various sporting arenas which have been built specifically for the event, but in the delivery of the Games, from the Olympic torch relay that weaves its way through Yorkshire, to the transport links to each of the many venues.

The eyes of the world will be on London from July 27 to August 12, and then again from August 29 to September 9 for the Paralympic Games.

The opening ceremony alone has to live up to past spectacles and will set the scene for the ensuing glut of medals and records.

Great Britain won 47 in Beijing and finished fourth in the medal table.

It was a tremendous achievement, but one that instantly raised expectation levels for a home Olympics when host nations customarily succeed on the adrenalin cascading down from the stands.

Starting with athletics, Charles van Commenee – Britain’s chef de mission – wants eight medals, at least one of them being gold.

At the World Championships in 2011, Britain won seven medals, including two golds for Mo Farah and Dai Greene.

There were surprises, Hannah England’s silver in the 1,500m, and disappointments, Jessica Ennis’s failure to defend her title.

The Sheffield heptathlete won silver, a medal that she may look back on one day with pride, but a result that now drives her to perfection in the Olympics.

Taskmaster van Commenee wants more from his athletes and is unafraid to come out in the media and say so. As he rightly should. Britain should not be settling for second best.

Just look at our cyclists. They won hatfuls in Beijing – 14 to be exact, eight of them gold – and in Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Armitstead now have greater prospects swelling the ranks.

Yet the track programme has been reduced and brought in line with equality, which negates home strength and means there will be no repeat of the 14 we won in 2008.

Our rowers and sailors are on course to continue being a reliable harvester of medals.

Andy Hodge is going for a second gold in the men’s pair and Debbie Flood is eyeing a gold to go with her two silvers in the women’s quad.

Paul Goodison, the defending laser champion, has a fight on his hands from closer to home before he can think about beating the best helmsmen in the world again.

And the pool will be a focus of attention, with the boy of Beijing, Tom Daley, now a young man ready to deliver on his highly-publicised potential.

Pushing him all the way will be a team of British divers trained in Leeds and Sheffield.

In swimming, Northallerton’s Jo Jackson was a surprise bronze medallist in the Far East, behind double gold-medal winner Rebecca Adlington, who took a while to adjust to her new-found fame post-2008, but is now back on form. And if the success she and Jackson achieved in Beijing suggests anything, it is that a medal and a great story can emerge from anywhere in an Olympic Games.

One storyline that will certainly tug on the heartstrings is the battle between two Leeds brothers, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, for the triathlon title.

And away from London, unified British football teams will attempt to win gold, playing matches in Manchester, Newcastle, Coventry and Cardiff.

Legacy is an Olympic buzzword, but the longevity of bricks and mortar is a matter for another year.

For 2012, the Olympics are about inspiration and a celebration of the true test of sporting greatness.