Five years since London Olympics brought Britain together... and Yorkshire athletes won medal after medal
Five years ago this week, Great Britons everywhere united in celebration as the world’s finest athletes descended on London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Together they produced sporting drama that transcended the back pages and became headline news in an uplifting fortnight of action and emotion.
From the moment Danny Boyle’s three-hour extravaganza of an Opening Ceremony burst into life to when the flame was finally extinguished 16 days later, Britain was overcome with an all-too-rare feelgood factor.
That Opening Ceremony lit the blue touch paper. Boyle’s high-cost epic showed off Britain’s industrial heritage and was headlined by Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean on the grand piano and James Bond escorting the Queen to her seat in the Olympic Stadium.
Grandeur and pageantry then gave way to two weeks of the bravest and the fittest sportsmen and women on earth straining every sinew in a bid to win Olympic gold.
And home athletes did not disappoint an expectant British crowd, winning 65 medals in total, and nor for that matter did the sporting stars of Yorkshire let their county down.
If anything, White Rose athletes helped write one of the more intriguing storylines of the London 2012 Olympics.
Yorkshire athletes performed so well at their home Games that with a haul of seven gold medals, two silvers and three bronze, they would have finished 12th on the medals table.
That would have been ahead of Jamaica, for whom sprint king Usain Bolt won three golds, Brazil and Spain, among others.
Yorkshire’s Olympic heroes came from every corner of this great county; from Jessica Ennis in the south and Alistair Brownlee in the west, to Luke Campbell in the east and Katherine Copeland, inset, of Stokesley in the very far north of the broad acres.
Ennis’s golden moment was the headline-grabber, the poster girl for London 2012 claiming the heptathlon title in front of a packed Olympic Stadium on a famous night for British athletics in which Mo Farah also left the field in his wake in the 10,000m and Greg Rutherford leapt further than all-comers in the long jump.
Alistair and younger brother Jonny delivered one of the most compelling narratives on a glorious afternoon in Hyde Park, the Leeds siblings racing to first and third in the men’s triathlon.
Nicola Adams made history in the boxing ring; the trailblazer from Leeds becoming the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title in the rich tapestry of the Games.
If Adams’ win was expected, then Campbell clinching gold in the men’s bantamweight division took even him by surprise, while on the lake at Eton Dorney, Hebden-raised oarsman Andrew Triggs Hodge won a second gold in the men’s four and Copeland’s stunned face was a picture as she rowed to the lightweight double sculls title in her first major competition.
In the white-hot atmosphere of the velodrome, Barnsley-born Ed Clancy cemented his status as Yorkshire’s most successful living Olympian with gold in cycling’s team pursuit and a bronze in the multi-discipline omnium.
Northallerton’s Nicola Wilson teamed up with the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips to win silver in the team eventing competition after Otley’s Lizzie Armitstead had got the party started with a silver in the women’s road race.
Every day brought more reason to celebrate; Tom Daley delivering on his potential off the top board in the Aquatics Centre, Andy Murray taking top prize at Wimbledon at last, Sir Bradley Wiggins taking time-trial gold 10 days after winning Tour de France yellow, and Farah winning two track titles.
It was a golden summer of sport that those who witnessed it, and those touched by it, will never forget.