The London 2012 Olympics brought Britain’s biggest haul of medals in over a century. More than 40 world records were set, and the viewing figures for an opening ceremony were the highest in British and American history, with an estimated 900 million worldwide. The Rio Olympic Games of 2016 are only weeks away, and athletes all over the world will be keen to make a lasting impression. Many pundits and critics have agreed that the playful, celebratory, and successful London Games will be a tough act to follow. No one is more keenly aware of this fact than the British athletes themselves. While qualifiers continue and selections are still being made, some of the world’s most popular athletes, such as Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray and Usain Bolt, have all voiced their intention to compete in Brazil. Negotiating a complicated array of circumstances and obstacles, including new parenthood, injury and the Zika virus, to name but a few, the Olympic Games in Rio still promise to be an exciting athletic spectacle for the world.
Here is a look back at some of the most memorable performances at the London 2012 Games and whether they are likely to be repeated this August in Rio.
The Brownlee Brothers
This team of triathlete brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, secured gold and bronze respectively for Team GB. Few people know that older brother Alistair abandoned a medicine degree at Cambridge in order to focus on sport and his training. The pair have already confirmed their intention to return to the field at Rio 2012, and so the hopes of the British team look bright.
The Sheffield star athlete had been the friendly face of women’s athletics in the 2012 build-up and was under pressure to match everyone’s high expectations. She did so in spectacular style, smashing the British and Commonwealth heptathlon records with a staggering 6,955 points. Her time in the hurdles would also have won her Olympic gold at Beijing for the single event. After becoming a mother, Ennis commented that her greatest achievement would be to return to the Olympic Games and retain her gold medals.
Farah became a household name after achieving two gold medals in the face of stiff competition, especially during a final-lap challenge in the 10,000 metres. Many particularly remember the heart-warming and comical moment that saw pundits Denise Lewis, Michael Johnson and Colin Jackson literally jumping for joy following the runner’s win. Colin Jackson, the former 110m hurdle world champion, recently commented that well-known athletes like Farah were still performing well and that young rising stars in GB athletics could also be ones to watch at Rio.
Jones became the youngest gold medallist of Team GB at just nineteen years of age, securing the top spot in Taekwondo (57kg). She was honoured with a parade when she returned to her native Flintshire, where people also painted their postboxes gold in the teenager's honour.
Sir Chris Hoy became the most decorated British Olympian of all time when the London Games saw him being awarded his sixth gold. The record had previously been held by Sir Steve Redgrave with five gold medals in rowing. With impressive performances across the board in the GB cycling team, pundits have conceded that this could be a tough act to follow at Rio 2016. Chris Boardman, an Olympic gold medallist, commented that, “The cycling team have set the bar so high that it is almost unsurpassable. Sustaining the same level of success could be impossible.”
The softly spoken athlete packed a punch at the first ever Olympic boxing event for women. Competing at flyweight level, Adams secured a gold medal and sent a clear message that female boxers have been at a world-class level behind closed doors for years and are now finally able to compete on the same global stage as their male counterparts. A knockout for the equality movement. The British boxing team’s hopes look bright, as Adam’s secured her Rio place with a victory at the qualifiers in Turkey.
Currently the reigning IBF Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua was an Olympic novice when he fought his way to victory and a gold medal at London 2012. The 26-year-old is currently ranked seventh in the world at heavyweight level by the prestigious Ring magazine and has a staggering 100% knockout ratio. It has not yet been confirmed whether he will return to fight at the Rio Olympics, even though professional boxers may yet be considered.
A mere few weeks after losing out at Wimbledon against Switzerland’s formidable Roger Federer, Murray managed to beat him in straight sets to win Olympic gold. He claimed the win was one of the best of his life and that he would return to defend the win in 2016. However, Murray has recently been quoted as saying he will seek medical advice on the severity of the Zika threat before confirming his attendance at Rio.
Following his win at the men’s cycling time trial, many remember a coolly nonchalant Wiggins perched comically atop the golden thrown outside Hampton Court Palace. The moment embodied all that pundits had called “eccentric” and “unabashedly British” about the Games.
At just 18 years of age, the now well-known diver secured a bronze medal after a stunning performance on home soil.
Gymnastics star Beth Tweddle is well known for being a three-time world champion in the sport but had yet to secure an Olympic medal until London 2012. The Cheshire athlete won bronze in the uneven bars, finally ending her Olympic medal drought.
After a historically successful outing on home turf at London 2012, many have expressed concern about whether Team GB can sustain their level of world-class success at the Rio Games in August. But pundits and sports insiders remain hopeful. Speaking to BBC Sport, the UK Sport director of performance, Simon Timson, was hopeful. He commented that the games would see "all the innovative expertise in British sport come to the fore".