Four is a number of phenomenal importance for a sport fanatic. The number of years between two cricket world cups is four, the number of years between FIFA football world cups is four, the European Championships are held after ever four years, the hockey World Cup is held after every four years and of course four is the very number of years after which Olympics are held.
The mother of all sporting events will be held in London, starting from today. This is the third time the mega event is being held in the city of London, most for any city. Previously, London hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948; so, after 64 years and 15 Games later, the capital of United Kingdom will be home to over 10000 athletes who will take part in 39 disciplines of 26 different sports.
For the next 15 days, the busy streets of London will become the centre of attention for people across the globe. Athletes will compete with each other in an effort to carve their name in history forever. The Olympic gold is not just a medallion made out of one of the most precious metals on earth; it is, in fact, a reward for the hard work of a lifetime - the pinnacle of a sportsmanís prowess!
In an event of the magnitude of Olympics where over 10000 fine athletes representing over 200 countries are participating, there still are certain performances that leave you almost awestruck. Recent Olympics have not seen any thing more remarkable than the astounding feat of one Jamaican, Usain Bolt, four years ago at Beijing. Bolt, is of course once again the favourite to bring the house down in London, but, we will talk about that later.
Well, for a country of over 180 million, a contingent of 39-members that include just 23 athletes out of which 18 play for the national hockey team is nothing less than shambolic. Had it not been for the two wild cards in Swimming and one in Shooting, Pakistan, which is among the largest countries in the world population wise, would only have been competing in Hockey and Athletics. We could at least have an automatic entry in Shooting, thatís what we are best at... enough sarcasm. In Hockey lies the only hope of a medal for our beloved homeland, where we have been on the podium three times as gold medalists, thrice as silver medalists and two times as bronze medal winners.
But, I wonít be surprised if we couldnít get past the first phase of the hockey event this year. In short, Pakistanís chances of winning a medal at this yearís Olympics are as good as, whatís the word for zero in French? Well, Iím kind of infatuated by this language, nothing more!
... and the rest
Anyway, coming back to the main topic, the Olympics have over the past 116 years evolved tremendously. From 241 people representing a mere 14 countries in the first edition of modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 to around 10,500 sports people from 204 countries at this yearís Games, summarises the success of this sporting extravaganza.
In 1894, when Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he probably did not have the faintest of ideas what this would eventually turn into within no time. The first modern Olympics were held two years later in Athens and the rest is history.
Originally, the ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece, from 776 BC to 393 AD in honour of Greek god Zeus. The wreath of laurel leaves was awarded to the winners. The rise of Christianity they say, suppressed the Games, not to be held for the next 1500 years!
The participation in ancient Olympics was restricted to Ďfree mení who spoke Greek. Itís a blessing thereís no such restriction now, well, otherwise our sports authorities would have had some excuse for not participating!
London 2012 is the 27th edition of the Summer Olympics. The city of London was among nine cities that had submitted bids to host the events in 2012, the bids were submitted nine years back. After the elimination of Havana, Istanbul, Leipzig and Rio de Janeiro, the competition intensified between the remaining five cities - London, Madrid, Moscow, New York City and Paris.
It was the charisma and leadership of one man that enabled London to beat the likes of Paris that was its main competitor for the eventual host to be the home of the 2012 Summer Games. Lord Sebastian Coe, the great Olympic gold medalist for Great Britain was appointed as the head of the London 2012 bid in 2004. He led the bid with added zeal and vigour and finally London was chosen to organise the mega events for the first time in the 21st century.
The ideals embodied in the Olympic charter are represented by various symbols, none more prolific and talked about than the Olympic Torch.
Several months before each Games, the Olympic flame reflecting the ancient Greek rituals is lit in Olympia in a ceremony. A female performer ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sunís rays; she then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that would carry the flame to the host cityís Olympic stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony.
Since 1928, the flame has been an Olympic symbol of utmost pedigree, the torch relay, however, was introduced at the 1936 Summer Games, as part of the German governmentís attempt to promote its National Socialist ideology.
Similarly, the Olympic flag, the mascot and the Olympic motto are also the symbols of the Olympic Games. The mascot is usually a cartoon character that represents the cultural heritage of the host country. The idea of a mascot at the Olympics was introduced at the Olympic Games held in Mexico in 1968. Mandeville and Wenlock are the two mascots for this yearís Olympics.
And of course, the flag, consisting of five intertwined rings (blue, yellow, black, green and red) representing five continents symbolises the unity that only sports can provide.
Millions around the world eagerly wait for the Games to begin so that they can feast their eyes upon their favourite athletes giving their all-out effort to grab gold. But, sporting events are not the only thing to watch at an Olympic Games, the opening and closing ceremonies have an importance of their own. In fact, during the last Olympic Games at Beijing an expense of $100 million was incurred on the opening ceremony alone, but, what an extravagant occasion it was, totally unforgettable.
The opening and closing ceremony at Beijing were truly remarkable to say the least; these two ceremonies were really exhibitions of the highest order. London 2012 will be expected to meet the standards set by the Chinese four years ago, if not to surpass it.
The Opening ceremony of the 2012 Games called ďThe Isles of WonderĒ, directed by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle will be held today after which the Games will be declared opened officially by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Daniel Craig as secret agent James Bond will be screened during the television coverage of the ceremony in a short film while, Sir Paul McCartney is also expected to perform at the end of the ceremony.
A scintillating performance by superstar athlete Usain Bolt or American swim sensation Michael Phelps could certainly help London 2012 to meet the hype surrounding the event.
The organisers, meanwhile, are not leaving any stone unturned either. The infrastructure has been totally turned on its head in London during the last few years. The athletesí village was constructed, where participants will enjoy top class services during their stay. The 500-acre Olympic Park was planned in 2004 for the Olympics and is part of a massive development planning that was done to enhance the image of the city before and during the Olympics. A massive cost in excess of $9 billion was anticipated for the preparation of London 2012 Games, which goes to show the importance of the sports industry on the international scene.
The countdown clock which was unveiled at the Trafalgar Square 500 days before the start of the Games showed 6 days, 21 hours and 50 minutes when this piece was being written.
Stars that will shine
There are these individuals and teams that have billions of eyes affixed on them right from day one. These are the likely stars of the show, those expected to shine like supernovae at London 2012.
The Sprint teams of Jamaica and USA
The Jamaican sprint team is arguably the finest group of athletes around. With the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell and Michael Frater in it, all of whom are capable to breach the 10 second barrier in 100m sprint as if it were a piece of cake! They will feature as a team for Jamaica in the 4x100m relay and will compete against one another in the 100m dash.
Their closest competition comes from the USA. Tyson Gay, the second fastest man after Usain Bolt, will team up with Justin Gatlin to try and do the unthinkable, which is of course to out sprint the Jamaicans.
The United States Basket Ball team
They won the gold medal at Beijing and are expected to repeat that performance at this yearís Olympics. The USA are home to the finest exponents of the game like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others. In short, they have a plethora of world class performers who are almost certain to be crowned the winners of the menís basket ball event.
The Brazilian football team
With the Games happening in London, football is getting more media attention than many other sports. And team Brazil having superstars like Neymar and Lucas Moura are expected to showcase their unique skills at the London Olympics.
Neymar, 20, and Moura, 19, are extremely talented football players. In fact, even at this age they are already among the finest players in football at the moment. In a warm up match against team Great Britain, before the Olympics they showed why there is so much hype surrounding team Brazil, when they swept aside the hosts 2-0 with relative ease.
A preview on Olympics is incomplete without mentioning the name of this phenomenal swimmer from the United States. Phelps is still just 27 years of age and has already won 16 medals in two Olympic Games.
At Athens, eight years back, Phelps introduced himself to the world by claiming no less than eight medals (six golds and two bronzes). And four years later he shattered all medal records by winning an unprecedented 8 golds!
For the record, Pakistan, in all Olympics they have featured to date have only managed to win 10 medals and this man alone claimed 16 in two Games!
He is expected to increase his tally of medals to 23 this year, as he will be featuring in 7 events at London, although he was initially expected to compete in all 8 disciplines that he won golds in Beijing, but, his coach Bob Bowman, tweeted an announcement that Phelps was dropping the 200-meter freestyle.
The Olympics will conclude on Sunday August 12, 2012. And for a sports fan the coming 16 days could provide the treat of a lifetime. For all lovers of the 100m sprint like myself, the final for the menís 100m will be held on Sunday August 5. And for fans of the Jamaican sprint team, the 4x100m final will be held on Saturday August 11. So, let the games begin!