Australia's James Magnussen on July 31 (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages)
In the land Down Under, silver has become the new gold.
At home, Australia’s two-speed economy is based around finding valuable metals such as gold. Unfortunately for Australia’s Olympians, that search has hit a dud-seam in London.
For a country that has become accustomed to winning a paddling pool of Olympic swimming gold medals, the past week has prompted usually overconfident Australian sports fans (such as myself) to scratch their heads in disbelief at their athletes’ absence atop the podium.
Australia, with its relatively small population of 21m, has traditionally punched well above its weight in recent Olympic Games. The current medals table of one gold and eight silvers tells another tale.
To make matters even worse, the unthinkable has just occurred: New Zealand – our traditional rival to the east – has drawn clear of Australia in the medal count, thanks to two golds in the rowing. For those of us from “the West Island”, as some Kiwis describe that rather substantial land mass across the Tasman Strait, the shame is almost unbearable.
With the exception of a single gold in the women’s 100 metre freestyle relay, Australia’s swimmers – like the country’s mining-led economy – have been decidedly two-speed: slow, or a touch slower than the winner. Read more
A fleet of rather old-fashioned cleaners are keeping London Bridge station in tip-top shape over the Olympic period. We spoke with one on Friday morning.
Is this your first London Olympics or were you here in ’48? Read more
David Cameron at the track cycling on day 6 of the Olympic Games ( Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
First it was a quiet retreat, as the booming transport announcements from Boris Johnson advising Londoners not to “get caught out” by the pressure of Olympic traffic were turned off.
Now ministers are in full U-turn mode on warnings of transport overload, with David Cameron entreating visitors to return to the capital amid fears that organisers’ previous scare stories of packed tubes and jammed mainline stations have left theatres, restaurants and shops empty.
Speaking to Sky News last night, the prime minister said he was confident that fears of transport chaos had been “defeated” and that it was time for people to return to the city.
“People said also that London wouldn’t cope, the traffic would grind to a halt, the capital city wouldn’t manage, that hasn’t been the case,” Mr Cameron said. “Clearly there is a challenge now though to say to Londoners, to the British public … London’s working well, it’s open for business, come back into the capital, come and shop, come and eat in London’s restaurants and let’s make sure that all of London’s economy benefits from this.” Read more
What would you do about a table like this if you were the International Olympic Committee?
The table shows the complete domination of track cycling by one nation — Great Britain. The results are from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Britain’s 12 medals in this one sport were a touch over a quarter of the nation’s total medal count for the entire Games that year.
Also, what stands out in this list of track cycling events? Again from the Beijing Olympics:
• Individual Pursuit Men
• Sprint Individual Men
• Keirin Men
• Team Pursuit Men
• Madison Men
• Points Race Men
• Olympic Sprint Men
• Individual Pursuit Women
• Points Race Women
• Sprint Women
Notice how there are fewer events for women? Pourquoi?
Thanks to a number of changes, neither the domination by British cyclists nor the lack of parity in men’s versus women’s events will feature in these games. Rue Britannia. Read more