China's Xu Lijia celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial sailing class on August 6 (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GettyImages)
Almost two weeks of dazzling action on the water in Weymouth have taken place amid mixed reports of business benefits for local tradespeople, prompting headlines in local newspapers such as: ‘So where is everybody?’.
But Simon Williams, head of Weymouth and Portland 2012 Operations, insists the authorities have delivered on their objectives to stage events that were a success for athletes and spectators, particularly on the Nothe area, the first such ticketed site for Olympic spectators.
“There may be a mixed picture, but overall we had 70,000 visitors in the town over the main [middle] weekend and you cannot rent a house or flat in Portland,” said Williams.
“We have done much to diversify the business market to a whole range of businesses and the TV coverage has been outstanding, showing the geography of the place and the quality of the environment. It’s the first international sailing event held at a world heritage site… There are real and tangible benefits for the long term.”
Australian Tom Slingsby, a sailor first inspired by Britain’s Ben Ainslie, struck gold on Weymouth’s Nothe course on Monday in a race that saw the island of Cyprus win its first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the same Laser class.
Slingsby, 27, from New South Wales, who has said he is retiring after these games, could have been a professional tennis player but took up Laser single-handed dinghy sailing aged 15 after being inspired by Ainslie’s duelling with Brazilian Robert Scheidt.
And it was these aggressive match-racing skills that saw him through to a gold medal today in strong winds gusting to more than 22 knots. The pair separated from the fleet after a pre-race battle of nerves that became a one-on-one tussle at the back of the fleet, on the opposite side of the course, with Slingsby eventually stretching a gap from his opponent.
Slingsby had gone into Monday’s medal race as the gold favourite after consolidating his place at the top of the leaderboard by winning both races on Saturday.
The four-time world champion was able to put to rest his disappointing result at the 2008 Beijing games.