2012 Olympics

Updated August 28, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
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The 2012 Summer Olympic Games kicked off on July 27, 2012, with an opening ceremony called "Isles of Wonder" that received almost universal acclaim for its enthusiasm, ambition, and sense of whimsy. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle was the opening ceremony's artistic director. The ceremony was the highest rated British television broadcast since 1996. Queen Elizabeth II opened the Games (after parachuting in via film and stunt double) and Sir Paul McCartney performed "Hey Jude" to end the opening ceremony. Overall, the 2012 Olympic Games received rave reviews, especially for how well they were organized and the work volunteers, the public, and the British military.

Great Britain, which spent about $14.46 billion preparing for the Games, won 29 gold medals and a total of 65 medals, coming in third for overall medals. The U.S. came in first with a total of 104 medals. China claimed second place with a total of 88 medals. More than 10,000 athletes from 205 countries participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Female athletes from Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia competed for the first time. With the addition of women's boxing, 2012 was the first Games in which every sport had female competitors. It was also the first time that every country in the world had at least one female athlete competing.

American swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time during the 2012 Games. He won four gold medals and two silver, bringing his Olympic medal grand total to 22, breaking the record previously set by Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina. At the games, Phelps said the 2012 Olympics would be his last. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, the U.S. women's beach volleyball team, won their third consecutive gold medal, further cementing their legacy as the greatest beach volleyball team of all time. Like Phelps, May-Treanor said the 2012 Olympics would be her last. In fact, the gold medal match was the last time Walsh and May-Treanor would compete together. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt took gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, and the 400 m relay—a repeat performance from 2008. In doing so, he became the first man to ever win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting.

On the final day of the 2012 Summer Games, the U.S. men's basketball team defended its Olympic title by prevailing over Spain, 107 to 100, in the gold medal match. The U.S. women's basketball and soccer teams also defended their 2008 Olympic championship titles. In gymnastics, the U.S. women's team, nicknamed the Fierce Five, became the second ever to win the gold medal in the team competition for the United States. One member of the Fierce Five, Gabby Douglas, took gold in the individual all-around event.

Like most Olympics, these were not without controversy. Most of the controversies that surrounded the 2012 Games involved sponsorship, political issues, and athletes misusing social media. Before the Olympics even started, Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice was reprimanded for posting photos of herself in a bikini on Twitter. During the early days of the Games, a large number of empty seats were noted, especially by the thousands of people who failed to get into events after a complicated lottery process. Many speculated that the empty seats were due to corporate sponsors not using them.

Eight female athletes were disqualified in badminton doubles after they tried to lose matches to get easier opponents in knockout rounds.

Despite uncertain economic times, riots that shook up London only a year earlier, and a looming shadow of the highly successful 2008 Beijing Games, London pulled off an exciting, well organized, memorable Olympics. Sebastian Coe, head of the London Organizing Committee, summed up the experience at the closing ceremony on August 12, "Today sees the closing of a wonderful Games in a wonderful city. We lit the flame, and we lit up the world."

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