Disproving doubters who questioned Britain’s “Olympic spirit,” a record-breaking domestic television audience is watching these Games. And as Farah took the gold, even Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, caught up in the moment at an Olympic Stadium awash in Union Jacks, broke with British reserve in a somewhat awkward man-hug.
How much better could it get? A lot. On Sunday, Briton Ben Ainslie became the most decorated sailor in Olympics history by claiming his fourth gold medal. But the moment of the day came when Andy Murray, a Scot, dispatched No. 1-ranked Roger Federer with shocking ease, claiming the gold on the very tennis court where he suffered a deeply personal loss against Federer in the finals of Wimbledon last month.
As Murray’s last ace bulleted across the net to win the match, a sudden roar could be heard echoing across London, where cheers went up from backyard barbecues and pubs, sports bars and Olympic venues. Miles away at the main Olympic Park in East London, British journalists, infamously jaded and bubbling with sarcasm, spontaneously rose to their feet and exploded with applause. As “God Save the Queen” played while Murray, on the medal stand, basked in redemptive joy, a stoic nation suddenly seemed to have not a dry eye in the house.
“Oh, I cried like a baby,” said Steve Adamson, a 35-year-old computer engineer, who watched “the Murray moment” with friends at the Farringdon Sports Bar in East London. “The British are good at saying we’re not excited about something until the moment comes. But then it does come, and we’re all cheers and tears.”
From skeptic to addict
Britain, in third place in the medal count behind China and the United States and ahead of Russia, Japan and Germany, has roughly double the number of gold medals it had at the same point in the 2008 Beijing Games. Britain could still end up fourth by the close of the Games, as it did in Beijing, or even lower, but observers say the country may nevertheless be on track for what could be its largest medal haul ever.
Though still smarting from ticketing problems, patchy weather and overhyped fears of transit nightmares that have driven away business from London hotels and restaurants, Britain has already begun patting itself on the back for an Olympics job well done. The Royal Mail is gilding the mail boxes near the homes of gold medalists.