LONDON: The London Olympics lost its first medallist to a doping scandal as Belarus shot-putter Nadezhda Ostapchuk was stripped of her gold medal a day after the Games closed in a blaze of music and colour.
Athletes began a mass exodus from London and turned their thoughts to Rio de Janeiro in 2016, as Britain basked in the adulation for a Games that electrified billions of viewers around the globe. The closing ceremony on Sunday night saw rockers The Who wrapping up a musical extravaganza after The Spice Girls, George Michael and Brazilian football legend Pele entertained a 80,000 crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
But 31-year-old Ostapchuk waved goodbye to her women’s shot put title after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said she had tested positive for the anabolic steroid metenolone. Ostapchuk, the 2005 world champion, took a surprise gold medal with a throw of 21.36m but urine samples provided the day before the competition on August 5 and immediately after it both tested positive. The gold medal will now go to Valerie Adams of New Zealand, with Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko taking silver and Lijiao Gong of China bronze.
The news failed to dampen the mood in Britain though, with London mayor Boris Johnson saying that for him and many other Londoners the Games had been ‘the most extraordinary event we can remember in our lifetimes’. IOC President Jacques Rogge praised the Games as ‘happy and glorious’.
Record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt and swimmer Michael Phelps lit up the Olympic Park in east London and heptathlete Jessica Ennis led an unexpectedly high number of British champions who kept fans’ excitement at fever pitch. The United States topped the medals table with 46 golds, eight ahead of China, while Britain had 29 – their best since 1904. It was the first Games where every team had at least one female competitor.
The ceremony also saw the Olympic flag handed over to the mayor of Rio, a symbolic transfer which launches the four-year countdown to the 2016 Games. Rio gave a taste of what to expect with a swinging samba section in the London closing ceremony that included Pele and carnival-style dancers.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2012.