Seven years ago things could not have been more different. Dejected Parisians stropped; jutting out lower lips and shrugging at questions about London’s validity to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Even their newspapers ran with headlines brazenly shouting “Why?!”
They have surged past their adversaries from across the Channel, as Great Britain struggle to keep pace with their expectations and languish in 21st place. Indeed it seems as if their president, Francoise Hollande, touched down in London yesterday, at just the right time.
While Team GB fell into euphoria clapping their ‘History Boys’ at the gymnastics, Hollande was proudly applauding Yannick Agnel’s sweltering swim to a 200m freestyle gold. This was the same man that easily overtook Ryan Lochte on his way to winning relay gold with his compatriots.
Today the Gallic athletes were at it again. Tony Estanguet made his canoe slalom look leisurely as he splashed to a gold.
When this is added to the gold Camille Muffat won in the 400m freestyle swim, the silver in women’s shooting and the four bronzes in judo it becomes apparent that the French have exercised their demons from 2005. They are happy to be in London.
Meanwhile, the British have to make do with two silvers and two bronzes. They had hoped for more, but now are anxiously looking towards Bradley Wiggins’ time trial, the rowers (headed by favorite pair Helen Glover and Heather Stanning) and the track cyclists (headed by Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton).
Can the hosts add a golden sheen to an event that is succeeding in other capacities?