As the Olympic Games come to a close, we look back at the moments that made us jump from our seats, cheer in excitement, or maybe even shed a tear, and celebrate the incredible athletes responsible for it all. From record-breaking accomplishments, to shocking upsets to just pure entertainment, here are a few of the best moments from London 2012.
Opening Ceremonies: The “Isles of Wonder”
The 2012 Olympics started with a bang, kicking off the Games with a vibrant and whimsical tribute to its celebrated host, the historic city of London. Through the creative mind of Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, the arena was transformed into a majestic narrative of social and cultural history, from rural and industrial Britain through the “Swinging 60’s,” with a royal cameo by two of England’s biggest icons.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and the Queen herself teamed up for what may be one of the most unforgettable entrances in Olympic history, parachuting into the stadium. Sure, they may have been stunt doubles, but the high-flying arrival of the unlikely duo certainly made for one of the most entertaining moments of the Opening Ceremony.
Independent Athletes Boogie
And who can forget the dancing, independent athletes? Three athletes from the former Netherland Antilles made a spirited entrance into the Parade of Nations that became another favorite Opening Ceremony moment.
The “Fab Five” Take Gold!
Certainly some of the biggest stars from this Olympics were the famous “Fab Five.” The gymnastics powerhouses twirled, jumped and flipped their way to Olympic team gold, the first Olympic title for the U.S. since 1996. McKayla Maroney blew audiences away with her near perfect vault, while the “Flying Squirrel” Gabby Douglas literally took the sport to new heights, winning individual gold as the first African-American woman to earn the all-around title. Aly Raisman, who edged out her teammate Jordyn Wieber to compete in the all-around, also took home the bronze for balance beam and became the first American woman to win gold in the floor exercise.
Phelps vs. Lochte
In what was perhaps the biggest rivalry of the games, swim legend Michael Phelps took on emerging star and Olympic heartthrob Ryan Lochte. In the first of their two head-to-head competitions Lochte came out on top, winning gold in the 400-meter individual medley to Phelps’s shocking fourth place. Phelps, however, struck back in the 200-meter individual medley, beating out Lochte for the gold by just .63 seconds. Lochte was all smiles however (complete with an outrageous, yet patriotic red, white and blue diamond encrusted grill), as was Phelps, who finished his career as the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time with a staggering 22 medals.
Robert Harting Becomes “The Hulk”
After winning the gold medal in the men’s discus throw final with a throw of 68.27 meters, Germany’s Robert Harting celebrated like any Olympic champion would – by ripping off his shirt like the Incredible Hulk and making a run for the women’s hurdles, astonishingly clearing each one all while keeping his German flag draped over his shoulders. His entertaining victory lap will certainly go down as one of the best gold medal celebrations of all time.
The “Golden Girls” Strike Again: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings earn 3rd consecutive gold
The world’s most famous beach volleyball pair won gold yet again, beating out fellow Americans April Ross and Jennifer Kessy for the Olympic title. For 11 years the two women have teamed up, earning three of the five gold medals awarded since the sport first emerged in the 1996 Olympics. It’s unfortunately the last we’ll see of this duo in an Olympic match as May-Treanor hopes to retire and focus on her family. Walsh plans to continue and find a new partner, who no doubt will have some major sneakers to fill!
Usain Bolt: Fastest Man Alive
In yet another fascinating Olympic rivalry, Jamaican sprinting legend Usain Bolt faced off against his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake. In their first showdown it was Bolt who came out victorious, defending his 100m title from the Beijing Olympics with a 9.63 second finish. Bolt, nicknamed “the fastest man alive,” went on to win the 200m in 19.32 seconds, becoming the first sprinter to win the 100 and 200m races in consecutive Olympics. The 200m ‘Jamaican Sweep’ was complete with Yohan Blake earning silver, and Warren Weir taking the bronze.