Some things never leave you. One is the sight and the sound of the crowd at the Olympic stadium performing a very British Mexican wave as Mo Farah raced in London in 2012. I’ve never seen this reported anywhere else but I wrote about it then – almost live blogging from the trackside, writing the next day’s front page lead in real time as the runners counted off the laps and the intensity grew. People were bowing with their arms ahead of them like they do in Wayne’s Word to say, “We are not worthy.” But they were doing it in a wave that was sweeping around the stadium, somehow always just in front of where Mo was on the track, as if all those people were pulling him forward, faster, faster. I remember it tonight as we say goodbye to him on the track at the World Championships. Here’s what I wrote for The Telegraph back then.
“Seven days before this race, on Super Saturday, he had shared the glory with Jessica Ennis and others in Team GB as they won six golds. After that race, a reporter dared to ask if he would rather be running in the colours of Somalia. “Not at all mate,” said Farah in his London accent. “This is my country.”
Now, he was holding the hopes of his nation in his metronomic heart, in a place where you could hardly hear yourself think, let alone speak. The running pack was tight. There were fears that the others would gang up on him, crowd him out. If any of his thousands of fans could have climbed down from the stands and formed a running guard then they would have done, gladly. They would never have kept up. Even at slow speed, for them, these men were a blur. With a mile to run, Farah was in the middle. He moved up. The screams came again, harder, faster, higher.
Now, there was a real Mexican wave, people were rising to their feet and lifting their hands in homage as Farah passed. This was a British wave – even the Jamaicans, waiting for their hero, Usain Bolt, joined in.
Farah was running second. Then, he was first. It was unbearable. After all this way, 5,000m, it had come down to a sprint. He won. He darn well won, with his arms open, blowing a kiss. I have seen rock bands play and been to political rallies with people who were fighting for their futures but I have never heard anything like the noise as he crossed the line, never felt anything like that.
Unbelievably, moments after he won, Farah was on his backside on the track, doing sit-ups – surely a joking tribute to Bolt, who did press-ups after his storming win in the 200m.
“What a race, what a man,” said the man next to me, who was screaming his head off. We both were. He was from Estonia. It didn’t matter.
Nothing else did but the little man on the track with a Union flag, taking his lap of honour as Heroes by David Bowie played again, as it has so often for the British heroes of this British Games.
We have shown the world that we can laugh at ourselves, by opening the Olympics with the Queen appearing to jump out of a helicopter. We have shown that we can be welcoming and friendly, in our red and purple Games Maker uniforms. And we have shown ourselves that we can win.
There was such beautiful symbolism in the announcement that Farah had covered the last mile of the race in four minutes, as if it were his own tribute to Sir Roger Bannister.
Lord Coe said the win would define Farah as “probably the greatest athlete we have produced”.
Farah went to his wife, Tania, in the crowd, and now we marvelled at how she had managed not to have the twin girls she is expecting, in this atmosphere.
Tania herself was breathless with excitement: “I am so pleased for him. He deserves it. He’s worked so hard for this and I am really very proud of him.”
His children will grow up in a nation that is so very proud of their father – who dedicated his twin medals to his twin daughters. “Those two medals are for my two girls. They can have one each.”
Farah seemed in shock. His double gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m makes him the first British athlete to enter the pantheon of the world’s all-time greats of distance running.
“I’m just amazed. Two gold medals, who would have thought that? I am really excited,” he said.“It is unbelievable – I just want to thank everyone who has supported me, all my coaches from previous years and everyone who has been a part of my life.
“And I just want to thank my wife who is carrying twins. It’s been just a long journey of grafting and grafting but anything is possible.”
The spirit of that Olympics sometimes seems so far away now, but even now Sir Mo carries it in his person. So it ended in silver, who cares? Sir Mo is a winner, forever.
Photograph by Getty Images via The Sunday Telegraph original piece here. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9470078/London-2012-Olympics-crowd-rises-for-Mo-Farah-our-greatest-athlete-in-the-greatest-Games.html