Women athletes obtained the first successes for Spain, which had a sluggish start to the Olympic Games, and it was the female half of the team which ended up collecting the larger number of medals (11 to 6, compared to men). It was also the courage and stamina shown by many of them — together with the basketball players in their heroic battle against the United States — that have made the biggest impact on the Games that closed on Sunday in London.
The number of medals obtained, one less than in Beijing and more or less the same as those won in Athens and Atlanta, might serve as an excuse to put off a necessary reflection on the future. But excepting swimmer Mireia Belmonte’s two silvers, Spain was largely an irrelevance in the frontline Olympic events, notably track & field and swimming; and the majority of its harvest of medals proceed from minority disciplines, where it has made a heavy impact this time, such as taekwondo and canoeing.
The failure of the soccer team was a resounding one, and the results of our tennis players rather poor. But the natural style and winning spirit of our female sports figures, almost all of them unknown prior to the Olympics, create a disturbing contrast with the disappointing results obtained by male figures who are the darlings of the media and the general public.
It was, then, the warrior women of Iberia — in the first Games in which even countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar sent female representatives — who have brought back to Spain the great numbers of triumphs, though they have enjoyed far less official support than that which is usually afforded to men. And we should point once again to the successes in sailing, synchronized swimming, water polo and handball (that heroic bronze) which are seldom on the must-watch list of Olympic viewers.
The London Games, meanwhile, once again highlighted the grandeur of certain figures who already demonstrated their excellence in Beijing, such as Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and the members of the prodigious Dream Team — which on Sunday defeated the squad assembled and led by Pau Gasol — as well as confirming the upsurge of the Chinese in Olympic sports. The success of the British must be interpreted with caution following the general rule that is proved by statistics: host countries always obtain more medals than they would achieve in Games held elsewhere.
What cannot be stinted is praise for the organizers. In comparison with the megalomania and pursuit of international impact all too apparent in Beijing, London opted for a balanced pragmatism, employing the public itself as the essential driving force of the Games. This overall impression of moderation is corroborated by the nature of the physical installations involved, many of them being recyclable and respectful of the environment — resulting in an all-round success.