Roger Bannister, now 83, returned to the London track last week where he broke the four-minute-mile barrier 58 years ago in a legnedary track-and-field performance. In 2012, he carried the Olympic torch symbolically across the finish line, holding the torch to the cheers of hundreds of spectators.
"In a way, I'm back in the sport that I belong to," he said. "I spent 10 years training before I broke the 4-minute mile,” according to Sports Illustrated.
Bannister was one of many who carried the torch on its 8,000 mile journey across Britain for four weeks to its final destination tonight, as the countdown continues when the Olympic Torch arrives in London in a dramatic way.
Tonight , a Royal Marine, will be rappelling from a helicopter with the Olympic Torch in hand. He will be descending the stone walls of the historically infamous Tower of London culminating months of preparation for the momentous event in the British capital. The last time the Olympics was held in London was 1948, after a 12 year hiatus due to World War II. Ironically, the 1948 Olympiad was called the “Austerity Games” due to the economic crisis after WW II.
The games this year will be opening amid sweeping austerity measures introduced by the 2010 new coalition government led by the center-right Conservative Party. The reductions are considered the “longest and deepest,” particularly to public services spending since World War II, according to a Huffington report, which is part of a series on global austerity. Still, the Brits are excited about the games and are not letting the economic crisis affect the overall atmosphere of festival and inspiration.
Kate Fox, the author of Watching the English, described the celebratory atmosphere in an ESPN article: “Both the [Queen’s] Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics are like carnivals or tribal festivals. We behave in ways we wouldn’t normally behave—dancing in the streets and waving flags and shouting and cheering and indulging in other wildly uninhibited acts, such as maybe talking to strangers.”
In the tradition of British gardens and commemorating with trees, 40 "Coubertin Oaks" trees are being planted at venues around Britain. The trees will be grown from acorns taken from an oak planted in 1890 as the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, visited the Wenlock Olympic Games that year. “Inspire a Generation” is the slogan for this year’s Olympics.
The story is told that Coubertin was so impressed by Dr. William Penny Brookes organization of the games that he made those ideals the basis for international sporting competition and the beginning of the modern Olympic Games.
This year’s Olympic mascot’s name is “Wenlock” in recognition of the 1890 event in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, which is considered by many as the birthplace of the modern Olympics.
The stars of this Olympiad are yet to be born, as 10,500 athletes from 205 nations will be competing. It is forecasted that 4 billion people around the globe will watch and follow their favorite events on television.
Live streaming of the Olympics begins on NBC and affiliates July 25 here.