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Revisiting the London Olympics

Aired December 24, 2012 - 16:30:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Becky Anderson, with a CONNECT THE WORLD special, where we are going to revisit what was one of the biggest stories of 2012: the London Olympic. I had the privilege of covering the games for CNN, helping bring excitement of this truly global event to the rest of the world. So, in the next half hour, we're going to bring you the highlights of that indelible journey, beginning with the torch relay, which ensured this nation was well and truly gripped with Olympic fever from day one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the rallying call to the athletes of the world to come to London.


ANDERSON: Well, the flame had to travel almost 13,000 kilometers to get to the Olympic stadium where seven young athletes had the final honor of lighting the cauldron at what was a spectacular opening ceremony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not every day you see the queen flying out of a helicopter, that's for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Followed by James Bond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! It's amazing! And let me tell you something, I'm so proud to be British. I feel it, you know, do you understand that, do you feel the energy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marvelous! Marvelous!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking forward to the next two weeks.


ANDERSON: The athletes soon took center stage, and the man who took the initial spotlight was, of course, Michael Phelps, as he became the most decorated Olympian of all time. I spoke to the American swimmer and his closest rival after they finished collecting their swag of medals.


ANDERSON: Is it really all over? So far as the pool is concerned?

MICHAEL PHELPS. MOST DECORATED OLYMPIAN: I'm done. That's my last race, and this is my last Olympics and -- I'm ready for the, you know, the next chapter in my life.

ANDERSON: So when your great friend Dora Torres tweets, "I'm betting Michael Phelps isn't done with swimming, anyone care to wager?" To which you fired back, "yes, I would love to."

PHELPS: Whatever she wants, whatever she wants to bet.

ANDERSON: How would you assess your performance here at London 2012?

PHELPS: I finished my career how I wanted to. Now, looking back, I can say I've done everything I've ever wanted to.

ANDERSON: If it really is all over, and I've got to believe you, because you keep telling me it is, what are you going to do next?

PHELPS: One of the biggest things is, you know, being able to work on my foundation more and my swim schools, and be able to see kids sort of, you know, build confidence and have goals, and have dreams, and eat healthy and, you know, make all these decisions that are going to affect their lives forever. Is this -- it's something that's really special for me, and I love being around kids, you know, it is a real true smile whenever you are around them, and this is just fun.

ANDERSON: Going to start a family any time soon?

PHELPS: I don't know. I've got to find - got to find a girlfriend first.

ANDERSON: Maybe you'll have time now.


ANDERSON: What would you be if you weren't a swimmer?

PHELPS: I always said it would be fun to be a golfer, a golfer or maybe a baseball player, a baseball player would be kind of fun. You've got to be good at it, though. And I wouldn't be very good at it.

ANDERSON: You are a bit of a perfectionist.



Do you think your Olympic record will ever be beaten?

PHELPS: All records are made to be broken.

ANDERSON: If you were to win gold in any other sport, what would it be?

PHELPS: Well, golf is coming to the Olympics. So. If I get good, maybe I'll compete.






ANDERSON: You were up against Michael Phelps, of course.


ANDERSON: You guys had the most remarkable Olympics. How would you describe that rivalry?

LOCHTE: It's definitely going to go down in history as one of the greatest rivalries in the sport of swimming, and I'm happy to be a part of it.

He is a great friend. I've been racing against him for eight years, and I'm definitely going to miss him. It's going to be a weird, going out to the blocks and racing and not having him there. It's definitely going to be weird, but what he has done for the sport of swimming, he's changed that.

ANDERSON: You are 28. You have a punishing schedule. Is Rio realistic for you?

LOCHTE: Yes. I set my long term goal back when I was 14 when I wanted to make the Olympic team. And I wanted to go to 2016 Olympics. So, you can see me in another four years.

ANDERSON: What's your target? What do you want?

LOCHTE: I mean, I -- more gold. I mean, who wouldn't?


ANDERSON: Two giant stars of the 2012 games there. And while the United States may have dominated in the pool, it wasn't long before the host nation hit back with some gold of its own. Stay with us, we're going to relive some of that glory after this.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. Now, you are watching a CONNECT THE WORLD special, as we look back at one of the biggest stories of the year -- the 2012 Olympics.

This may be CNN's London Studio, but during the games, we set up a special Olympics bureau overlooking this stadium in East London for two weeks. It was a hive of activity as we hosted our coverage from the site, including live interviews with some of the most prominent Olympians. So, before we hear from them, let's take you behind the scenes, shall we?


ANDERSON: (inaudible) four and a half minutes for my next live shot, so I've got to get makeup done (inaudible) and we're going to get into the live shot vision (ph) right in through in the (inaudible), which are (inaudible). Follow me.

You're hiding behind the door. This is Claire in makeup. Sixty seconds, Claire.

Right. (inaudible). We need a (inaudible). Welcome. Bedroom, bedroom. Plugging our (inaudible) work they (inaudible), eating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My favorite thing in life (inaudible), two favorite things.

ANDERSON: Fridge. Full.


ANDERSON: Some of the worst (inaudible) you can possibly imagine for the athletes.

Plastic cups (ph), (inaudible).

Two and a half weeks ago, this was somebody's living room, and it will be again in about four or five days time, but for the time being, at least, this is a fully working studio. This is our live shot position. And look at what we have behind us.

A day of highs and lows on the fifth day of the London Olympic Games. Host nation team GB finally winning gold. The first coming early on in the lake, in the women's pairs rowing.

Let's see those medals, then. They're heavy, aren't they?


ANDERSON: I think we're always amazed at how heavy they are. Has it sunk in yet?

GLOVER: It's still a little bit of a daze, to be honest. We've clearly had this very exciting whirlwind, doing these crazy things we never thought would happen to us. But we're loving every minute of it.

ANDERSON: What are crazy things that you thought would never happen to you? Like standing on the stage at Hyde Park last night in front of 17,000 people?




STANNING: -- the audience really shout for you is something I never thought I'd do.

ANDERSON: You were the first British athletes at the London Games to actually win a gold, so there must have been a lot of pressure on you, and with the roar of the crowd at the Eton Dorney lake, did you feel that pressure?

GLOVER: I think the fact that Great Britain hadn't won a gold, it was the elephant in the room leading up the race. Nobody mentioned it, you know, (inaudible) in the water being - haven't mentioned it, my coach hadn't mentioned it. And we went into the final, each individually knowing that there was no gold medal won so far. Then we crossed the line, and the crowds roared, we kind of felt, oh, yeah, that's the first gold.

ANDERSON: It was amazing. Heather, you must have known those mates out in Afghanistan were also watching. I know that they rallied (ph) almost immediately after the rowing, didn't they?

STANNING: They shot a video the night before to say good luck, and I was quite touched by that, because I know thousands of miles away from home, it's really nice that they can get involved a little way with the Olympic spirit, even though they are on tour. So it was fantastic, (inaudible).

ANDERSON: You've only been together as a pair two years ago. When did you know it clicked?

GLOVER: It clicked quite early on. We had raw speed, pretty scrappy, weren't very good --


GLOVER: So we managed to kind of somehow get down the track quite quickly.

ANDERSON: And do you get on, you know, do you go out?




GLOVER: Yeah, we get along. I think you have to get along if you are going to be in a boat with someone, you know, we have to share - it's not like we have to. We choose to--


ANDERSON: But now, you were telling me a little earlier on that you have gone into the athletes village from now there, because you have been obviously -- Dorney lake is an hour (ph) out of London. You're down here in the village going forward. That's going to be fun.

STANNING: Yes, it's going to be fantastic coming into the village. You know, we've been out at Dorney, kind of keeping a low profile, but looking forward to coming in here.

GLOVER: Yes, it's finally party time.



ANDERSON: The Aussie team is going to be as far as that medal haul is concerned and have had a bit of fun poked at them, certainly by the media. How does it feel in the camp?

SALLIE PEARSON, TWO-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: It's really amazing. We've come together as a really strong team, and it's really amazing, the friendships that you build with each other. We're like a little family, and it's really special. And I don't think anyone really feels in our team, especially, don't feel that we've done so badly, because we're all so proud of everyone. It's bloody hard to make an Olympic final, let alone get a medal. And I think it's really - I think it's quite odd saying that silver and bronze don't even get counted in the medal tally, because it just means - it feels like they're not worth anything, and they certainly are.

ANDERSON: Are you disappointed as a team about the response you're getting back home?

PEARSON: Personally, I'm disappointed because I think that - I mean, I won my silver in Beijing, and that was just the best thing for me, it was like winning a gold medal, and to put that on someone, saying that silver is not good enough, it's rubbish.



ANDERSON: First female Saudi athlete ever in track and field. This is quite an historic occasion. Do you feel the weight of history on your shoulders?

SARAH ATTAR, FIRST-TIME OLYMPIAN: You know, it is starting after I'm seeing the news buzz after my race, I am starting to realize that - but I don't think it's really hit me yet, but I, you know, just coming here, I knew that this was going to be a huge thing.

ANDERSON: And how important is it to you that as a Saudi, you are able to compete as a woman?

ATTAR: It was such a huge honor to be asked to come, and that we were allowed to participate this year. And I just think that it can be something amazing for women in Saudi Arabia, in that we can really, you know, push through.

ANDERSON: So what is your message to the girls back home?

ATTAR: I say to go for it and get involved and live your dreams, and you know, just don't let anyone hold you back.


ANDERSON: Well, we certainly saw plenty of history unfold here in London. We're going to have more on that legacy up next.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in London. We are looking back at one of the biggest stories of 2012. It was of course the Olympic Games, where records were broken here in London and legends were made. And for the first time, every nation competing had a woman on the team. The United States, in fact, had more women competitors than men. That too is a first. Well, here are some snippets from my interviews with a couple of America's golden girls.


ANDERSON: We are live on what is a beautiful Wednesday evening here at the Olympic Park, and in London it's been all about the ladies.

Horse guards parades between 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace, with a right royal audience last night as well, Prince Harry - did you hear him?

KERRY WALSH JENNINGS, THREE-TIME GOLD MEDALIST: No, I think he left before our match.


JENNINGS: He's a Lord, I think.

ANDERSON: When you're on the road or on the beach as it were, competing, what's the one thing you can't live without?

MISTY MAY-TREANOR, THREE-TIME GOLD MEDALIST: One thing or two things? Can I say two things?


MAY-TREANOR: One would be my Visa, because how am I supposed to pay for anything, right, you know?

JENNINGS: Like at home.

MAY-TREANOR: No, I don't want to - I want to win tournaments. And then two would be myself once I can keep in touch with family and the hubby, you know, family and friends.

JENNINGS: This one. I don't really get far without this one. She's an important piece of my puzzle. And my bikini. No one wants to see me without-

MAY-TREANOR: I'm sure they do.

JENNINGS: Yeah, probably not, but those are two essentials in my life.

MAY-TREANOR: We could build a stand for 30,000 people.

ANDERSON: Let me take you back to the semifinals. That semifinal was quite something, right? 120 minutes, plus plus. The Canadians pretty distraught about a couple of the decisions that were made through that match.

HEATHER O'REILLY, GOLD MEDALIST: I mean, that was one of the wildest soccer games I have ever seen. And to be part of that was, like, unbelievable. I mean, Megan Rapinoe probably had the game of her life, scored the goal of her life.

ANDERSON: This is the reason I was asking you about the semifinal, of course, gives you an opportunity to describe your own emotions. Go on.

MEGAN RAPINOE, GOLD MEDALIST: Yes. It probably was one of the best games I ever played, especially on a stage like that. Being in Old Trafford, obviously it's a knockout round against our bitter rivals, which I think that rivalry is - has become even more heated now. It was just unbelievable.

ANDERSON: Did you guys get a call from Obama?

O'REILLY: We got a message from him.

ANDERSON: What did he say?

O'REILLY: I don't know if it was via email. Just that they were watching and cheering and they were very proud of us.

ANDERSON: How did that feel?

O'REILLY: It's pretty good.

RAPINOE: I was hoping for a call on a personal cell, but--


RAPINOE: Anyway, he's got our number. So the connection must have just been bad or something.


ANDERSON: Two golds here, five Olympic career medals. Unbelievable. And has it sunk in?

SANYA RICHARDS ROSS, FOUR-TIME GOLD MEDALIST: It's starting to. You know, this has just been my ultimate dream come true, to finally win my first individual gold medal, here in beautiful London. It was just fantastic.

ANDERSON: The individual final was one thing, and then there was a 4 by 4 100-meter relay, where you brought home a knockout victory in front of what was a packed crowd in the stadium behind us. It was almost like a victory lap, wasn't it, by the time you got the baton.

ROSS: It was, and I definitely felt we were going to be closer matched. The Russians were fantastic, the Brits had a great team, so did the Jamaicans, but my teammates ran amazingly, and by the time I got the stick, I definitely felt like I was on a victory lap in front of a great crowd and a great way for us to close out the games.

ANDERSON: This was plugged as the women's games. There are more female athletes on the U.S. team than there are men. But more than that, we had the first, it was for the first time, female athletes from every country competing, in almost every event.

ROSS: It was really special, and what a great time to be a woman in sport. I was just so honored to be a part of this great history that took place here, to have a woman represented from every country, almost every sport. It bodes well for the future, and I hope that we inspire the next generation and they'll just keep pushing forward.

ANDERSON: History made again and again and again here. One of your teammates, Michael Phelps, who will go down now crowned in London as the greatest Olympian of all time.

ROSS: Wow. Wow. He's definitely been one of my heroes, and such a great inspiration. 22 Olympic medals, I mean.


ROSS: How impressive. And he is just a class act and really represents team USA well. So I hope - I heard he's retiring. I think he's going to come back. I don't believe the rumors.


ANDERSON: If there was one moment in London at these games for you, what would it be?

ROSS: Oh my gosh, there were so many moments. But I guess my personal favorite moment was David Rudisha in the men's 800. I mean, Usain Bolt was fantastic, we had Ryan Lochte, we had Gabby, but Rudisha for me in the men's 800, breaking a world record on this stage, is just incredible. He just runs with so much poise and heart, and he inspires me to just run freely. So that's my number one moment of these games.

ANDERSON: Wait a minute, you were born in Jamaica.

ROSS: Yes, yes.

ANDERSON: You know how important these games have been. I understand what you're saying about David, but how important will these games have been for Jamaica?

ROSS: Oh, they were phenomenal. To watch Usain Bolt come out here and do something that has never been done before, to defend the 100 and the 200 and now have four individual gold medals, as will as of course his relays and world records, it's just phenomenal. He leads the way. I mean, Shelly-Ann Fraser was fantastic on the women's side, Veronica Campbell. It just proves what great talent is in that tiny, tiny island.


ANDERSON: Well, the athletes were all very gracious with their time, I've got to say, during the Olympics, but so too my game's co-host, British Olympian Linford Christie. The former sprint star not only brought us an interview with Usain Bolt, but he was a hoot to have on the set. So before we wrap up this Olympic special, here are some of Linford's greatest moments.


LINFORD CHRISTIE: Quick fire round. Another gold medal or world record?

USAIN BOLT: Gold medal.

CHRISTIE: World record in 200 or the 100?

BOLT: 200 meters.

CHRISTIE: Not 100?

BOLT: No. Hell no.

CHRISTIE: If you had to name your ultimate Jamaican 4 by 1, past and present. Who?

BOLT: That's a hard one. But it's definitely going to be me, Blake, Asafa, Dan Quarrie.

CHRISTIE: And worst thing about being famous.

BOLT: All the interviews.


ANDERSON: Well, there have undoubtedly been some standout moments over the past two weeks. Sir Linford with me again. What stood out for you, mate?

CHRISTIE: Well, I mean, everyone will say Bolt, but David Rudisha, 800 meters, the way he ran it, the world record. In any other international arena, he would have been the highlight, but he was overshadowed by Bolt, so I am going to name, I am going to say the 800 meters, then.

ANDERSON: Good for you. David out there and he's (inaudible) Usain Bolt, we're all going to choose him as well, aren't we?

CHRISTIE: Definitely.

ANDERSON: He's a living legend as he leaves London.

CHRISTIE: Well, exactly, and he's telling us he's a living legend, and I think we are beginning to believe it.

ANDERSON: And it's got to be Phelps, isn't it, as well.

CHRISTIE: Yes, Phelps, he was tremendous, but you know, I, dare I even say it, I think, you know, the water buoyancy and everything else helps him. I think you know, you got to (inaudible) athletes, where it's just spikes (ph) and you.

ANDERSON: Asking you what sports you'd like to see in future Olympics, and we've had I think an overwhelming response. Sean Kagan (ph) from sunny California looking to catch some Olympic waves. He thinks surfing is an absolutely must in the future. I have got to say, I think that may be in going forward. And here is an event that the younger generation will absolutely dominate due to their texting skills, thumb wrestling. That suggestion was made by Alexander Quint (ph) from Germany. What do you think of that, Linford?

CHRISTIE: I think laughing. I think laughter should be an Olympic sport. And I think you - if they did, you'd be gold medalist. If you don't believe me, take a look at this.


ANDERSON: Gold medal.



ANDERSON: I told you he was a hoot. It was a truly great time for Linford and me, and truly great Olympic games. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. I'm Becky Anderson, and we look forward to doing it all over again in four years time in Rio.