For British athletes and spectators alike, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was an experience like no other.
It’s now ten years since Jess Ennis and Jonnie Peacock lit up the Olympic Stadium, Dame Katherine Grainger and Ellie Simmonds shone both on and in the water, and the likes of Laura Kenny, Hannah Cockroft, Nicola Adams and Lee Pearson made themselves household names.
For some, it changed careers and lives. All this summer, we’ll be asking British athletes – whether they competed in London or not – for their memories of the Games, and the impact that it’s had on them. Here, Laura Deas, who competed in equestrian events before joining Great Britain’s skeleton programme and winning winter Olympic bronze in 2018, shares her memories.
“I’ll forever remember the feeling of being swept down the streets of London along with the thousands of other Olympic fans. We were on our way to watch the dressage, and there was an indefinable buzz in the air as thousands of us approached the gates of Greenwich Park.
“Everyone was smiling, enjoying the anticipation of what we were about to see. ‘Games Makers’ ushered us in the right direction with humour and positivity, just a few of the 70,000 volunteers that were helping make the Games happen. This was my capital city, but as I’d never seen it before.
“The London 2012 Olympics was one of those rare events where it felt like everyone in the country came together, and for an aspiring Team GB athlete at the time, it was totally intoxicating.
“I was two years into my fast-track skeleton career, at that time aiming for the Sochi Games in 2014, and so to feel the warmth and excitement of the British people towards our athletes was incredibly inspiring.
“There were several moments during the Games where I thought to myself, whilst watching our athletes, that this could possibly be me one day. If I wasn’t inspired before those Games, I certainly was afterwards!
“I’ll never forget seeing Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro perform their gold medal-winning freestyle routine. It was a total masterpiece, the atmosphere was electric and there was a definite sense that history was being made in those few moments.
“The soundtrack included ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and the chimes of Big Ben, and it managed to capture perfectly the swell of patriotism and goodwill that had taken hold of us all.
“Going to watch the dressage at Greenwich felt like a meeting of my past and my future. I was watching some of my heroes of the equestrian world, some of whom I knew and had competed against, but it was a world I had also now left behind to pursue a chance of Olympic glory in skeleton.
“It felt like a farewell note from the sport which was my first love, packaged in inspiration and hope for my future.”