The highlights of first day of competition included swimmer Ryan Lochte’s victory in the 400m individual medley, where Michael Phelps was surprisingly edged out of the podium places, and Italy’s clean sweep of the medals in the women’s foil, which saw Valentina Vezzali collect her eighth Olympic medal.
Lochte surprises Phelps in the pool
At the Aquatics Centre, a thunderbolt struck the Olympic pool on the first day of the swimming, as Ryan Lochte defeated his compatriot, title holder and hot favourite Michael Phelps in the 400m individual medley. Phelps, who won an incredible eight gold medals in Beijing, found himself denied a place on the podium in the first of his title defences at London 2012, as Lochte touched the wall three seconds ahead of Brazil’s Thiago Pereira and Kosuke Hagino of Japan, who claimed silver and bronze respectively. Phelps had to settle for fourth, and his first defeat at the Olympic Games final since Athens 2004. Opportunities for him to increase his medal tally would come soon enough.
China off to a strong start
The Chinese team got their Games off to a flying start, with shooter Yi Siling leading the way with gold in the women’s 10m air rifle, and compatriot Dan Yu claiming bronze . Ye Shiwen followed suit in the pool, registering a new world record of 4:28.43 as she won the women’s 400m individual medley. Meanwhile, her fellow swimmer, Sun Yang took gold in the men’s 400m freestyle, this time setting a new Olympic record of 3:40.14. Back on dry land at the ExCeL, four-time world champion Mingjuan Wang lifted 91kg in the snatch and then 114kg in the clean and jerk to score a gold-medal winning combined total of 205kg in the women’s 48kg weightlifting.
Wheels, throws, blades and arrows
Going into London 2012, there were high hopes for Team GB’s cycling team, led by Bradley Wiggins, who was fresh from his victory in the Tour de France. Wiggins’ team-mate Mark Cavendish had been greatly fancied for the men’s road race, but it was won by Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished ahead of Colombian Rigoberto Uran Uran and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff. Meanwhile, the first gold medals in the judo competition went to Brazil's Sarah Menezes in the women’s extra lightweight (-48kg) category, and Russia’s Arsen Galstyan in the men’s -60kg. In the fencing, Italy scored an incredible treble in the women’s foil, as Elisa Di Francisca beat compatriot Arianna Errigo 12-11 in the final, while five-time Olympic champion Valentina Vezzali claimed the bronze by overcoming South Korea’s Nam Yun Hee 13-12 to ensure an all-Italian podium. Back in the pool, the Australian quartet of Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger set a new Olympic record in the women’s 4x100m relay, finishing in 3:33.15, to claim the gold ahead of the Netherlands and the USA. Meanwhile, across town, in the more serene setting of Lord’s Cricket Ground, Italy doubled their gold haul for the day, as their trio of Michele Frangilli, Marco Galiazzo and Mauro Nespoli defeated the USA in the final of the men’s team archery by the narrowest possible margin, 219-218, leaving the Republic of Korea to claim the bronze.
Popular passion and royal support
With the handball, basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball, boxing, rowing, gymnastics, badminton and table tennis tournaments all getting underway on Day 1, the atmosphere at the various London 2012 venues was electric as Olympic fever properly took a hold. In the tennis, which took place on the famous courts of Wimbledon, the world’s number one players, Roger Federer (SUI) and Serena Williams (USA) made successful starts to their singles campaigns under the gaze of the USA’s First Lady, Michelle Obama. Meanwhile, British monarch Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to Team GB at the Olympic Village, less than 24 hours after her surprise cameo appearance alongside James Bond at the Opening Ceremony.