LONDON – Music legend Paul McCartney became Great Britain's lucky charm and set the tone for a host nation gold rush on the eighth day of the Olympic Games.
McCartney saw four of the six British gold medals Saturday, turning up at the Velodrome and the Olympic Stadium, and leading capacity crowds in mass sing-alongs to Beatles songs at both venues.
After golden girl Jessica Ennis clinched victory in the heptathlon, 80,000 fans joined McCartney in belting out the lyrics to "All You Need Is Love," a mass outpouring of joy and emotion aimed toward the female athlete who has become the face of the Games for the home audience.
Earlier, McCartney was on hand at the cycling track, as the Great Britain women's pursuit team broke the world record to continue a charge that would put the Brits third in the medal table by the end of the day. That time, the song of choice was "Hey Jude," and the entire arena gave a stirring, if tonally imperfect rendition, while McCartney waved his arms in jubilation.
"It was the most incredible feeling," Ennis said. "When you hear an entire stadium of people from your own country singing and celebrating like that, it is unbelievably special."
This was the day they called Super Saturday in London, right from the first moment when the schedule was announced all those months ago. It was the day the nation awaited breathlessly, daring to dream of a glut of gold led by the young woman who is the most popular British Olympian.
When it finally came, it was better than even the most optimistic Brits (yes, such folks do exist) could have hoped for.
[ Photos: Paul McCartney is good luck for Team GB ]
Ennis's victory in the heptathlon was the gold medal that this host nation truly craved, and when it duly came, joined by victories for Mo Farah in the 10,000 meters and Greg Rutherford in the long jump on a dramatic night at the Olympic Stadium, the country celebrated like it was a royal wedding, a Queen's jubilee, and a white Christmas all rolled into one.
Ennis led the golden assault with the style, grace and tenacity that has made her the most popular athlete in Britain right now. Just don't tell David Beckham. Going into the last of the seven legs of the multidiscipline event, she needed only to avoid defeat in the 800 meters by 13.5 seconds to come away victorious.
Instead, she signed off like a champion should, charging from behind on the final straight to win the race and spark mass celebrations around the country.
Americans are used to Olympic success on a scale that borders on greed, but this is a new phenomenon for Great Britain. Predictions of a fourth-place finish on the medal table and 19 golds appeared overblown after the first couple of days. Now that might be a severe underestimation.
With a week remaining at London 2012 the Brits have 14 golds already, and sit comfortably in third behind the U.S. and China. For a nation of 58 million people, and more significantly, years of sporting failure behind them, it is an astonishing reversal.
Everywhere you turned on this night there was drama, and somehow, some way, the hosts were the ones making it stick. Forget the British stereotype of themselves as plucky, magnanimous grinders who would bust a gut for a fourth-place finish then shrug their shoulders. The current crop is made of sterner, and more talented, stuff.
Farah had to hold off a living legend to win the 25-lap lung-buster, taking the sap out of defending champion Kenenisa Bekele's legs and sprinting down to final straight to hold off American training partner Galen Rupp.
He celebrated joyously, dancing on the track with his young daughter and hugging his wife – eight months pregnant with twins – while 80,000 roared their approval.
"I came here as a young boy from Somalia when I was eight years old," Farah said. "This is my home, where I grew up, in London. To win Olympic gold where you grew up and went to school and got a start in life means so much to me. When I crossed the line I just couldn't believe it. I was like 'what, did I really just finish first?'
[ Photos: Opening Ceremony of the London Games ]
"The support was unbelievable. It is the best moment of my life. If it wasn't for the crowd and support, I don't think it would have happened."
Then there was Robertson, the most unexpected of three, who survived troublesome windy conditions to record a fourth jump of 8.31 meters, comfortably ahead of silver medalist Mitchell Watt of Australia. It didn't have quite the same drama, all Robertson's rivals faltered and meant his final jump was a mere formality, but it all added to the gold rush on a day in which no other nation performed better.
It all began in the morning, when Great Britain's men's coxless four and women's double scull rowing teams prevailed at Eton Dorney. Fourteen hours later, the British flags were still waving and "God Save the Queen" joined those Beatles hits to create a swell of national pride unprecedented in recent memory.
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- Paul McCartney
- Jessica Ennis
- Great Britain