LONDON -- When Christine Ohuruogu finished second in the womens 400-meter sprint on the Olympic Stadium track, her parents strolled 10 minutes from their house to watch her run. And 10 minutes back.
Ohuruogu, born and raised in Stratford, the revitalized hub of the London Games, even had time between races to pop round for a cup of tea with her mum.
Growing up, we didnt like Stratford very much, she said of one of East Londons poor neighborhoods. We never would have thought that some day something as huge as this would come here and change the area forever.
Seven years after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics, Ohuruogu is proud of Stratford and thankful that many of her friends and relatives were able to visit Olympic Park, which used to be a noxious dumping ground.
Its been a proving ground for British athletes, who started slowly two weeks ago but with two days left in the Olympics, have collected enough gold medals to rise to third in the tally, behind only China and the United States.
Theres no place like home for winning medals.
Its an Olympic truth, and Great Britain is affirming that the home-team advantage is significant.
Is it lasting? Not necessarily, but Great Britain is hoping that the $15 billion it spent to stage the Olympics was an investment that will inspire a generation.
As the Olympics roll toward the Closing Ceremonies finale, there is always talk of legacies economic, cultural, architectural and athletic. Great Britain, suffering from recession, unemployment, urban unrest, obesity and a general feeling that the country has lost its way, would love for the Olympics to serve as a springboard to confidence. Nothing brings on nationalistic chest-beating quite like the Olympic scoreboard.
The lords of the rings do have a grandiose vision of their Games. They may not deliver world peace and brotherhood, but they do deliver gold, silver and bronze for the host nation.
Great Britain, winner of 47 medals in 2008, is up to 57 and should hit the Summer Olympic average for improvement, which is 13 more than it won in the previous Games.
Going back to the 1956 Melbourne Games and excluding the boycotted 1980 and 1984 Games, every host nation has enjoyed a spike in medals. The one exception is the United States, which won seven fewer medals in 1996 than it had in 1992, but that had more to do with the splintering of the Soviet Union than the heat and chaos of Atlanta.
There are variations: China went from 63 medals in 2004 to 100 in 2008 and Greece only gained three medals from 2000 to 2004. But on average, the host advantage is 13, followed by an average decrease of seven four years later. The United States has won 94 medals in London with two days to go. China is in second place with 81 total and Russia is third with 63. The United States has 41 gold medals; China, 37; Great Britain, 25; and Russia, 15.
Even after the decrease, countries are still ahead of where they started, at least for a little while.
That residual gain is likely due to the continued benefit of infrastructure built for the Games, Ray Stefani writes, describing his statistical research in Significance magazine. Stefani, professor emeritus at Cal State-Long Beach, has studied home-team advantage in different sports. Also, many of those athletes enticed into competition by the Games remain in competition four years later.