Going for gold: Curtain comes up on 2012 Ryder Cup
The stage is now set for action after the Opening Ceremony brought the curtain up on The 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club…
The tone was primed from the outset by a sporting star of a different ilk.
Michael Phelps, 18 times an Olympic Gold Medallist, a man who has himself penned a plethora of glorious entries into the annuls of sport – not least in the recent London Games – voiced the introductory statement of the Opening Ceremony for The 2012 Ryder Cup on the eve of the latest chapter in this competition’s illustrious 85-year history.
At the sunset of a magnificent year in sport, the choice of Phelps as the opening orator seemed a fitting one as from Friday morning 24 athletes of a golfing variety prepare to take up arms in Illinois in the sport’s greatest team event.
Just as he did on Wednesday evening at the gala, film and music personality Justin Timberlake hosted the ceremony to a backdrop inspired by the imposing redbrick Medinah clubhouse, a shade matched in tone by the increasingly autumnal colours of the plentiful trees that pervade its sprawling property.
Timberlake read a poem as the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra played a rendition of Gustav Holst’s ‘I vow to thee my country’, while hordes of vocal crowds – of both US and European persuasions – took up any viewing position possible at the Chicago venue.
With the Samuel Ryder Trophy as centrepiece, Captains José María Olazábal and Davis Love III took to the stage with their teams to a stirring fanfare, the European side looking resplendent in light grey Canali jackets and dark trousers.
A Chicago soul troupe performed a version of the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’, as the countries of Europe prepare to do the very same to take on the United States – as they have done every two years since 1979, when Continental Europeans competed in The Ryder Cup for the first time.
Olazábal told the crowd in an impressive speech that his side "have every intention of taking [the cup] back home" with them and paid a moving tribute to his former partner Seve Ballesteros, who died in May last year following a long battle with a brain tumour.
"Of course I can't forget a great friend in the name of Seve Ballesteros," he said. "He was a special man. I believe Seve reflected the core of Ryder Cup values - no quitting and be prepared to chase any adversity.
"From him I learnt what true passion is all about. Seve, we miss you."
Davis Love III was equally elegant in his captain’s speech.
“Let’s remember these matches are not played for life and death,” he said. “This is no battle other than an athletic one.
“We will start as friends and we will end as them.”
After the pairings for the opening Foursomes Matches were announced the crowds dispersed but echoes of “Ollie” chants still resonated around Medinah as the light began to fade on Thursday, with flashes of European blue still prevalent in the form of numerous flags of the continent.
The burning question still remained, though, one that is set to be answered in thrilling fashion over the next 72 hours.
At the climax of a truly golden year, will it be the gold of the Star Spangled Banner that prevails or the brilliant-blue backed golden stars of Europe?
Let the games commence.