Bale had been expected to be one of the stars of the side for Team GB after establishing himself as one of the brightest talents in world football over the past two years, and he happily modelled the Team GB football kit in the build-up to the Games.
He declared himself unavailable, however, for selection for Stuart Pearce's squad at the end of June due to a long-standing back injury, hitting the side's chances of winning a medal.
Yet Bale was fit enough to play for Tottenham, and even score a headed goal, in Spurs' 1-1 draw against David Beckham's LA Galaxy in California on Tuesday night - two days before the British team begin their Olympic effort against Senegal on Thursday.
Bale played for 74 minutes before being brought off - and Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas seemed unsurprised that the Welsh winger had been able to take part.
"He is of course extremely young and physically fit; a beast," said the Portuguese boss, who cautioned that he thought it was still early in Bale's recovery.
"You could say we took a risk because he was feeling a little bit of muscle tiredness but it was controllable and we just let him carry on.
"We just welcome his recovery, that is the most important thing for me, to have a player of his dimensions available."
The player himself refused to explain what was going on, or whether he regretted missing the Games, however: Bale refused to speak to media after the match, skipping straight past the press area to head back to the team hotel.
Bale could be banned for playing for Tottenham while the Olympics are on - but only if the Football Association lodges an official complaint, FIFA president Sepp Blatter revealed.
The FA and British Olympic Association have not commented on Bale's appearance, but Blatter said if there was an official complaint to FIFA then the 23-year-old could be banned for playing again for Spurs - even in friendlies - until August 12.
The world governing body would have to judge that the club had not released him - Spurs would argue Bale only returned to fitness this week.
Asked about Bale, Blatter said: "The principle is that if a club does not release a player then this association can come to FIFA and we will then ban this player during the duration of the Olympics.
"So far nobody came to FIFA to say we should, but it is a possibility we could ban these players if they are not at the disposal of the national team.
"They (the association) complain and then we say let this player go or he cannot play for the club.
"FIFA's position has never been so clear than it is now for the Olympics 2012 and 2016."
Blatter admitted that some countries such as Switzerland had not insisted on clubs releasing players but that all were entitled to.
The Team GB squad without Bale: