Introducing "Olympics Musings"

I’m freshly back from attending eight separate events at London 2012 in the Olympic park and in four venues outside it. Now, exhausted but very happy, I thought I would set out a few Olympics musings prompted by this terrific experience. I’ll have a go at structuring this, in several installments over a few blog entries, but expect me to drift into stream of consciousness mode at the drop of a hat.

As an intro, here are a few plain facts.

Four of us went: Richard, our seven and eleven year old daughters Emma and Sophie and I (I am a true pedant and see no reason to write “myself” which has crept into common usage in place of “I”).

We applied for tickets via the lottery organised about 18 months ago, obtained 12 sets of tickets, attended 8 (the other 4 went to happy homes, we are NOT responsible for any empty seats, of which we saw very few anyway, OK?)

Richard and I have been to Sydney 2000 and attended a roughly equal number of similar events – an excellent point of comparison (and Aussies don’t despair just yet, two extra gold yesterday, a few days left…)

And now for the important stuff, please countdown with the compere, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ARE YOU REA-DY, THEEEESE ARE THE EVENTS WE SAW, cue music “We will rock you”.

Day Six 

Four quarter finals men’s badminton doubles at Wembley, including China v China, which turned out to be a master class demonstration match. Denmark, the only non-Asian side in the quarter finals won over Taipei. There were two courts, so two matches going on at once, I enjoyed that!

Two men’s volleyball preliminary matches at Earl’s Court, with Poland v Argentina by far the most partisan we witnessed, I’d say, even including one of the three things we saw involving team GB (basketball).

Day Seven

This was a no live games action day for us and the day France and GB exchanged places in the medals table in the morning a couple of times, before France settled at 5 for a few days (no longer there, sniff) and GB overtook France.

Day Eight

Equestrian jumping preliminaries at Greenwich. 75 toffs on horses, as Richard put it (but the only Royal competing was a Saudi prince, not a HRH Z – this time round – or A – years ago) jumping a dozen wonderfully kitsch fences, designed by someone whose name was repeated loads of times, but that I still have managed to forget.

It was also, of course, the gold rush of Super Saturday, with GB rocketing up to third place in the medals table after a fabulous evening of athletics.

Day Nine 

Two qualifier matches for women’s handball in the Copper Box at the Olympic Park. We missed the first half of Sweden v Korea, because we were enjoying a tour of the Associated Press media centre thanks to dear Aussie friend Ian Cohen, who happens to be a Channel Ten senior sports journalist, and is covering the Olympics, having had no chance to catch his breath after the Tour de France. Then screamed for then sighed over Angola v Brazil. The girls went down fighting, anyway, and seemed to enjoy the crowd support.

Synchronized swimming preliminary technical routine duets at the Aquatics Centre. Still reeling from the shock of hearing Johnny (Halliday for those non French people I have to explain basics like that to)’s wonderfully cheesy rock ballad tones floating over the Greek girls. And, sorry, French folks, I have no idea which song it was.

Two quarter finals of women’s beach volleyball at horse guards parade that evening, well, at 10pm. Both the teams we supported, Germany and the Czech Republic (a nice Czech deputy Chef de Mission who was a bit hesitant in the Tube gave the girls pin badges – we’re easily bought ), lost and the fact that legs or arms were bared or covered had no incidence on the score. I am pleased to assure you that this is now a scientifically proven, indeed evidence based fact.

Day Ten

Women’s hockey prelims at the Riverbank Arena. An average score of 3.5 goals per game, where the Kiwis achieved a goalless draw against Germany, allowing them to get through to the next stage, and the US getting wiped out by South Africa, who knocked 7 in. Do the maths for USA’s score…

And my own personal highlight: these weren’t the most expensive tickets (beach volleyball quarter finals were) but we got to see our two teams play in men’s basket ball, and they weren’t playing each other, how jammy is that? It was a real bum that we had to leave GB v China at half time to make our Eurostar, but I’m so glad it was that match we had to sacrifice, with GB already well and truly trouncing the Chinese giants (in stature, I mean, even if they’re a pretty good side anyway) on the court already, rather than France who kept a timid lead against an on-form Nigerian team.

Sophie had been an enthusiastic participant throughout the games we saw. This match was the one where Emma came down from her I-don’t-do-flags-and-stuff stance and really got stuck in. Richard, WHY didn’t you tell me France were already through to the next stage, and spared me a couple of grey hairs? Got to tick off a young bloke next to me for booing a French free throw to put the player off, though. Told him he was more than welcome to support Nigeria (I would have, except against France or GB!) but it just wasn’t cricket to boo. He looked a bit terrified, and stopped booing! I keep forgetting I’m middle aged…

OK, well I was hoping to tackle some of the topics I wanted to address, like silly rights issues, money money money, the organisation, oh, and sport, stuff like that, but I’m already feeling winded and I guess you might be too. So here’s just a little bit of miscellany in lieu of cliffhanger.

The little things – Fancy dress

What IS it with the British and dressing up?  Foreigners are both perplexed and amused by this (as with many things British, I have to say) and I for one don’t know why this is a peculiarly British trait. From Morris dancers to French maids outfits (hell, what I am talking about, something as passé as a French maid outfit? Chelsea strips for aging politicians at parties with Berlusconi and Mosley, more like), from runners dressed up as vegetables for charity fundraising to a man in drag jumping out of a plane in the middle of the opening ceremony, from Lords shuffling about in daft Order of the Garter gear to the still omnipresent grey-skirt-or-trousers-with-school-approved-top-and-tie dutifully worn by schoolchildren, the nation has a very rich tradition of dressing up. Faintly disquieting to my mind, but hey, plenty of skeletons in the French closet too. Each to their own and all that.

Anyway, fancy dress has a natural, welcome and very entertaining place during the Olympics. My gold medal goes to the team of Wallys (as in “Where’s Wally?”) at the beach volleyball, the silver to the horseguards (I think that’s what they were, alternative suggestions on a postcard, please) at the equestrian jumping, and bronze to the guy in the Poland match with his home made eagle’s wings. The only reason he gets bronze is my soft heart. As a very probably non-British person, he should be disqualified, but then that’s the problem with these judging based events…

All photos: Richard Wilkinson, except the Wallys (I took that one)

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