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JournalNotes & Thoughts

London 2012 Olympics

Pete Orme

For me, like a lot of other people, the London Olympics were amazing. I’m a huge fan of sport and to have such a spectacular and varied event taking place on my own doorstep was a dream come true. Along with friends, I went through the ticket ballot process like millions of others and somehow successfully emerged with tickets to eight events. I’ve just returned from two weeks holiday. That was plenty of time to enjoy my events and fill the gaps with the BBC’s excellent Olympic coverage littered across 24 interactive channels.

On the first Saturday of the games it was all about the Men’s Cycling Road Race and the hope that Team GB members would pick up where they left off in the Tour de France and deliver Mark Cavendish safely across the line in first place. I watched them leave London over Richmond Bridge at a relatively sedentary pace and return some four hours later through Richmond Park going hell for leather. Unbelievable speed. Sadly Team GB were marked men and some slightly poor tactics, given the route, left them wanting.

On the Sunday I went to see the first group of qualifying for the Women’s Gymnastics. Sat in ‘Row Z’ of the North Greenwich Arena it was difficult to tell one gymnast from another but, nevertheless, the tumbling, vaulting, swinging, flipping and dismounting was mightily impressive. The arena itself looked incredible and, being the first venue I had visited, Olympic fever really started to kick in.

Gymnastics at The North Greenwich Arena

The first Monday was a double header. Beach Volleyball in the morning followed by Men’s 62kg Weightlifting in the evening. The Beach Volleyball Arena at Horse Guards Parade was, as most people are probably now aware, awesome. It was a fantastically sunny morning and the Mexican wave’s and beers were flowing right from the off. I very rarely, if at all, drink in the AM so simply wound my watch forward to midday to offset any feelings of guilt.

One mid-afternoon hangover and brief deckchair snooze in Green Park later and it was time for Weightlifting at the ExCel. Impressive sight watching these small chaps lift the best part of three times their own body weight. The crowds responded well to lifters encouraging their involvement. The Colombian lifter, Oscar Albeiro Figueroa Mosquera, who ultimately won silver, became their favourite.

Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade

Thursday was another double header, this time Rowing followed by Boxing with an interim trip to the big screens in Hyde Park. It was a grey and windy morning at Eton Dorney Lake where our Men’s 4- rowed safely into the final and our Lightweight Men’s 4- won silver by the smallest of margins. It was an incredible race.

Hyde Park was bathed in sunshine in the afternoon, the Track Cycling started and the world records tumbled. Sadly Queen Victoria was relegated early on which caused delays to the program but the Team Sprint chaps were on top form. When the Hyde Park organisers pulled the plug on the giant screen just before their gold medal race to introduce some indie band or the like, the crowd were not happy. Two minutes of loud booing and the organisers tuned back in just in time to see Team GB take gold.

The boxing was a strange one. Amateur boxing can be subject to some erratic scoring. Three judges in five would score a round significantly in favour of one boxer while two would do the exact opposite. That made it increasingly hard to sense who was actually on top in a fight. The crowds were bubbling however and that was my first experience of live boxing.

The second Wednesday was simply amazing. It was the only opportunity I had to enter the Olympic Park where I had tickets for the evening Athletics session as well the Men’s Handball Quarter-final between Tunisia and Croatia.

The atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. I was seated 20 rows back, near the start of the 110m hurdles, in line with the first hurdle. Events that night included Men’s 200m Semi-finals, Women’s 400m Hurdles Final, Men’s 110m Hurdles Final, Women’s Long Jump Final and a couple of events in the Men’s Decathlon. The crowd showed huge support each time a Team GB athlete was introduced but the noise they made as Usain Bolt walked onto the track was spine-tinglingly loud.

The Handball had a lot to live up to but didn’t disappoint. I’ve never seen it before but it was fast and furious and there seemed to be lots of knowledgeable folk around to enlighten me to the rules as required. Tunisia apparently played a ‘dirty defence’ game but it wasn’t enough to stop Croatia progressing to the semi’s. There was a real party atmosphere in the Basketball Arena that night and the noise at times was immense.

Handball Arena at London 2012 Olympics

The last event I went to see was Freestyle Wrestling. Not something I had seen before and some of the rules were interesting to say the least. For example, if a two minute round finishes 0-0 then a predetermined fighter from either the blue or red corner gets to dip his hand into a little black bag and choose one of four eggs. Yes, eggs. Two of the eggs contain a red ball and the other two, blue. The referee unscrews the chosen egg to reveal the ball and the wrestler in the matching coloured corner then gets a free leg attack on their opponent, which they are not allowed to resist, and has 30 seconds to dump them on their back. I’ve lost myself again. Despite the confusion throughout the atmosphere was amazing and there were some very passionate supporters in town, not least the Georgians.

Outside the London 2012 Athletics Stadium

Watching the closing ceremony on Sunday I was sad to see things draw to a close and the flame extinguished. Seeing Boris Johnson dancing made it all worthwhile however. I lie. The stand out performance for me has to be Mo Farah. Winning his first gold in the 10,000m had already made him the face of the games in my opinion and to go and win the 5,000m gold as well makes him one of the greatest olympians in history. The stand out venue, unsurprisingly, is the athletic stadium.

London 2012 Velodrome

I feel privileged to have seen so many live events and random sports over the past two weeks. I would have loved to have had tickets to the velodrome and Aquatics Centre too but that would be getting a little greedy. I can’t help but feel hugely proud of Team GB and a little bit inspired too. Very good indeed.

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