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Olympics: Being There – Athletics

After the Games had started Alan Fisher managed to get an Athletics ticket for an evening session in which both David Rudisha and Usain Bolt made history on the track at the Olympic Stadium on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympics.

Athletics, Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park

My first trip to the Olympic Park. Good timing for once – Thursday is the sunniest day of the summer. Everyone is so pleasant and helpful, everywhere you go. No customer care exercise this – transport staff as well as gamesmakers and paid security staff went out of their way to assist. I made the fatal mistake of looking confused for a microsecond. If they knew me they would not be unduly concerned as I spend much of the day appearing similarly bewildered, but three staff pounced to make sure all was well.

I could get used to this. Imagine, the lasting recollection of this once-in-three-generations opportunity is that people were nice to each other. TfL and the train companies now have a self-imposed legacy burden: they can make the transport system work under intense pressure but not when fewer people around. Public transport does work if it’s properly resourced. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Hockey

Women’s Hockey Semi-final, GB v Argentina, Riverbank Arena, Olympic Park

The line-up and order of play for the two women’s semi-finals were announced less than 48 hours before they were due to be played, resulting in more than a day’s worth of trying to swap tickets for a number of ticket holders. Eventually, on the day of the matches, tickets for the Netherlands semi-final with New Zealand were exchanged for seats at the Riverbank to see Team GB play Argentina in an evening match for a guaranteed medal and place in the final.

Plenty of anecdotal evidence, a rousing National Anthem in the packed stands and a vibrant display of colours showed more than a few people had successfully swapped tickets for the 8pm match on the blue pitch, played against a backdrop of the sun going down around the open temporary venue in the Olympic Park. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Basketball

Ahead of the Women’s Basketball Gold Medal Match tonight between USA and France, a look back on an evening session at the Olympic Park on Day 7 of The London 2012 Games, when Team GB stole the hearts of the crowd in a thrilling match.

Women’s Basketball, Preliminary Rounds, Basketball Arena, Olympic Park

If an aim of the Olympic Games is to introduce sports to a different audience, it succeeded emphatically with this writer on the first game of a double-header in the evening session on Day 7 of the Games. The women’s British Basketball team produced an excellent performance that captivated the crowd in an all-out-effort to win their first match at an Olympic Games, despite the efforts of organizers who tried to distract spectators with gimmicks from attempts at mass karaoke and needless interventions during tense technical time-outs.

Team GB, up against a physical and more experienced French side who will contest the final against the USA tonight, were every part the equal of their opponents in a pulsating game that was tight throughout and twice had decisive throws scored in the final seconds of first normal time and then extra-time. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Women’s Football Final

Mark Perryman was at the Women’s Football Gold Medal Match between the USA and Japan at Wembley last night and sees his experience as part of a shift in the London 2012 Olympics of British Sporting Culture away from a male dominated landscape.

A World record crowd for a Women’s Football match. Three more Team GB Golds all won by women athletes, one of which was the first ever Women’s boxing Gold. And all this yesterday, Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympics. For Team GB these Games have perhaps represented the single biggest counterpoint to the traditional masculine hegemony that to date has gripped British sporting culture.

And its not just in the ring, on the pitch or round the track. In the BBC TV studio Clare Balding has for most been the stand out presenter; in The Guardian  women sportswriters have enjoyed a prominence that was previously unheard of even in this paper. Marina Hyde, Anna Kessel and Emma John in particular. While prominent feminist columnists Zoe Williams and Suzanne Moore have contributed pieces echoing the approval of what the Games have come to represent.

All this less than a year after the notorious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award managed to fail to feature a single sportswoman on the shortlist. To do that this December would be simply unthinkable. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Beach Volleyball

Beach Volleyball, Preliminaries (Men and Women), Horse Guards Parade 

Away from the Olympic Park the idea to build a temporary venue at Horse Guards Parade for the Beach Volleyball has been inspired. The walk to the venue gives visitors the chance to see Buckingham Palace from the Mall and then when inside, from the open roofed stands, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are all visible from a seat in the Mall end.  As well as hosting a sport, Beach Volleyball at the 2012 Olympics is showcasing London, and adding value to ticket holders. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There–Synchronised Swimming

After his first London 2012 Olympic experience at the Dressage, Tom Bodell got his first visit to the Olympic Park to see Synchronised Swimming at the Aquatic Centre.

Going to the Olympic Games in my home country was always going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, at least that was what I kept telling myself when the first round of ballots returned tickets for the equestrian dressage and synchronised swimming. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Tennis (Rd 1)

Following Andy Murray’s Gold Medal yesterday, Joanne Sheppard reflects on her Olympic experience at Wimbledon, where she saw Murray start his campaign on Centre Court of Day 2 of London 2012.

Tennis, Wimbledon

Tennis used to be one of those sports that lots of people liked to mutter ‘shouldn’t be in the Olympics’. Naturally, now that Andy Murray has blown away the nation by winning gold, Britain’s opinion on this is likely to have changed – but it’s fair to say that since it was re-introduced to the games at Seoul in 1988, the Olympic tennis didn’t always enjoye the attention from the world’s elite players that it deserves. However, things have improved in recent years in terms of buy-in from top tennis stars, which is how I end up watching a day of first round Olympic tennis at Wimbledon that featured four top-five ranked players. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Tennis (Rd 3)

Tennis, Wimbledon

One of the numerous selling points of the bid many of us backed for London to host these Games was the existing iconic sporting venues in the Capital, with infrastructure already in place and a history and tradition the Olympic Movement would like to associate itself with. The Tennis at Wimbledon delivers all of that, as well as what seems to be the All England Club’s way of doing things.

Replicating the experience of getting to venues elsewhere in the Games the 20 minute walk, first uphill and then downhill, from Wimbledon Station, is well signposted, with volunteers frequently dotted along the route trying to engage with customers as well as perhaps keeping an eye on the gated houses they are standing outside in the final stretch to the venue; after the row of estate agents in the village advertising small properties for rent at £6k per calendar month it is a definitely a different part of London for visitors to see and an interesting contrast for those who may have also seen the estates in Sommers Town on the sign-posted route from Euston to St Pancras, if they were getting the Javelin to the Olympic Park.

Again, by following the timing advice, the queues at security are virtually non-existent, even though the soldiers at this venue seemed to be embarking on body searches after electric scanning. Once past that an early benefit of Wimbledon’s open complex gives us a chance to see Roger Federer, Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic all warm-up respectively on separate practice courts, within the space of minutes. A treat for fans, volunteers and soldiers, all of whom took the chance to watch and photograph some of the greatest players of the game at very close quarters. Federer, as he does in match-play, moved effortlessly around the baseline; Williams went through a stretching routine which showed an excellent muscle tone in tight fitting white training gear, before naturally timing strokes from the back of the court while automatically grunting each time. Continue reading…

GB Football: Quarter-Final

Tom Bodell, who has been looking at the GB Football’s men’s team since their reformation, reports on their Quarter-Final exit in an otherwise great day for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics today.

Whilst Team GB have eased into the men’s football tournament, gradually improving game-by-game, tonight’s quarter final clash with South Korea certainly bucked the trend as Team GB reverted to type and put in a stuttering display through 120 minutes before crashing out 5-4 on penalties. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Weightlifting

Long time Olympic fan Alan Fisher originally missed out on the tickets he wanted when the Games finally came to his hometown, but he went to the Weightlifting and shares his Olympics experience in the latest of the series from writers who have attended London 2012 events.

Weightlifting, Excel

Watching the Olympic Games on television is one of my earliest memories. A sports-crazy kid, I remember getting up early to watch ‘Good Morning Tokyo’ before school. Grainy black and white and David Coleman’s crackling commentary brought mystery and wonder, superhuman deeds from a faraway land. I can even sing the theme tune if you like.

Since then I’ve jogged along on the spot to the 10,000m, cultivated a southpaw stance to ultimately prevail in the battle against the sofa cushion, roared on anyone who happened to wear a British vest and whinged constantly at the inept commentators. Athletics has always been the blue riband – to this day I cannot say the phrase ‘Olympic champion’ without some hint of gravitas, just as Ron Pickering would do. In a world fast losing its sense of true value, it means something still. Continue reading…

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