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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…

Olympics: Being There – Equestrian Dressage

Tom Bodell was at the Dressage on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Equestrian, Greenwich Park

When tickets for London 2012 were finally confirmed in 2011, I wasn’t overly excited at the prospect of watching equestrian dressage. First and foremost, I didn’t have the faintest idea what dressage was actually meant to be. As I sit down this evening having returned from Greenwich, I can safely say I have a much better idea of what dressage is comprised of, and, to my great surprise, found it to be extremely good viewing live. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Road Cycling

Continuing the experiences of contributors of The Substantive at the Games, Mark Perryman writes about his day at the Time Trials as Bradley Wiggins won Great Britain a Gold on the Road at the London 2012 Olympics.

Time Trials, Hampton Court Palace

No expensive and hard-to-come-by ticket required. A front row seat guaranteed. Precious little commercialisation, bring your own barbecue. And a Gold Medal performance. Wednesday’s Cycling Time Trial had all the components of the better Olympics I have made the case for in my book Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us And How They Can Be. Continue reading…

GB Football: Qualification

Tom Bodell continues to chart the progress of the reformed Men’s Great British Football Team, as a victory over Uruguay ensures qualification from the Group Stages at London 2012.

The legendary England manager Sir Alf Ramsey once labelled the Uruguay national side as ‘animals’, on tonight’s showing the World Cup winner’s sentiments are still prevalent 46 years later.

In an encounter between what should have been the two best teams in Group A of the men’s Olympic football, the antics of the South Americans spoiled a game which, on paper, was rightly billed as a crucial clash in the group. In actuality it was a fairly tepid affair, lit up only by the tempestuous nature of Luis Suarez and his band of chums. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Swimming

Swimming Heats, Aquatic Centre, Olympic Park

While week two in the Olympics is traditionally dominated by Track and Field, the first week’s blue ribbon event has long been the Swimming, a sport which has featured in every modern Games. In the eighties, while Daley Thompson and Sebastian Coe were headline news in week two, it was the start of the games at the pool, with a quick turnaround between races and a consistent intensity in competition, that captured the imagination. It dominated the schedules as well, replacing Why Don’t You?, Heidi and even Test Match Cricket from BBC1, and that prominent place of Olympic Swimming in the British consciousness was evident in a packed Aquatic Centre for a short session of heats on the morning of Day 4, London 2012. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Water Polo

Continuing The Substantive series of dispatches on the London 2012 Olympics from writers at The Games, Mark Perryman shares his experience from attending the Water Polo on Day 3.

Water Polo, Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park

Over the past few days I’ve lost count of the number of politicians decrying critics of the Olympics. Labour’s newly appointed ‘Olympic Legacy Adviser’ Tony Blair has returned to one of his favourite themes, declaring war on cynicism. Boris Johnson joins the chorus of boasts that the Games proves London to be the world’s greatest city. And in the press Jonathan Freedland has been amongst those demanding that enthusiasm for the Games must trump any tendency towards critique.

What none of these, and plenty of others, appear capable of recognising is that it is perfectly possible to be both a fan of the Olympics and a critic. When I passed through the Olympic Park turnstiles  I was both looking forward to the event we had tickets to see but also entirely aware of the limitations of the Games model as insisted upon by the IOC and dutifully followed by Seb Coe and LOCOG. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Men’s Football

Senegal v Uruguay and GB v UAE at Wembley, Sunday 29 July 2012

Despite the minor mishaps, London 2012 has started well. There were none of the major problems in delivery past Host Cities have faced, with the issue of calling in the public services to bail out G4S typical of wider issues than those related to the Games. For over a week before the official opening the anticipation has been noticeable on commuter trains in and out of London, a dominant form of conversation between strangers who usually would otherwise be looking down at their phones. Likewise the Torch Relay’s journey through all 33 London Boroughs brought people and communities together both in deprived areas as well as at parties and in one-off events.

On a train out of London the night of the Opening Ceremony children from North Wales were excitedly talking about how they had met Athletes where they were “Guards of Honour”, an early example of Legacy and a reminder how sport can instantly inspire. It was a Ceremony that instilled pride in Britain and a great start to the Games, with the large TV audience answering cynics who cited apathy towards the cultural festival that the United Kingdom is lucky enough to have for two weeks.

On the first full day of action BBC’s new 24 channels quickly became sporting fan’s delight, a selection box with numerous sports attracting attention. In fact after Day 1 the only big disappointment were the empty seats at venues where demand was high and millions of applicants had previously been unsuccessful. There were few empty seats in Wembley Stadium by the time the Great Britain’s men football team kicked-off the second game of a double bill last night, with most of the vacant places caused by those still queuing for food and drink as the only debit card accepted for payment was no longer accepted for payment, as basic technology failed. Continue reading…



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