Saturday, August 14, 2004

Cycling: our first event and how it went!

Robin watches the cycling
Originally uploaded by athens2004blog.

Yes, as you'll guess from the picture, we're just back from watching our first ever Olympic event - which was the 224.4k cycling road race (which took about 6 hours).

We had a top time. A lap of the circuit around central Athens took the riders about 20 minutes, and we managed to find a spot where we could see all of them whizz past, then walk to the other end of a road and see them come past again about 7 minutes later. It's amazing how quickly they go and how - even though you only get those fleeting glimpses of them - you manage to get engrossed in the actual race. A Swede was out front for ages, but eventually, after several late leadership changes, it was won by Italian Paolo Bettini. We made it over to the finish in time to see him cross the line (having first wandered down past the Greek parliament building, where Robin posed for his picture).

We got some unexpected souvenirs too - one rider threw away his Athens 2004 water bottle and it landed at our feet, and another threw a little cloth bag used for carrying provisions (team's crews were handing them to their riders). The little bag still had his Apricot energy bar in it. I'm not sure whether to eat it or cherish it.

It was a great (and free) way to spend a day, a bit like cricket in that you can wander about, chat and enjoy the weather, only paying attention to the action every few minutes and then at the end. It all seemed very well organised too - and public transport was quick and easy.

Roll on the men's basketball tomorrow night. In our session, we're seeing Puerto Rico v USA and then Australia v Greece (who are extremely keen on basketball). Not surprisingly, it was one of the first basketball events to sell out the 8,000 capacity Helliniko Indoor Arena. Should be good.

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