Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top times at the table tennis

My Olympic adventures continued today with the women's table tennis semi finals at the Excel centre. Table tennis was actually one of the few sports we wanted to see in Athens but didn't manage to (I used to play league table tennis as a lad), so it was a treat to have tickets to a couple of important matches like this.

The first match - between Ding Ning from China (the World Number 1) and Singapore's Feng Tianwei was an absolute belter. Ding Ning won the first two games easily and it looked like the match would be over in no time. But then Feng - cheered on by most of a packed crowd - embarked on an amazing and unlikely comeback. Ding Ning still won eventually - 4 games to 2 - but there was some incredible table tennis played. If you're reading this in the UK within seven days of me posting, do check out the astonishing rally at 45m 15s on the iPlayer here. Just incredible.

The second match, between Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa and China's Li Xiaoxia never quite hit those heights, but it was still a genuine thrill to be there. Wasn't sure how much of spectator sport table tennis would be - but I'd love to see more of that quality again. There was a great atmosphere in there again today too. London is really taking to these Games.

Actually, it's great to see how the Olympics being in London is making so many people in the UK discover that football isn't the only worthwhile spectator sport. I've seen people raving about beach volley, water polo and handball, among others. I'm hoping that one legacy of these Games was that sports like that get more of a look-in with mainstream TV coverage.

Anyway, best get to bed - got to be up in about 6 hours to head to the archery at Lord's. Again, can't wait.

Robin and the BBC studio

Here's Robin in front of the BBC's Olympic Park studio yesterday. Given the snide criticism the Beeb get from the media (particularly the Daily Mail) about the costs of their coverage of big events like this, it's been a very canny move to stick the studios on top of some shipping containers. It screams "frugal" and "every expense spared". (And we heard several people at the Park mention their budget-conscious choice.) Yet it actually does the job rather well.

Btw, the BBC coverage so far - give or take the odd difficulty with the cycling road race - has been great too.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Re tickets

Now, I keep reading / hearing people saying how upset they are about the empty seats at the Games, because they couldn't get tickets to anything. But tickets were available. At good prices. You really just had to keep trying. (That said, of course, the empty seats are still annoying.)

Hoop dreams at our first event

Click any of the photos to see them bigger (they didn't do that on Blogger in 2004...)
So, eight years after I signed off my Athens Olympic odyssey with the men's handball final (*love* handball), my London2012 adventure began at 9am at the Basketball Arena, for a women's basketball double header (China vs Croatia and Turkey vs Czech Republic).

Despite all the pre-Games hoopla about possible transport issues, getting there was straightforward enough. Tube from a mate's at Seven Sisters to Highbury and Islington was fine, as was the train from Highbury and Islington to Stratford. Then after a five minute queue, we were through security and into the Olympic Park.

Here we are, heading in, with the stadium in the background. Now, obviously the only Olympic Park I have to compare London to is Athens, and I was a little surprised by how simple and un-flashy the London site is by comparison. There's a big viewing tower, which is quite a sight, but they're using that to make money (you have to pay to go up) and there are none of the big architectural statements like this amazing walkway which Athens had - which was, like the entire site, paved with marble (long since ripped up).

What the London site does have is amazing green spaces, which we took a shortcut through on the way back to the station after the basketball. Actually, even with the shortcut it was a good 20 minute walk. It's a huge site.

And so to the basketball itself, which was a lot of fun. The Chinese won their game easily, and we stayed for half of the Turkey vs Czech match, which ended up being much closer than it looked at the point where we headed home (our five-year-was shattered by then - not something we had to worry about in Athens).

As was often the case in 2004, some of the most entertaining things happened between the sporting moments - with dance troupes, and an affable US announcer who had people on the big screen kissing the person next to them or pretending to play bongos. All of which made for a lovely atmosphere in a very busy arena (the only empty bits were the athletes/official seats - which, of course, were also the best seats).

Really fun day. Now looking forward to the table tennis semi final at the Excel tomorrow.

(Btw, as I haven't updated this blog in *such* a long time, I'm well aware that very few people will read this. But it's been so nice to be able to read back over all those old August 2004 posts - unearthing so many forgotten memories and details - that I thought I'd bang these quick updates up after every event, just so that I've got them to look back on too. But if you have stumbled upon this somehow, it's nice to have you along.)

An impressive box office

So, last night I popped along to Wembley Stadium to pick up our various tickets from the box office. The tubes were quiet, as was the walk down Wembley Way. Inside the stadium, 80,000 (also very quiet) people were watching the Team GB football team beat UAE. Outside, a few of us had turned up to the Box Office, to collect the tickets we'd booked online.

It all went very smoothly, apart from the fact that the Box Office had run out of the free travel cards you get with tickets, for a couple of specific days (including today). Given that these cards are worth a few quid, people were a little miffed not to be getting them. And the staff didn't really seem to have a clue what to do, which was a little disappointing.

After a little protestation, I managed to get one of them to write a little note for me saying which Travelcards I didn't have. Then was able to get some of them from next door at Wembley Arena. And was able to get to the Olympic Park this morning and pick up a couple of travel cards from there.

Leaving Wembley last night, two middle-aged Latin American men in blazers, with accreditation hanging around their necks, approached me, looking quite perturbed. "Please. Where McDonalds?"

Ah, it's good to be back at the Olympics.