Saturday, September 08, 2012

The women's basketball final

Last night was my penultimate event of this whole 'lympics adventure, with a trip to the women's basketball bronze and gold matches at the North Greenwich Arena, aka The O2, aka the Millennium Dome. Here's Robin outside it...
They've just opened a new thing where you can walk over the top of the dome. Looks mad. And fun.
This one's on the way in. All this 2012 branding will presumably be gone by Monday. :-(
So we saw two matches - USA vs the Netherlands in the bronze match, which was won easily by the Netherlands (a big shock, as USA got gold in Beijing and have won a medal every Olympics since 1996).
And then it was Germany vs Australia in the gold match which, sadly, was also not a particularly close contest. Germany ended up winning at a canter, as Australia weren't taking their chances (they actually had more shots on basket, but missed a significantly higher percentage - including 11 of their 12 free shots).
The Germans, then, thoroughly deserved their gold - and here they are celebrating it, in this next photo. Really enjoyed watching both games - such a quick, physical and skilful sport.
Which just leaves one more London 2012 event for Robin and I. The 7-a-side football classification matches tomorrow morning in the Riverside Arena in the Olympic Park. One of them will feature Team GB. No doubt, 20,000 people will be cheering them, and these Games, as loud as they possibly can. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Um, I went to the Athletics again on Tuesday...

...but forgot to take Robin.

Great night, though. Highlights included seeing Jonnie Peacock win his 100m heat (that's him above, he then got gold last night), and Oscar Pistorius lead the South African 4x100m relay team to victory. Oh, and the incredible 4x100m relay for the visually impaired where the entire crowd were asked (and managed) to be silent until the final changeeover had taken place.

Tonight's I'm off to the women's wheelchair basketball gold medal match. Robin is definitely coming to this one...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Robin's Paralympics debut

We're just back from our first (of four) trips to the London 2012 Paralympics, where we'd managed to snag some tickets for the morning athletics session. We saw some great sport, including wheelchair races...
And an amazing race from GBR's Richard Whitehead, where he stormed to gold in the 200m despite trailing coming out of the bend...
Here he is getting his medal. Rapturous reaction from a very partisan crowd. Saying that, though, the crowd basically cheered anyone very loudly, whether it was a Brit storming to gold, the Finnish guy smashing the wheelchair 100m record, or the fellow from Djbouti who took more than 10 minutes to finish his 1500m heat (several laps behind the others) but was absolutely roared around the track.
And then afterwards we wandered around the Olympic Park (which was considerably busier than I'd ever seen it) and took some silly photos on a volunteer's chair and with Paralympic mascot Mandeville in the 2012 Superstore...
Next up it's back to the Stadium for athletics on Wednesday night....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Our last event of the Games

So, yesterday we headed back to the Olympic Park for our last event of London 2012, the bronze match in the women's handball, between Spain and South Korea.
The Spanish fans were out in force, which is probably why the Koreans were handing out those inflatable clapping sticks they're so fond of...
It was an incredibly close match, level at half time, level at full time, level after overtime and then level until about a minute before the end of "double overtime", after which it would've gone to penalties.
But, partly thanks to some great saves from the Spanish goalkeeper (they had one who just came on for any penalties - and saved four out of five!), the Spanish eventually ran out winners, 31-29.
Given that the Koreans were overwhelming favourites to win and that it had been such a titanic struggle, the Spanish were pretty darned happy about getting their bronze!
After that, it was a short walk over to the Park Live part of the Olympic Park, where the big screens are, to watch Mo Farrah go for his double gold in the 5000m (and get a tourist pic of Robin with the Olympic rings).
Here's the crowd, just before Mo's race...
And here they are, watching it...

Definitely one of the most memorable moments of an amazing two weeks. Then we popped for some (overpriced but quite tasty) Thai food and came back to the big screens to watch the men's 4 x 100m relay.
Britain really *has* been quite great these last couple of weeks. Anyway, as soon as the relay was over, we hotfooted it back to the station, past the stadium, to beat the crowds. Inside the stadium, at this very moment, Usain and his Jamaican teammates were celebrating their world record run. You could hear the roar.
This afternoon, I'm off to Hyde Park to watch the closing ceremony show by Blur, New Order and the Specials. Given that those first two are among my very favourite bands and that they're showing the closing ceremony itself on the big screens, it should be a fine way to round off this incredible time.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mo wins the 5000m

Just back from the Olympic Park. Here's how the crowd watching the big screens reacted to Mo Farah winning the 5000m. This is what utter jubilation looks like.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten events down, one to go...

So, after going to basketball, table tennis, archery, beach volley, badminton, water polo, volleyball, athletics, taekwondo and football*, tomorrow is our last event: handball (just as it was in Athens). Really looking forward to that. But already starting to feel a wee bit sad that'll it'll soon be all over. It's been such a wonderful couple of weeks. And it'd be hard to argue that London hasn't done itself proud.

* Plus, of course, Robin went to the canoe sprint too.

A humdinger of a women's football final

Last night, I headed to Wembley Stadium to watch the women's football final between Japan and USA - who'd contested last year's World Cup final, which Japan won on penalties.

The view you see when you emerge from Wembley Park tube station really must be as exciting as that from any station in the world...

Then you have the tradition walk down Wembley Way - or Olympic Way as it's officially known, because it led to the old stadium which was the main venue for the 1948 Olympics (the walkway was apparently built by German prisoners of war).

I'd love to know where the scarf factories are where they can knock up these scarves so quickly (the semi finals were only the other day)

With USA having made it to every women's football final since it was introduced to the Olympics, an awful lot of Americans had clearly taken a chance and bought tickets. There were stars and stripes everywhere, and "USA!" was booming out around the stadium, which was crammed with more than 80,000 people. There were lots of Japan fans too. And a great atmosphere.

Wembley did look nice with all its London 2012 decor.

Probably the best water bottle filling facility I've seen at any 2012 venue - it was the first aid office, with a line of medical staff passing the bottles down and filling them from the tap. That's pretty indicative of the kind of the unexpectedly helpful spirit that's characterised these Games.

As I say, it was pretty packed in there. A record for a women's football match in this country, in fact.

The game itself was a real humdinger - the two teams were very evenly matched, with both hitting the woodwork and both playing some terrific football. In the end USA won 2-1, but Japan (who I was cheering for) fought them close right to the end.

I'll leave you with a photo of my £5.70 half-time Lincolnshire sausage.
Pricey, but tasty.

Only one more event to go - the handball tomorrow (unless I can *finally* win my battle to get some hockey tickets). Can't believe it's almost over. What an amazing couple of weeks.

Watching the 200m at Wembley

I was at Wembley Stadium for the terrific women's football final last night (more of which later), but one of the most memorable moments came just after half time, when a big crowd of people decided to stay in the concourse and watch the 200m on the TV. The video above shows what happened.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

1,500 visits!

We've just gone past 1,500 visits to this blog since the Olympics began. Which is a lot more than I was expecting for a blog I hadn't touched for four years. Thanks to everyone reading. Do feel free to say hello in the comments (you don't need to register or anything). 

Taekwondo - more exciting than you'd imagine

Yesterday it was back to the Excel to see Taekwondo after I managed to bag a £20 seat from the ticket site over the weekend. If you're not sure what people do in Taekwondo, here's the one-word instruction manual...

They actually have electronic sensors on their feet to help them judge whether they've kicked the body (the pads have sensors too). All quite clever. The arena was packed, with big groups of fans from various countries (Spain and Thailand probably had the most). Actually, I think there were 7 different countries from three continents in the two lots of semi finals I saw. 

The next photo shows some of the kicking as it happened. I saw the quarter and semi finals across two weights, one men's and one women's. The Spanish woman in this pic made it through to the final, as did the Spanish chap I saw. He went on to win his final, so they bagged a gold and a silver in one night. Obviously most Brits won't know about that, because (quite naturally) you only tend to hear when you're own country has done well. 

But for Spain - who'd only won one gold so far this Olympics - it was obviously a HUGE deal to have so much success in one venue. That's the thing with the Olympics - there are massive stories happening all the time, but they're only really of interest to particular countries. Like Italy knocking reigning champs USA out of the men's volleyball last night in the 1/8 round. Huge shock. But doubt too many Brits know about it. Anyway, here's that kick...

The matches actually turned out to be a lot more exciting than I expected. There were two which ended up as a tie after the three periods (of 2 minutes), at which point they went to "Golden Point", ie the next person to score wins. And the use of video replays to check whether a score should've counted also adds to the drama. But the best match was the Spanish woman who was 9-4 down in her semi-final with a Thai with about 45 seconds to go and came back to win 10-9 following an amazing late flurry of scoring points. The noise in there at that point was incredible. And the Thai woman sitting next to me had tears of disappointment streaming down her face. 

It did take a while to work out what/how they were scoring, but after a couple of hours, you do really get into it (helped by one of the best commentaries on the commentary radio that I've had).  It's the first time I've seen Taekwondo at either Olympics I've been to, and it was definitely up there with some of the most enjoyable sports to watch. 

Women's football final tonight. Japan vs USA. 90,000 sell out at Wembley. Very much looking forward to it. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The flowers in the Olympic Park...

... are very pretty.

A night in the Olympic Stadium

Last night was perhaps our most awaited night of the Games - an evening session watching the athletics in the wonderful Olympic Stadium. We got to the Park just in time to see Victoria Pendleton not quite winning the gold in the sprint. There were HUGE crowds watching the big screens (you couldn't actually get into the big screen park to watch them - this was outside). You can also see the velodrome itself to the left of the big screen...

 And then to the stadium, listening to Chris Hoy win his cycling gold on the radio on the way (I'm not always Five Live's greatest fan, but they've been great at these Games).

Here we are inside what was, not surprisingly, a packed stadium. The roar any time a Brit was involved was pretty incredible to hear.

We saw some great events - 200m women's qualifying, 800m men's qualifying (in which a Brit had an astonishing finish to get through), high jump final (a Brit got bronze, a rock n roll Russian took gold), 100m women's hurdles semis and final (won by an Australian with an Olympic record), discus final (won by a German who celebrated by ripping his shirt off then running down the home straight doing the hurdles) and the 1500m final (won by an Algerian).

This French athlete made a false start in the 100m hurdles semi-final and was thus automatically disqualified. Poor woman. She looked devastated.

You can see the Olympic flame under the giant TV on this one...

We had such a fun night. Even the long, soggy queue to get the javelin train back to St Pancras couldn't dampen spirits.

Taekwondo today...