Monday, 6 August 2012

GOLD RUSH (Sorry - so tabloid of me)

Super quick check in, you guys, because I am off to the Olympic Park again for another night at the athletics, at which I expect to see precisely no British people win medals. Well, maybe Holly Bleasdale. But ultimately, I think I'll cope. And I'll cope because I was in the stadium on Saturday night to see possibly the greatest night in British athletics history.

Jessica Ennis. Pretty much in the bag before we even got into the stadium,  but God love her, she finished in unbelievable style. She is amazing.

Greg Rutherford. Wait. Greg Rutherford? YEAH GREG RUTHERFORD! While all the excitement about Ennis was unfolding on the track, Greg had gone into the lead and then not just stayed there but extended it. He is amazing.

But this made us nervous. And by "us" I mean me, my Mum, and everyone else sitting around us with whom we had by this point formed a bond based on triumph and fear. We had two golds in the bag. Surely we couldn't win another. Surely. Which could only mean bad things for Mo.

Mo Farah. What a man. What a run. I thought last Wednesday that nothing would top the crowd noise at Eton Dorney. Then I went to the velodrome on Thursday. Surely nothing could top that. The sound produced on Saturday night by an emotional, incredulous crowd as Mo poured it on in that final lap was like nothing I've ever heard before nor will ever hear again. I looked around after he had won that magnificent gold and everyone around me was in a total state of shock and excitement and exhaustion. Amazing. Oh, and then we all had a big singalong. Apparently Paul McCartney was there and conducting us, but I didn't notice and I didn't need him and neither did anyone else.

I'll have more to say about the stadium itself another time (I've got a few more trips there this week, oh yes). For now, let's just bask in the glow of Jess, Greg and Mo.

Bonus occurrence: nothing to report from the athletics (other than me hauling my Mum into a surprise hug when Mo won, which made her laugh her head off), so let's backtrack to the rowing last week when I was sitting only about ten seats away from rugby hero Mick Skinner and DIDN'T ask him for a photo. I hate myself.

Bonus photos: Our golden girl and boys.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The day Britain's cyclists almost made me faint

I went to the velodrome on Thursday. It is now Saturday and I have finally just about calmed down (though this morning's rowing didn't do my heartrate OR my tear ducts any favours - Joy! Joy! No Joy! Poor poor Purchase and Hunter) so I'll try to tell you what it was like.

Firstly, it was unbelievably warm. I know they tell you this on the TV, but when you're actually in there it seriously gets a bit much. I went for the test event, but I was there on the night they messed up the climate control and let it get a bit cold, so I wasn't quite ready for this.

Secondly, the velodrome (along with every other venue) has a sort of venue TV host (at Wimbledon it's Gethin Jones, which seems a bit of a come-down for him, although I realise Blue Peter and a Strictly stint isn't exactly rock and roll) who is there to keep events moving and fill in the gaps. I am totally behind the concept of this, but the problem is that I am not very good at being exhorted. If a venue puts the word "Applause" up on a big screen, my immediate reaction is to fold my arms grumpily. There is nothing I hate more than being told to make some noise. It turns out, though, that I am very, very amused by a slow motion Mexican wave.

Thirdly, there were a stackload of worthies in. Major and minor royals, plus current and former Prime Ministers. The extreme-o-zoom on my camera got a massive workout.

Fourthly, the acoustics were once again extremely poor. When the British women's sprint team result was being investigated, all we heard was a low-key mutter from the PA. This strikes me as something that would be pretty easy to resolve. They were trying to keep us informed (not always top of sports venues' priority list, I can tell you from the experience of being a) at the Oval when Pakistan refused to come out after tea and b) the Queens' club final fiasco this year) but the echoey acoustic ensured we remained baffled for a long, long time.

Fifthly, and most importantly, it is AMAZING IN THE VELODROME. The atmosphere left every other sporting experience ever in the dust, even the GB gold medal-winning at Eton Dorney. The men's team pursuit were astonishing and their World Record got the place back on its feet after the relegation in the women's spring. And then the men's team sprint... Well, all I can say about that is that I yelled so loudly to cheer them on and then with joy at the finish that I literally nearly passed out. Fortunately for Why Miss Jones (who is at least as Olympics-obsessed as me, and to whom I owe a massive debt of thanks for the fact that I have any tickets at all), I just about managed to keep it together, but frankly it would have been worth it. An incredible, incredible afternoon.

Stadium tonight. Ennis. Mo. When I have more time, I'll tell you why the combination of the movie Scream and an interview with Seb Coe make me super-nervous for Mo. I bet you can't wait.

Bonus occurrence: this one is actually from Wednesday. While the German Men's eight were getting their medals, the German women's quad sculls were on their victory lap. The anthem started playing, so they all stood up in their boat. It was excellent.

Bonus photos: I have tons of photos of delicious cyclists, but I'll save them for another time. Instead, here's one of a man I don't know who has the best beard ever, and one of some pensive princes prior to the sprint final.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The first few days

It's been a mixed bag in this first week of Olympic events (by which I mean Olympic events that I have seen, which obviously are the only ones that count). So far, I have had two trips to Eton Dorney for the rowing, two days at Wimbledon and an evening at the swimming. Overall, I have to say it has been a great experience - the venues are mostly well-organised, the volunteers are brilliantly cheerful and always keen to help and security, contrary to everyone's fears, has been both thorough and rapid.

Until yesterday, though, the atmosphere had left a little bit to be desired. I think part of the problem was that I had heightened expectations. I have been so excited about these Olympics that I thought the feeling in all these venues would be different from any other sporting event, but it didn't seem that way in the early days. It must be said though that my first event (rowing) was all heats and my second (swimming) saw a really disappointing night for the British and a Phelps-Lochte duel in the pool that in no way lived up to expectations because Lochte was totally untouchable. Plus the acoustics in the aquatic centre if you are in remote seats (we were in category C and they were proper nose-bleeds) are awful, so we didn't have much of a clue what was going on.

Then I had two days of tennis, which is sort of weird because it's a total individual rock star sport that doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the Games. I did see some fabulous performances, of course, including the longest Olympic tennis match in history, and as the sessions went on, the people around me in the stands who started off super-British and quiet finally responded to my relentless chatting and friendliness and became my pals for the day. One of them even bought me a coffee. That might have been to shut me up. I don't know.

But then yesterday happened. Oh, yesterday, you were brilliant. I was at Eton Dorney to see the first GB gold (amazing) and the GB bronze in the men's eight (amazing and heartbreaking) and I have never in my life been part of a crowd that was so fervent and so partisan and so generous and so happy. I cried actual tears. What a day. This is what I wanted and what I have been waiting for, and it was so very much worth the wait. Velodrome today. More excitement. Maybe more victories, and maybe more heartbreak, but I'm going to yell my head off and almost certainly cry some more.

Bonus occurrence - a proposal in the stands on Centre court at Wimbledon on Monday. It was very emotional, and almost certainly would have got a lot more attention if the chap hadn't got down on one knee seconds before the players came out for the first match.

Bonus photos - Ryan Lochte and Roger Federer looking delicious. You're welcome.