Great Sporting Moment No.4: The London Olympics

13 Aug

We caught the last weekend of the Olympics in London, cramming in as much as humanly possible. Thank you Tristan and Jenny for letting us take over your East London apartment. It was an ideal location and the lack of a telly proved no hindrance. We invited ourselves into the neighbours to watch the closing ceremony on their big screen. Love ya Travis and Lochie!

I’d worked in the media centre for the Sydney Olympics and had the time of my life. Sydney was a 24/7 party atmosphere inside and outside the venues. Australia set the bar high for Olympic spectator enjoyment but London clearly topped it. From the free BT London Live sites in Victoria Park and Hyde Park to Wembley for the gold medal mens’ football final to the Men’s Marathon along the Embankment, the organisation of the venues, security and transport were impeccable and carried out with great good humour.

Even the famously fickle English weather cooperated with sunny days and cool, dry nights. How’s that for luck?!

In Vic Park Friday night we watched some thrilling track and field finals sitting in comfort on leather lounges in a BT marquee bar. Our neighbours on the couch were from the Caribbean so we cheered with them for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago as if they could hear us. We had a giggle at the long list of banned items screened on entry including cameras with lenses longer than six inches. I was tempted to ask the security person if she carried a ruler in her pocket but kept quiet.

Our big event, the Football final in the magnificent Wembley Stadium between Brazil and Mexico, drew a capacity crowd of 86,162. I had a momentary panic leaving the tube station where Brazilian drummers were revving up the crowd. Stuart charged ahead and was swallowed up in the shoulder to shoulder mass of humanity moving like a swarm towards the stadium. He completely disappeared. I hugged a railing, texted him to come back to the steps and he eventually fought his way back to me. Well, I had the tickets so he wasn’t going to get too far…

The match was a surprise to everyone except possibly the Mexican team. Certainly the Brazilians were stunned by Oribe Peralta’s goal in the first minute. The only time Brazil seemed galvanised was the first part of the second half but they just could not get their goal shots in the net. Neymar played astonishingly but the teamwork wasn’t there. Stuart reckons a linesman’s overzealous call set up the second Mexico goal (the photo of the ball in the air is right before Peralta heads it in) but I believe Mexico deservedly won 2-1.

I’ve often wondered what a Mexican wave would be like performed by Mexicans and now I know. It’s a crescendo roar that makes your hair stand on end. And the women…Brazil and Mexico have some of the most curvaceous, gorgeous women on the planet and there were plenty of them in the stadium.

We were astonished by some of the male spectators, especially their odd camera behaviour. One North American chap was creating and starring in his own video documentary, standing up and talking into his camcorder and an Indian gentlemen spent the majority of the time (and this is no exaggeration) either taking photos and videos of attractive women near him or getting other spectators to take his photograph – over and over again! He’s the guy standing in one photo wearing sunglasses, cap and his chest puffed out. Total ego.

London Live in Hyde Park was at capacity on Saturday night but people generally behaved well. We were standing watching the women’s high jump when the two chaps sitting in front of us offered us their blanket as they weren’t going to take it home. Nice! We in turn passed it onto the people standing behind us.

The route for the Men’s Marathon looped along the Thames Embankment. We stationed ourselves at the barrier right by the entrance/exit of the Blackfriar’s underpass two hours before the start to see the runners pass by six times. Our crowd cheered for everyone but especially those at the tail end. The loudest clapping and calling was for the lone stragglers. Lichtenstein or Lesotho, it didn’t matter as long as we could make out the country on their singlet. When the sole Rwandan stopped running and walked to the finish we screamed our loudest. The three Australians and the two Brits ran strongly but were never contenders. East African runners dominated from the start.

I gladly admit I cried twice this weekend. Once for an athlete who came first and once for an athlete who came last. The first tear jerker was Mo Farah’s superhuman performance in the 5,000 metre run. We stood watching the race in a dense crowd in front of the screen in Hyde Park. For the final 400 metres it seemed every single person was cheering Mo to victory and win he did in the most heartstoppingly fashion possible. Sheer physical brilliance.

The second bout of tears was for Augusto Ramos Soares, the marathon runner from Timor Leste (East Timor), who ran doggedly and mostly alone in last place the entire distance. I could tell by his smile on the third outbound lap that he was going to finish and it just broke my heart to think how proud everyone in that tiny, troubled, beautiful country would be to see him cross the finish line. Viva Timor Leste!

Job well done and thank you London and GB. Boris you proved you are more than a haircut and wit. Apart from the ticketing fiasco the London Olympics proved the naysayers spectacularly wrong.

I hear Brazil calling….

(PS We could not have seen the Football if sister-in-law Catharine had not bought the tickets for us so special thanks for doing that Catharine.)

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2 Responses to “Great Sporting Moment No.4: The London Olympics”

  1. Marie O'Flaherty August 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Great to
    have a peek at the real Olympics. Thanks for sharing Sharon.

    • Sharon Tickle August 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

      Hi Marie, It felt such a privilege to be here for the celebration. London and Londoners will benefit from this Games for years to come.

      See you in late September!

      Sharon

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