Greetings from the XXX Olympiad

Greetings from the XXX Olympiad in London! It’s been an absolutely incredible day. For the past few weeks I will be honest I have been slightly confused. I knew that the Olympics were coming, but I just wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. The anticipation was there, but it felt different to a big trip or a first date. Maybe because I have been to so many sports events before, I thought that this would be the same. That all changed last night, at 2012 hours when the Red Arrows flew right over my house. The countdown to the Opening Ceremony was on and it was absolutely captivating. The whole thing was a masterpiece (except for the Athletes arrival, which is always tedious unless you have someone to watch with and have drinking games on things like the sport of the flagbearer). The thing that stoked a fire within me though was the cauldron. The metal leafs becoming the cauldron was incredible, particularly when I realised that that cauldron was the image that was on the front of the Opening Ceremony tickets (see here). What a cool surprise, though I wish those tickets had been mine.
This morning the alarm went off at 6am, as I was heading to the other side of London for my first session. Men’s Team Archery held at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Temporary Grandstands have been set up on the hallowed turf and the ground was a picture. The sport itself is fascinating. Teams of three have 120 seconds to fire off 6 arrows, alternating between the two teams after the first 3. The target is 70m away with a ‘Gold’ – a 9 or 10 pointer being a target the size of a CD. The home team were drawn to play Ukraine and they were outclassed despite raucous support, losing by over an arrow as the Ukrainians shot an impressive 223 out of 240. Their consistency was incredible, particularly given that they had to deal with the possibility of changing weather and wind.
The pressure though was the most incredible thing, and this was best illustrated in the second match between Japan and India as it came down to the final arrow. India needed a perfect 10 to win or a 9 to send it to a shootout. I honestly believed he’d bottle it, it just seems too hard. 70m, hit something the size of a cd, oh and if you miss you’rr a spectator for the rest of the games. The archer pulls back, the string goes taut. Thwack and then thud, the arrow has hit the nine ring at 205 km/h. It’s a tie at 214 all. With 3 arrows each, it’s Japan’s turn to show their stones and a target of a perfect 30 is just too much for the Indians in the match of the day.
Italy completely outclass Chinese Taipei in the next round that felt a bit like the Archery equivalent of Eric the Eel as the Chinese Taipei team start horribly. Italy ease away but I don’t expect too much from them, they don’t have the consistency that the Ukraine have. The final match is a crowd favourite as the Mexican team take on the Malaysians. The Mexicans are too strong wrapping it up with an arrow to spare. It’s been a fascinating morning, and a genteel start, perfectly fitting for a place as steeped in English history as Lord’s.
In an odd moment, as I left the venue I was stopped and interviewed by Chinese National Television. Despite not having media training, and a face for radio I somehow managed to get through the interview without embarrassing myself or the country and without letting on that I was really quite desperate to be going as I had to get across town for my next event. My first experience at Olympic Park where I would watch the Women’s Handball.
The Park is an awe-inspiring site. There has been rich green parkland added and arriving sent a shiver down my spine as I took in the incredible architecture and the friendliness of the volunteers, policemen and guests, so at odds with people’s everyday attitudes in this city. Stepping inside the Copper Box and my jaw drops. It is a beautiful and intimate venue of 6,500. Brazil and Croatia get us away with the Croats instantly scoring a breakaway goal of breathtaking athleticism as the player is checked and hurls the ball into the net (which can be found at ).Croatia dominate early proceedings, but this is a game of two keepers and the Brazilians have the better one. Croatia keep attacking but the Brazilian keeper appears to morph into Inspector Gadget making stop after improbable stop. Brazil take their chances and every goal is cheered like it is going to get them gold. Croatia hold on and with 2 minutes to go, scores are level at 21 all. A Brazilian player is red carded and sent to the timekeepers desk like a naughty child leaving them shorthanded til the siren. You would think that this would be enough for the Croatians to seal the deal, but they can’t. Passion and the rubber limbs of the Brazilian keeper sees them win 24-23, cueing pandemonium on court and the crowd having found a new neutral team to follow. It’s exciting as I am left with the thought that  if Rio 2016 can capture the passion and determination of these Brazilian Handball players then we are in for a treat 4 years from now.
That however is something to worry about later on, as the next game was a Scandinavian grudge match between Denmark and Sweden. The defence in this game is much stronger and it shows in a cagey affair that sees Sweden firing at goal but without accuracy, converting about 40% of their chances. Denmark on the other hand are efficient and although struggling to score in free play, hang in there, never in front, but never more than 2 goals down. Once again the match turns on a foul, one of the Swedes earns herself a 2 minute break for a coathanger (which is in the album) and this seems to fire the Danes up as they draw level and then hit the front and stay there, winning by 3 goals, 21-18
Walking out of the park I was left with the feeling that this sport is an untapped beauty in Australia. It’s so much more than I imagined. It’s lightning fast, high scoring (averaging a goal a minute) and intensely physical. It’s a combination of Netball, Rugby and Ice Hockey and I am addicted.
As I walked through the mall to get home, I passed a restaurant that was showing the Men’s Team Archery Final. Italy had nailed a perfect 10 on the last arrow to win Gold. I smiled, it was a fitting final surprise for what was an incredible beginning to my Olympics journey.
NB: For a few choice photos from the day see here.

Comments

  1. John Harms says:

    Tim, sound like London is rocking. People are just getting used to the hours here and the nature of the coverage. Looking forward to more of your observations – and a Hawthorn report hopefully, from London. I’ll be in touch re that one.

  2. Tim Ivins says:

    Cheers John, London is rocking and there’s much more to come. Gymnastics and Fencing today; Canoe Slalom and Beach Volleyball tomorrow. I’m definitely up for another Hawks report and I look forward to hearing from you.

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