I was not looking forward to the Olympics coming to London.
I wasn’t in London when they won the right to host the 2012 Olympic games. I lived through two bids by Toronto, both that failed, to host the games (in 1996 and 2008). I was happy when Toronto lost. I frankly thought that the city would be overwhelmed by the visitors, and the benefits would be minimal.
As the games approached here in London, I expected the same. I assumed that a crowded, smoggy city whose transport system was bursting at the seems would become even more crowded, smoggy and we would see a transportation system fall apart.
Then something happened, about two weeks before the games started. I started to get excited. I was still pretty sceptical we could pull it off, but I decided if I was going to be inconvenienced by the whole thing, I should might as well get some benefit. So I booked a few events, figuring I would have nothing but problems getting there, but at least I should try.
Then the games started, and it all changed. I became a fan. I became an advocate. I started talking up the games to my friends and coworkers who weeks before had been of the same sceptical and cynical mindset of me, but it was for nought, because they had already come around to be fans themselves.
Soon it became apparent that the entire city, and the entire country had become fans. All the cynicism in the press disappeared, and all everyone talked about was the joy of hosting the game.
It wasn’t without its issues. Sometimes the seats were empty, corporate sponsors deciding not to come to the early events. The transportation system failed at times, but we in London are use to that, and got around it as we do. Athletes were caught cheating with drugs, and sent home. Athletes decided to not try in some events, and were reprimanded.
Overall, the negatives were far, far outweighed by the positives. Crowds gathered to cheer on Team GB. Usain Bolt wowed the crowds 3 times. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time.
I was about to write that London embraced the world, but frankly that is the best thing about London - it is a city that welcomes all - Olympics or not. The Olympics is just London writ large. The world’s games, in the world’s city.
Prior to being swept into the Olympic fold, I had booked a trip to Hungary to see the Grand Prix. On the Friday night, though, now swept up into the Olympic fever, I went out to an Irish pub in Hungary and watched the opening ceremony. It was crazy and strange but awesome, and pulled me into the games.
The first event I saw was the boxing at the ExCeL centre in east London. I saw bantam weight, heavy weight and super heavy weight boxing. 12 bouts in all, and probably one of the most impressive the games. We saw a Japanese boxer knock down his opponent five times and still lose (he won on appeal). We saw Iranian heavyweight Ali Mazaheri disqualified. We saw a fight were the opponent didn’t show up (did you know they call that a “walk over?”). We saw two GB fighters win, and also a Canadian super heavyweight. Canadian Simon Kean won on countback against Yoka of France.
The last time London held the games, in 1948, the longest running event for women was the 200 metres. It was felt that they shouldn’t be made to run longer. In 2012, Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia set an Olympic record in the marathon of 2:33:07.
An important point about this games is about equality. This is the first games where every country represented had both male and female athletes, and the first games where every sport had representatives of both genders. Most visibly, boxing for women.
Next up, the Beach Volleyball. Hosted in the Horse Guards Parade, which has been the tournament and parade grounds dating back to the time of Henry VIII. Unlike the jousting tournaments of old, this year it saw scantily clad women and men play volleyball on tons of imported sand.
It was undeniably entertaining. As long as I didn’t think about what I had paid for the tickets (well too much for sitting 22 rows back), nor that I was seeing an Olympic sport. I know that the people playing were undeniably athletic, and no doubt the best in the world at what they do.
However, I couldn’t help but thinking that what they were doing was playing a holiday game. “Hey, we are at the beach, I brought the volley ball and the frisbee. What do you want to play?” I couldn’t help but asking myself, “is that really deserving of a medal?”
Random Olympic Shots
BT London Live was a pair of viewing sites within the Victoria and Hyde Parks in London. Good place to get together with others to watch the games.
Of course, pubs were also high on the list of places to watch the games, with most pubs showing the games non-stop during the two weeks.
There were various places around the city where countries were hosting hospitality sites. Brazil was hosting in Somerset House, just beside my office. It featured a Brazilian flag flying above Somerset House and Brazilian music in the courtyard.
When I wasn’t at the events live, I was still watching. Here’s a few of my selected Facebook posts during the Olympics...
Watching Olympic fencing. A bit like watching Tron. Two warriors in darkness, blue and red lights highlight the play space, electronic beeps announce points. 2016 - light cycles as an Olympic sport?
Similar levels of athleticism, dexerity and showmanship. The only difference between parkour, Cirque du Soliel and men's Olympic gymnastics is uniform. Parkour wears hoodies and low rise jeans. Cirque dresses like clowns. Olympians dress in tight, tight, tight shorts and chest hugging vests. Think for the purposes of expanding their fan base, the Olympians should select a new uniform that is a little less YMCA.
Have been watching the women's Judo on and off during the day on M1 ELO in Hungarian. Two things I have learnt. (1) Women in the 57kg weight class are generally quite foxy. (2) I know nothing about how Judo is scored, and the Hungarian commentary is not helping my understanding.
Diving is a strange sport. It is like the start of a swimming race, but without the swimming. It is solely about the start of an activity, the transition from not swimming and being on dry land to swimming and being in the water. I can't think of other sports like that. There is no sport for starting a running race, nor for bursting out of the gates in skiing. Who came up with this?
Arrived at Heathrow terminal 1. No line for immigration. In fact, there were agents waiting. Through in less than a minute.
Why do people keep reporting, blogging and tweeting about how quiet the tube is? Keep your mouthes shut and let those of us still commuting have a decent journey for the next few weeks!
Sharing a table at the bar before heading into the arena. My co-table inhabitant, while pouring pints of stout into empty water bottles (lines are long when you get in, he explained) asked me, "have you travelled far?" I replied, "Clapham." <pause> "it's two transfers."
If I ran the Olympics, a javelin throw would not count unless the javelin stuck in the ground. Glancing off the ground and sliding along would not count. It's meant to be a weapon, and if you can't stick it into something, then it isn't a very good weapon.
(I am told this is only allowable in the multi-event sports like heptathlon).
Shouldn't Sharapova be playing for "The Independent Tennis Training Facilities of Florida?"
SOOO upset with myself. I had the opportunity two weeks ago to buy athletics tickets for the Paralympics. But I held off. "it's not like the Paralympics is going to sell out, right?" I said to myself. And now, nothing available at all. London has embraced this Olympics (now that it has started), and there is very little available to see at all. Just hoping that something comes up available in the next few weeks.
The Brazilian flag flies over Somerset House. Some alternate reality where Brazil won WWII? Nope, just the Brazilians setting up camp for the Olympics
(On the Canadian women’s football win, where Canada won Bronze over France, reported as Late Strike Seals Canada a Bronze). Good headline writing. Canada "seals" a bronze. Get it? Seals! Ar ar ar.
Ethiopian runner in the women's 5000 metres named Burka. Ironic a woman named burka should be showing so much skin.
Team GB dropped the baton, but Canada qualified. Take a lesson from them. Coat the baton in the sticky internal goo of clubbed baby seals, makes the passes flawless.
Yanquis just set a world record in the 4x100 women's final. Erased a record held by East German "women." The last record in the books held by East Germany. This is truly the end of communism.
Women's 1500. Turkey 1-2. Cakir followed by Bulut. Number 2 with a bullet, then?
Modern Pentathlon. Awesome. Here's a sword. Now here's a gun, run with it. Now here's a horse. Swim! Random goodness.
Amazing relay! WR for Jamaica. Bronze for Canada. Yes! - Followed closely by - NOOOO! A DQ!?! devastated - followed by - Oh no. one of the Canadians stepped on the line, and thus was out of his lane. Such a shame.
Rhythmic Gymnastics, solo and team, has impressed me. Generally (admitting to a bit of perviness), I watch women's gymnastics and think about the general prettiness of the women. Rhythmic Gymnastics, I am (like a house cat or gold fish) enthralled by the movement of the ribbons, balls and hula-hoops. I don't even notice until the end that there are actual people involved in throwing around the ribbons.
Last day of the games, and the last free event - the men’s marathon. I went to Blackfriars Station, and watched the marathoners pass 6 times - as they ran 3 loops of the marathon route.
It was amazing how close you could get to the athletes. The first time they came around, I actually jumped back as they came around the corner and I realised they were just a foot from me. Amazing.
It has been a great time. The volunteers were amazing. The Londoners were amazing. The visitors were great. I hope everyone had a great time in the city.
A final Facebook post repost form me - London 2012 has been an absolute joy. I was very sceptical before it started, but it has swept me up emotionally, been great to host the visitors and the volunteers here and has been no problem moving around. Well done, London. It has been an excellent games.