Tag Archives: 2012 Summer Olympics

Paralympics for the win!

T54 5,000 metre Gold Medallist, David Weir, winning a thrilling race at the Olympic Stadium in London on Sunday September 2nd. Image via Guardian.co.uk/picture by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

If you’re anything like me – a bitter old cynic, possessed of a smoking husk where his heart once was – this summer has been the proverbial game changer.

I started the year not caring a jot about the Olympics and wishing that the hype would go away – I had no intent of watching the Games and intended to spend the event self-consciously shunning it in a pointless and self-aggrandizing one man protest.

Then the Olympics began.

Picture via Guardian.co.uk/ Image taken by Julian Stratenschulte/EPA

To say that the spectacle, competition and atmosphere won me over is something of an overstatement.   My wife, always a fan of athletics and pretty much any sport which isn’t football, played some part in that conversion by knowing what was going on and explaining the significance of individual races, events and seemed to have a running Team GB medal tally on her person at all times.

The Games ended and I found myself wondering whether the same countrywide fervour and open-minded embrace of all things sporting would extend to the following Paralympic Games – because history seems to indicate that people who’ve just enjoyed the quote-unquote ‘main event’ seem to find their attention wandering when Paralympians converge to compete on the world stage.

Rather brilliantly, and in a way which actually has me slightly tearing up as I type, it would appear that my worries about a mass exodus of interest have been comprehensively quashed as viewing figures in the UK for Channel Four‘s coverage are high and the various stadia for the individual events are attended by enthusiastic fans whose love of Team GB has extended to this utterly inspirational and fantastic display of athletic endeavour.

Without wishing to offend any American readers, I’ll take the exhilarating spectacle of wheelchair basketball over the US ‘Dream Team’ steamrollering their competitors any day of the week.  Similarly, as exciting as it is to watch Usain Bolt routinely smash through the established wisdom of how quickly a human being can run, I found the 200m duel between South African ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorious and Brazilian Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira an utterly riveting race, not least because of its unexpected conclusion.

“Don’t focus on the disability – focus on the ability” was Pistorious’ request to the media (and by extension, the World) prior to the Games opening ceremony and , after nearly a week of fiercely fought and utterly compelling sport, who would argue with his assessment?  That these athletes face unique physical challenges before ever getting to compete is obvious a key factor in the existence of this competition but the obvious thing to take away from the Paralympics is that this competition is every bit the equal of the Olympics in terms of quality, thrills and inspiration.

I find myself wondering why we don’t get to see this kind of competition on a more regular basis on TV – Channel Four have been doing a brilliant job in the run-up to London 2012 of positioning Paralympians and their sporting disciplines into their schedule and making sure that we knew the Games were on their way but I now wonder whether this commitment to athletes with physical challenges will extend beyond the end of this Summer.

Isn’t this the kind of sport which belongs on Channel Four – whose remit has traditionally been to offer perspectives on the world which are outside the norm?  I like to think so and I really hope that they continue to bring us more of this brilliant, life-affirming sports coverage long after the glory and ceremony of the London Games have faded from memory.  Give me real athletes like those of Paralympic Team GB rather than the overpaid, talent-light, half-wits of the Football Premiership any day of the week

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Jess done good!

Jessica Ennis, winning Heptathlon Gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, picture via Independent.co.uk

This is I why I don’t follow sports – the anxiety that I feel when I watch them.

Picture the scene, if you will – my city (normally a buzzing hive of incident and Saturday night shenanigans) is silent as the proverbial grave as local Heptathlete Jessica Ennis continues her two day campaign to win an Olympic Gold medal.  You can’t turn a corner in Sheffield without seeing an image of our favourite daughter, particularly in the run-up to London 2012.  Witness the front of our local branch of department store John Lewis:

Image of John Lewis Sheffield via Telegraph.co.uk

So, no pressure then?

Her first day of competition on Friday had gone really well – two personal bests in the 100m hurdles and 200m race later in the day – but Saturday saw the Javelin throw,  the heptathlon event which has traditionally stymied her in past competitions.  Add into the mix strong competition from Nataliya Dobrynska and Tatyana Chernova and nobody was going to call this event over and done.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I found her final event, the 800m race, impossible to watch – barring a disaster, she would comfortably win the race but I’ve long held the belief that by merely watching a UK athlete compete on the world stage, I somehow act as a jinx and cause all manner of problems.

Andy Murray won his Wimbledon semi-final because of talent, grit and being the best guy on the day?  No, friend – he won because I couldn’t bear the watch the final couple of sets and took Hagrid for his evening walk, leaving behind Mrs Rolling Eyeballs to sit on the edge of the sofa and watch the drama unfold.  By comparison, I was there for every set of the Wimbledon final and we know how that turned out.

Another pic of Jess? Oh, go on, then…

This time, though, I had to stick around and see Jess Ennis win this thing – and win she did.  I normally remain studiously indifferent to sport as I have a typically male response to the drama on display in games and matches – it’s one of the few stereotypically male characteristics that I do possess – and the elation that we felt in our house as Jess fell behind the main runners in the 800m before pushing herself forwards to win the event and win her gold medal was possibly only slightly less than I imagine she felt.

True, we weren’t utterly exhausted and hadn’t spent all of our lives working towards this glorious, shining moment as Jess had, but you get the point – we were with her all the way and overjoyed when she crossed the line.

She was brilliant and, for a quiet second that I probably won’t tell anybody about again, I was actually proud to be British on what has become known in the UK as ‘Super Saturday’ (Six Gold medals for Brit athletes! In a day? Inconceivable!).  I distrust patriotism quite a bit – it usually acts a smoke-screen for much less desirable qualities – but watching the Steel City Siren smash personal bests and grab Gold in such splendid fashion made me delighted to be from this comparatively small island.   Good on you, Jess – you did brilliantly and made everybody in Sheffield proud.  And given what a bunch of grumpy Yorkshire gits we normally are, that’s almost as amazing as Olympic Gold.

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Run To The Hills!

Image

Tired of Olympic hype?  Try living in the UK.  Your humble (and normally quite reasonable) blogger has had it up to his Musketeer-style chin beard with all things sporting after a year or so of relentless build-up to London 2012 and would happily go into suspended animation until the whole thing is over.

Go Jess!

As a dyed-in-the-wool, adopted Sheffielder, I obviously wish Jessica Ennis well in her heptathlon campaign but I really would rather ignore the vast majority of the Olympics – a feat made quite challenging by the approximately 906 channels being devoted by the BBC to the imminent hostilities  glorious sporting spectacle about to unfurl.

To distract those of you who can’t get that excited by athletes doing things slightly more quickly than they did them previously, take in the joyful image above of Iron Maiden‘s mascot Eddie, as originally found on the Metal Hammer website.

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Olympic Property Boom

I'm guessing Iron Man was busy. Or not real.

Missiles stationed on top of flats – UK News – MSN News UK.

Well, it’s one way to deal with those annoying drunk first-years who were seemingly born without volume control when alighting from their cab at 1:00am.

Having noticed the amount of armed police in London whenever I’ve been travelling through the more tourist-packed areas of the city, it doesn’t come as much surprise to learn that the London 2012 organisers are making it clear that any potential terror threats are going to met with an appropriate counter response.

This underlines to me one of the most undeniable truths about the forthcoming Olympics – if you had anywhere else to go whilst the Games are on, why the hell would you want to stay in the Capital?  It’s going to be a nightmare to move around, the normal tensions of city living are going to be ramped up 200% and on top of that, the top of your apartment building could end up looking like a “Call of Duty” level objective.

No thanks!

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