There’s a strong streak in the British psyche that believes we’re shit and enjoys it that way. Many people predicted disaster for the Olympics, talking of unfinished arenas, an embarrassing opening ceremony. and transport meltdowns. Well the arenas were finished, the opening ceremony was awesome, and I can report that for us, at least, today, the transport worked fine. The trains were busy, but not much more so than usual, and while there were some queues, there was nothing that took more than a few minutes.
People also talked of overbearing security. Well there was airport style security surrounding the North Greenwich Arena (a.k.a. the O2, a.k.a. the Millennium Dome), but it’s perhaps the friendliest and least intrusive security I’ve been though. And the soldiers manning the scanners (from the Rifles), were great. Brilliant. I cannot say how highly I was impressed by them. And you know what, I think they made me feel a lot safer than the G4S guys would have been (had they turned up).
This was my first time inside the O2, and I have to say it’s quite an impressive place. Before the start, they did a rather cool gymnastic display with light show.
Then it was onto the gymnastics proper. We were watching the first of three sessions of the mens’ qualifications, and we lucked out in the teams we were getting to watch. If asked, I’d have said that I wanted to see the home team and the best. We got exactly that: Great Britain, China (last time’s gold medalists), France and South Korea. We had some French guys sitting right behind us, and they really did get into it. (They really do actually shout “Allez!”)
I can’t claim to be a fan of gymnastics, and although I’ve watched it on the tv quite a lot, this was my first time I’ve seen it live. I did have a few observations.
1) Gymnasts are brave. I don’t know if anyone’s ever actually died doing gymnastics, but if not, it’s not for want of trying.
2) Gymnasts are tough. Footballers will fall over screaming if something brushes their hair. We saw one Korean guy so screw up his tumble that he landed on his head from about ten feet, but he still bounced straight up to his feet to take his bow.
3) Gymnasts have to be able to focus. This isn’t like tennis, or snooker, where everyone’s expected to stay quiet. For a start, there are six pieces of apparatus (four for the women) going simultaneously. So you might be midway through a really complicated horizontal bar routine when suddenly there a massive outburst of cheering and applause because some other guy’s just landed a tough vault. On top of that, there are beeps to let the floor guys know that they’re running out of time, music playing in the background, and just a general background hubbub of cheers and shouts.
It was really cool. And the arena looked great. This is what it looked like when things got going (this was taken during one of the warm ups).
Click on pictures to enlarge.