Preliminaries done, the Olympic hockey tournament begins on Sunday morning bright and early. Despite being the reason for my visit, the advent of the tournament comes with something of a heavy heart after an amazing introduction to the world of the Games.
Hugh Russell spoke on Newstalk last week about the immersion of the Olympics. A bronze flyweight boxing medal winner in 1980, he regularly saw Miruts Yifter “the shifter” around the athlete’s village.
It was only later he found out the Ethiopian runner was one of the major stars, winning in gold in the 10,000m in stunning style.
That immersion and focus on one event may be less severe for journalists equipped with a decent internet wire (no wireless available here in the press stands) but the forewarnings from all my superiors are that I can forget about keeping up my untrained eye in Eoin Rheinisch’s K1 slalom bid.
More’s the pity as day one’s blend into day two has already proven one of my life’s great sporting memories, spreading my time thinly but effectively across the city to take in as much as possible.
On Friday night, the folly of a glut of VIPs opened up the opportunity to head along to the opening ceremony, taking up their unused tickets. At the third security check, I found out the tickets, despite being four rows from the back of the highest tier, were valued at £150 while scalpers were paying up to £2,000.
But the experience was priceless. The event was truly madcap, offering a series of revolutions from industrial to cultural to digital.
Some of it was just bizarre. In the pre-television prologue, the farmland badminton game with the noble squires deliberately missing the shuttlecock from the fair maiden’s racquet was odd. Odder still was the apparition of what-looked like Ade Edmondson seemingly providing the sign language on the big screen … or the mime artists recreating a village cricket scene.
The one bum note of the main event was the lighting of the flame, seemingly a cop-out. David Beckham ended up left on the boat with no real reason – bar marketing pressures – to be part of the occasion and so his place, left on the boat was a neat move.
But how history – let alone the bookies unsure of how to pay out – records who lit the flame is subject to confusion. With a list recently including Cathy Freeman, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali, some of the most iconic sporting figures, having Steve Redgrave pass over the flame to “the next generation” was twee but never a celebration of amazing Olympic achievement.
Nonetheless, the spectacular appealed to my tastes, a human traffic type buzz fitting the fact I have never gotten over the mid-90s.
The cheeky “God save the queen” riffs combined with the house leanings – I’m sure I heard Bedrock featuring KYO’s “For what you dream of” – Rowan Atkinson’s interlude and James Bond and the queen’s tag-team did show off the dry whit to take the piss.
It also offered a great chance to get to know my team-mates for the Games, previously only known via email, namely Yan Huckendubler – surely the best surname in sports-writing – and Hari Kant (picture with me, above), a Canadian survivor of Sydney in 2000.
His tales from a player’s perspective, now on the media end of things, have been fascinating. Three hockey legends carried their flag with Luciana Aymar leading out Argentina before goal-scoring machines Natascha Keller and Sohail Abbas represented Germany and Pakistan.
Day two started with meetings about our strategy for the Games, mainly outlining what rights were available to us. Most world level hockey tournaments offer a fairly free reign to journalists, videographers and photographers to get their angle sorted.
Among others, NBC’s rights to cover the Games exclusively costing in the billions, such freedom for the regular media man is curtailed to ensure their priority. As such, it limits some of the aspirations to how we cover the hockey but, as the Games goes on, finding what is and isn’t possible is the challenge.
Hashtags decided upon and style guides pinned down, the day was laid open to see some of the other sights. The cycling road race was the port of call and while a look over a few shoulders around Richmond passed in a flash.
Hyde Park was the permanent venue for the afternoon to see the British team sweep to victory on the big screen with a series of bands playing in the background.
Free entry offers a brilliant initiative for the ticketless with five big screens around the ground, with a couple of jumbo beers in hand, I caught up with some Trinity 3rd XI alumni (and a few Rebel Tour hangers-on) on the luminous green beanbags.
Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish’s visions on the big screen produced ripples of applause from the seated throngs but the peloton – devoid of radio updates – horribly misjudged their chase.
As horribly as Fabian Cancellara – my Swiss-based bosses’ favourites – misjudged a late corner, allowing Alexandre Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran race clear. The Kazakh produced a Days of Thunder, Tom Cruise-era slingshot move to get the jump and the ultimate prize.
Now, the focus turns to the hockey and an 8.30am start in the Riverbank Arena. Luckily, the two-hour late arrival for breakfast today means I am pegged as the night owl rather than early bird and so the ‘late shift’ beckons with the Netherland vs Belgium likely to be my tournament debut.
The hope is to keep up to date with the whole games but six games, running from 8.30am to 11pm means the prospect of following other sports in details looks remote.
** Photos courtesy of Yan Huckendubler
** Much has been made of the security arrangements at the Olympics; The Hook hasn’t had any major issues as yet, perhaps as a result of these guys.
2 Responses to “Total immersion – Olympic blog day 2”
July 29, 2012 10:10 pm bob says
Anyone know where I could find the hockey streamed live?
July 30, 2012 11:03 pm Tribesman says
download Wiziwig, you will get all the hockey and other sports.
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