As I started putting together this closing blog post, the Olympic comedown could already be seen around London. Three hours since the end of the closing ceremony, one in which Floris Evers and Valentin Verga seemed to spend as much time on the big screen as in the stadium as Jessie J, the Olympic blog ends as it started, waiting for a bus.
This time, it’s 4.15am, waiting for a red-eye flight back to Dublin, mistakenly booked when I thought I would be due back into work of a Monday morning. There’s a heavy-set man with a handlebar moustache and silver-sequined cowboy hat nosing around the recently delivered vegetables outside the local deli. He settles on pilfering a tomato.
There are a couple of lads in French morph-suits on the other side of the road, stumbling home from the handball after-party but, otherwise, the city is winding down after three weekends of mayhem.
Plenty of stories could be told in a more newsworthy piece from the final few day’s worth of press conferences and mixed zone interviews as coaches and players bore their innermost after months of keeping their thoughts private.
Post-bronze medal, Ric Charlesworth showed he was the master politician when questioned about the funding differential between men’s and women’s hockey in Australia, flipping the comparison to the strong funding the women’s side he coached to gold in the past.
Despite a best ever performance, New Zealand boss Mark Hager was adamant his side need to strengthen links with their neighbours across the Tasman Sea at club level if they are to progress further.
Both worried about an exodus of players to Europe with Charlesworth’s preferred option to see his men head to India’s World Series of Hockey to help provide extra cash from hockey.
For Paul van Ass, it was less dramatic. Despite falling at the final hurdle, the Netherlands men are looking on this tournament as a big success after a year or two of largely being written off.
His side played their part in a cracking final against Germany. After a tournament of referral issues, it was perhaps intriguing that the Dutch did not put the rules to the test over Jan Philipp Rabente’s cheeky run around the back of the goal before conjuring up a winner five minutes from time.
Southern Fried hockey alerted me at the time to rule 9.14 (Players must not intentionally enter the goal their opponents are defending or run behind either goal) and it could have made things interesting, the interpretation of intention in this situation.
But, explaining the rule to the masses of non-hockey people watching online and television might have been a confusion too far. Not that it bothered Floris Evers: “I just heard that I lost because of a big mistake of the referees,” said Netherlands captain Floris Evers after their 2-1 defeat. “No, that was a joke – I didn’t know that rule!”
The surprisingly good-natured banter continued between Evers and German captain Max Mueller throughout the conference, underscoring that there were no hard feelings over the goal. Markus Weise confirmed himself as a true genius of the modern era, taking his third successive Olympic title, twice with the German men and once with the women.
On the women’s side, the Dutch fulfilled their destiny of back-to-back Olympic titles. While Argentina were upset about the lead-up to one of the corners that caused their demise, the Netherlands were a notch above everyone else in the tournament.
For the South Americans, it was the Olympic swansong of Luciana Aymar. Perhaps this played a part in Argentina’s undoing. The stars aligned to set the final on her 35th birthday, adding another angle to an already intriguing story.
But the feeling is her side were buying too much into the Aymar story and were consistently looking to her to provide the inspiration rather than take centre-stage. Other sides grew wise and the magician found her spells scuppered at source by double and triple teams.
To witness all the finals from a perch on the halfway line with constant stats being fed through and a great team to work with has been one of the highlights of journalistic career and a real privilege.
Travelling to tournaments in different countries can be quite hit and miss depending on the crew that makes up the press box and local media team. But the Olympics bring a cast of characters the volume of which will never usually be present at an event.
Speaking to a couple of other Irish journos from other events, the point was made that most undercut their own prices at times just for the want of being part of something historic. In a world where Irish newspapers and broadcasters cannot really afford to send their journalists away, most of the Irish people working at the event were forced to find innovative ways of “getting here”.
Because it’s the Olympics, they accept poor payment conditions, admitting they “wouldn’t do it for any other event”.
For my part, covering the tournament was intense due to the volume of games but much more manageable than covering, say, an IHL finals weekend or a Champions Challenge event.
Having three photographers (Frank Uijlenbroek, Grant Treeby and Stanislas Brochier) on site meant every angle was covered and every moment captured. On the writing team, live-blog duties were shared with Yan Huckendubler, the perfect man to guide me through working at one of these events.
For the past decade, Yan has worked at virtually every event imaginable in all sorts of media and sporting capacities from Pan-Am to Commonwealth to Olympic Games. Similarly, my room mate Hari Kant – a veteran of the Sydney Games – was a constant source of entertainment, especially with his travails in trying to create video content at an event that gave him little to no access to anything.
From playing the odd representative tournament in my youth, who you get paired with in the hotel rooms can make or break your week. Hari’s ability – despite being North American – to deal with constantly having the piss taken out of him, mainly by our American boss, made the time fly by.
For now, after a short reduction in time spent on The Hook, the site will be building toward the new season which is now just over a month away. It is one in which there will be a glut of international competitions to look forward to, starting with the men’s World League debut on September 7 in Wales.
The Leinster league season starts a week later and I’ll be busy preparing the previews for all division one teams in the coming weeks. If you would like to contribute anything to the site (or make a donation!) in the meantime, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
I hope you have enjoyed some of these random ramblings about my Olympic experience and the reports on the FIH website and I look forward to seeing you all pitchside in the coming season.
2 Responses to “Coming down – Olympic blog days 12-15”
August 14, 2012 8:56 pm David says
Thanks for the write up Steve looked like great craic!
August 17, 2012 8:24 am Jason says
Sounds like it was a trip to remember and no doubt a springboard to greater things down the line.
Launched in August 2007, The Hook has set out to provide news and information for hockey in Leinster. The site has developed since then to cover all levels of the sport in Ireland and beyond, providing stories on schools, club, interprovincial and international. Working in tandem with the superb Irish Hockey Photographers, The Hook aims to offer the best coverage of the sport in the province. Should you have any queries or suggestions, please email founder, Stephen Findlater, at firstname.lastname@example.org.