The passing of Con Houlihan this week was a keenly felt one around the Olympic Main Press Centre (MPC). While I must confess to not being entirely au fait with his work, some of the more experienced hacks have been touting one of his famous lines that he “missed the 1990 World Cup because I was at the tournament in Italy”.
It is a pithy line to sum up the experience for many of the press members, something I may have touted in earlier posts. But, as the hockey tournament progresses, the moments to experience the rest of the Games can become lost.
To this end, it was only after a few late night beverages on Sunday that I discovered Bradley Wiggins had been sitting on a golden throne, just four floors above where I sleep. That the tit-bit came via a barman arguing with the brother of a German legend added to the disbelief. But it seems my hotel is topped by the Adidas Sky Bar, home to the sports gear giant’s after-hours relaxation spot.
While not much of a celebrity-hunter, it was still seemed odd that this had not appeared on the horizon more noticeably among the group of journos, photographers, umpires and technical officials that form my contemporaries for the most part.
As such, trying to find random out-takes or public consumption material outside of the hockey had become limited while the tournament is very much front and centre.
So much of the last 24 hours have defied logic – I’m thinking Great Britain’s men and their comeback from 3-0 down; or winless South Africa’s 7-0 win over the US, out-doing their target of five; or Spain’s three goals in four minutes to save their tournament bacon.
For the hosts, that amazing comeback showed a zeal that is going a long way to demystifying the previously incorruptible force of Australia. Ric Charlesworth could explain their blip against Argentina away amid a flurry of recriminations toward umpires and the video referral system.
The GB tie, however, was one that poured all the psychological benefits into the host’s water-bottle. Should the sides meet again, most of the intimidation of the much-vaunted Kookaburras is likely to be gone.
It has made the men’s competition a really open one with the top-ranks showing vulnerability. Indeed, the possibility they could lose to Pakistan tomorrow is no longer a far-fetched one with the tournament life on the line.
Spain, somehow, have remained in the tournament despite their best efforts to blow it. Body language was desperate once Santi Freixa and Pol Amat departed the scene injured while Sergi Enrique was suspended.
And last night’s arm-wrestle with Argentina looked a forlorn, ignominious exit until Pau Quemada took the bull by the horns, going from one shot in anger in 64 minutes to three goals in four. Should they bore a British side that doesn’t enjoy the low-key, a semi-final place could be on the cards.
That the Dutch have sailed through the other pool has surprised many, including much of the Dutch press who questioned Paul van Ass and his unwieldy selection process. He is having the last laugh, though, as Mink van der Weerden clatters home the drag-flicks. Teun de Nooijer’s goal on his 450th cap was hailed by the country’s crown prince and was one of the moments of the first week.
Germany have looked a shadow of the side that won last August’s Europeans but, being German, they are likely to go through barring some oddity against New Zealand in round five.
For the women’s competition, much of the fun was taken out of Great Britain’s round five tie with the Netherlands by China’s earlier capitulation to Japan, 1-0. The Riverbank Arena was raucous in its support of Japan – a fact noted and admonished with typical politeness as part of the half-time show by a Chinese supporter – as any result in their favour ended chances of China overhauling GB.
The real story, though, is in Pool B where New Zealand claimed their first ever semi-final berth as they frustrated Germany. In truth, the kiwis should have had fewer troubles this group were it not for profligate shooting, their lively, direct style leading the way. They will eliminate either Argentina or Australia later this evening.
USA’s loss this morning to South Africa was about as weird as the tournament has produced. The states have been praised in many quarters, beating Argentina and narrowly missing out in three other games. And then came a 7-0 thumping with two more disallowed and ten corners conceded; few saw it coming but now the US are destined for the last place playoff.
And this is about what I can tell you about the Olympics. Annalise Murphy’s medal challenge briefly made it onto the screen in the media centre while Katie Taylor was also viewed mid-shift while Japan did for China in a miniature screen.
The 100m final was also posted on the big screen at half-time between Spain and Argentina last night, the Spaniards briefly pausing to watch while their coach ushered them from the pitch. But the random minutiae that are usually my staple are being lost, much like Con Houlihan’s lament.
** One good point, which was raised with me via email, was the standard of the ball patrol. Done wrong or with untrained newcomers, this can often lead to messing with misplaced or extra balls invading the pitch. During South Africa and USA this morning, a rogue ball appeared in the way of Dirkie Chamberlain and was only significant in that it was a complete rarity.
** Pictures courtesy of Frank Uijlenbroek/Stanislas Brochier/FIH
1 Response to “Devil not in the details – Olympic blog days 8&9”
August 8, 2012 10:09 pm Ian says
Good evening Findo. Is that you at Madisons taking a pic of Wiggo?? Good pic an great blog (as always)
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