Being a test dummy is never usually one of the more appealing modes of employment but, for a day, it proved one of the best openings imaginable.
So, with complaints rife about the empty seats around the Games, primarily in the corporate and VIP sections close to the action, one of the methods to fill the space appears to have been to allow members of the “Olympic family” to get a look in.
Basically, after an inquiry as to what events might be possible to blag our way into, we were made aware of “upgrade cards” on Monday evening and, being scheduled for an off day, I was, as the man on the rest day, the first to test what use they could be put to.
It turns out, quite a lot. My current accreditation limits me exclusively to the main press concourse, hockey press area, the mixed interview zone and a seat in the press stand.
Upgraded, though, the lanyard is magically transformed into front row seats at Wimbledon for the Novak Djokovic vs Andy Roddick second round tennis tie. Or to the aquatics centre to see Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and wunderkind/drugs cheat Ye Shiwen… or a corner seat to see Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant to put on a show against Tunisia in the basketball arena.
With a Roundstone Summerfest 07 t-shirt and a three-day shadow around my mouth, I didn’t quite look the part for VIP treatment. Maybe the first security check sensed as much when a big red outline framed my face once the accreditation was scanned at SW19.
A bit more coaxing, though, eventually turned it green, opening the route to the member’s area at the world’s most famous tennis venue. I’ll admit I have on a number of occasions described Wimbledon as “tennis for people who don’t like tennis”, the plethora of unreturnable serves anathema to the artistry at Roland Garros.
But the chance to see Djokovic – and to a lesser extent Maria Sharapova – in the Stand d’Honneur was one it would be churlish to turn down. It proved an exhibition, the Serbian clipped outrageous lob after feathered volley.
Any form of subtlety bamboozled the American and he all but threw in the towel at 6-2, 2-0 as his best approach work drew only a floating response that left him routed to the service line.
Prince Albert of Monaco – about ten rows to my right – seemed unimpressed, burying his head in his mobile before Djokovic gave a few late double-bicepped salutes to toast his second round win, taking just 54 minutes.
Sharapova’s first set against Laura Robson took three minutes longer, meaning my interest in that tie stopped short, high-tailing it the 24 underground stops across the city back to the Olympic Park.
There, the swimming was the first port of call inside the incredibly curved building housing two banked stands. What the dip in the middle does create, though, is a disorientating and obstructed view of the entirety of the crowd.
From about 15 or 20 rows up, it is not possible to observe any counterpart on the opposite side of the pool, making them heard but not seen.
As with most things, the Americans make the most noise, especially when Phelps became the most-decorated Olympian with gold in the relay and a narrow silver in the butterfly. How he celebrated with Chad Le Clos was delightfully gracious.
Ye Shiwen’s medal ceremony was much lower key. An odd thing that struck me was the Chinese teenager did not look at the medal instantly while her climb out of the pool saw her scarcely acknowledge the crowd before going to the mixed zone.
Perhaps it is a result of the adverse publicity or an innate shyness (for what its worth, here is an interesting take on her first gold medal swim http://www.dermothunt.com/blog/?p=178) but she seemed to really struggle to find a way to enjoy what should have been a momentous occasion.
The other striking thing about the swimming is how quick it all passes – not just the races but the military precision of getting all the swimmers gear out of the way for the next race, the route past the media, getting the flags up and down for the ceremonies.
A 15-minute walk away saw the attempts to get into the basketball from the USA’s inevitable drubbing of Olympic debutants Tunisia. For this, entry was initially barred before I – along with Russia swimming legend Alexander Popov – was let past the velvet rope.
The dream team were really enjoying themselves, Tyson Chandler probably the ring leader while Lebron James preferred to lounge in his seat. I’m not exactly sure what their management team do, to be honest.
When Kevin Love got injured, it seemed James Harden and Andre Iguodala were first on the scene while the time-out and quarter-time interludes were spent ogling the dancers in pink sports bras and spandex trousers.
After eight minutes, they were behind. By the end, they had about 50 points to spare as Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony had most of the second half fun.
Today is back to being at the bottom of the accredited food chain with a small leak having just appeared in the centre of our media area as the rain has returned.
** This morning, The Hook caught up with Australia’s Fergus Kavanagh who spoke about his Irish connections, click here for more
** The half-time performance from Get Tricky (who weren’t in spandex trousers) was great to watch. Here’s a sample of what they got up to, fusing break-dancing with skipping ropes!
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 email@example.com.