Fun and Games

15Aug12

The Olympic experience was everything I hoped for. I was expecting crowds and queues on the last Saturday of the games, but elder daughter’s local knowledge helped us get a bus to the back entrance where we sauntered in without a queue in sight.

Inside the park we walked past a row of empty corporate hospitality suites. Presumably the bankers were too embarrassed to use them, or they realised that everyone else was having lots of fun and didn’t want to be corralled behind the red ropes swigging champagne.

We only had tickets for one event so there was plenty of time to mooch around and sample the food outlets. I had been expecting just one fast food chain to monopolise the dining experience, but there was an abundance of options. The vendors were all anonymous to preserve the main sponsor’s branding investment. The row of stalls offering “Pie and Mash”, “Waffles”, “Fish and Chips” etc reminded me of my days in the Soviet Union where similar brand-free outlets offered “Bread”, “Meat”, “Vegetables” (although inside the shops there was usually nothing on sale).

Elder daughter commented on how relaxing it was to be in a brand-controlled environment. Even the badges on the hand-dryers in the toilets were masked with sticky tape (the toilets, by the way, were adequate – nothing special – I don’t think Danny Boyle had a hand in arranging them).

Handball is a fast and confusing game. My comprehension was inhibited by the bellowing Norwegians all around me, who were blowing air horns and swinging cow bells when they weren’t chanting in my ear. In the BBC coverage an early cut-away shot of the audience showed me sitting behind a red-clad posse in Viking helmets, just along the row from a baby in ear-defenders. I seem to be saying “what’s happening now?” and looking baffled.

The women’s handball final saw the noisy Norwegian’s meeting the underdogs from Montenegro. Alongside 11,000 Scandinavian fans there were about a dozen Montenegrin supporters in the audience, so we decided to support them as well.

The match was fiercely fought and quite close. I think that most handball matches are quite close. Possession of the ball often leads to a goal and alternates between the two teams quite evenly. Looking at the results leading up to the final the only matches where the victory margin was more than 5 goals (out of 20 or 30 goals each side) were those lost by Team GB. There is clearly scope for Britain to develop further.

From time to time play would stop and a gamesmaker with a mop would hurry on to clear bodily fluids from the floor… in case anyone slipped (rather than simply falling due to being brutally barged by an opponent).

I was further confused by the fact that the two referees on the court were identical twins. If they hadn’t been standing together at the start of the match I would simply have assumed that there was one referee who moved really quickly.

In the end the experience and blonde hair of the Norwegians proved decisive. They won by three goals. The Vikings in the crowd went wild and had to be calmed by the stewards. The Montenegrin team seemed equally delighted with their silver medals.

The Norwegian national anthem is as ponderous as you might expect from a nation with the best fjords and five months of twilight in winter. The Spanish bronze medalists had very smart trainers in their team colours. The Montenegrin outfits “looked like school PE kit” according to younger daughter – it probably was.

Out into the night afterwards and into 80,000 people who had just watched Mo win the 5,000 metres and were now heading for the station – “Stratford station is very busy, there may be delays” announced the announcer.

We turned the other way and strolled out of the back gate and found the bus stop. The bus was almost empty when it arrived five minutes later. London is great.

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One Response to “Fun and Games”

  1. One of the things that londoners frequently complain about is the state of their public transport. Occasionally they need reminding by their more remote brethren that they have a generally-reliable, integrated transport system that pretty much spreads across the entirety of the M25 area and they should actually be really, really grateful for it.


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