Monthly Archives: September 2012

Olympics 7 – Fencing – my final olympic experience.

I was really looking forward to photographing the fencing as the footage on TV made it look dramatic with the high contrast lighting. With a restriction on photographic gear not exceeding 30 cm in length, I had the dilemma of deciding whether I went with my more powerful 28 – 300mm zoom or due to the low lighting my 70 -200mm F2.8 lens and its better low light options. As I had no idea of where I would be sitting in relation to the action I took both, but used the 70 – 200mm most, as the action was quite close to my seating position. Also luckily for me team GB were placed on the piste closest to me for all of their matches.

The fencing action is quite fast and furious at times, so it was difficult to follow the scoring in real time. Replays on TV screens dotted around the piste helped you to see how the scoring was achieved. I was also kept informed of the finer points of the sport by the regular comments and the explanations of an experienced member of a fencing club, sitting behind me, to his other club members.

The atmosphere was really good as four pistes were in action simultaneously with the men’s team event, so sound of support for all nations involved were coming from all directions. French fans in front of me were shouting for a match the other side of the arena, Germans for the next piste down from the one in front of us and of course GB fans were shouting out for team GB in front of my seating area. Team GB were never going to win a gold, but gave Italy, the favourites, a major scare by nearly beating them in a very close match. They then went on to trash France, normally a very good team who were having a mare in the competition as a whole, to end up coming in fifth after their final match. Not bad for a team that had to play an extra play off match to enter the final phase of the team competition.

 

Fencing was a good way to end my Olympic experience. I would have liked to spend some time watching the Paralympics as well, but I needed to refocus on work and get back to the grindstone. Two weekends of indulging in the Olympics had shown a city I lived in for 13 years in a new light. I am pround of London. I am proud of my country, the athletes and the people of Great Britain. As Lord Coe stated – Britain, we did it and we did it well!

Olympics 6 – The Olympic Park

If you get a chance to visit the Olympic Park at some point, take it. It is a great example of urban regeneration; from a toxic wasteland to a park and sports centre. It is due to change slowly after the Paralympics has ended, but will retain most of it’s most obvious features: the Olympic Stadium, Velodrome, The Copper Box, Hockey pitch and the Aquatic Centre. It is only when you visit the site do you realise how big it is. The sign when entering the park from West Ham station stated a time of 30 minutes to reach the Basketball Arena. Some of this is due to the volume of visitors, but it was still a reasonable walk.

The large TV screens in the River Lee and park area were popular as once your tickets had been used and your session ended, you were able to hang around the Olympic Park and could spend the whole day there if you wished. I like the picture above as although nothing special photographically speaking, it combines some of the most important elements of the Olympic games: the volunteers, the service men and women who came in at the last minute and finally the general public who represented all races, religions and cultures. Sometimes the Olympic ideal of bringing all nations and peoples together regardless of race, nationality, politics and religion through sport seems a bit pretentious and too idealistic, but in London at least it seemed to happen. If only everyday life was like it.

The Park area will be retained and kept as a nature reserve. Considering it was only planted a year or so before the event was due to start, it already looks quite well established with plenty of Butterflies and flowers all around. The view from one of the bridges across the river Lee shows the position of the Velodrome on top of a rise in the site which gives it quite a dramatic approach. Especially so with the  lighting as it was spotlighting the building as the clouds moved across the sky.

Below is a small gallery of images that gives a feel of the Olympic Park.

  

  

  

 

 

Olympics 5 – Basketball

Considering the Basketball Arena is a temporary structure, it is very impressive when entering it. To me it looked no different from the permanent NBA arena’s in the USA. I think a few ticket holders were a bit surprised at the position of their seats up in the gods, but from personal experience, they tend to have an atmosphere all of their own and quite a good view to boot.

While waiting for the basketball to start, I got to thinking about the events I had got tickets for: Beach Volleyball, Archery, Basketball and Fencing. I realised that I had had the opportunity to have a go at all of them at some time. They were always just a fun experience and not quite taken as seriously as the Rugby, Tennis and Cricket that I really concentrated on. Looking back it was probably due to the lack of coaches or access to clubs that stopped a fun sport becoming a more serious, competitive pastime.

The press reports after and during the Olympics showed the increase in interest that had been generated in sport, but there was also the concern in the lack of ability to take this interest and develop it further into regular participation due to lack of facilities and coaches. Time for the Politicians to stand up and stop playing word games and get on with it I think!

With the arena in the Olympic Park, it gave me the opportunity to have a wonder around and see the site. It was also the first day of the athletics, with Jessica Ennis starting the first day of her heptathlon. You could tell when she was in action, the roar from the crowd was massive. The sound of 80,000 people cheering was massive and I read later that it had been especially designed to send the sound back into the stadium and amplify the sound. It was loud outside, so being inside must have been amazing.

Olympics 4 – Archery

I never knew that archery was so big in South Korea. I do now. It seemed that most of the spectators had flown all the way from South Korea to watch it. They expected gold and they got it in both the womens team and individual events, plus the men’s individual event. Lord’s was a great location and looked great even in the heavy showers.

On the television it is hard to visualise the distance that the archers are shooting over. 70 metres makes the central yellow 10 target area appear the size of a ten pence piece from the archers position. They also had to cope with the wind which proved a challenge. From the shooting position the archers were shelterd from the wind, but there was a space of about twenty metres between the stands and the targets which allowed a cross wind to affect the arrow. It showed the skill of the archers, that they very rarely missed the central yellow of the target.

  

 

 

Olympics 3 – Beach Volleyball

With all the hype around the Beach Volleyball, it was really good to see that after a while most viewers realised the athletic ability of the athletes. Both men and women were really striking the ball hard and those of you who have run about a bit on a soft sand beach or even had a go at beach Volleyball yourselves will know that it is hard work playing on sand.

  

Saying that though it was really fun to watch and most commentators on the Olympics agreed that it was really one of the successes of the games. As the stadium announcer called out – you’re not watching Wimbledon so make some noise! Even though I visited on the first morning of the sporting events, the atmosphere was already noticeable and grew over the two weeks. I should have known it was going to go well when a staff member of London Underground approached me at Paddington Station and asked if he could help. That never happened in my 13 years of living in London. Something was definitely up!

It really helped that the sun managed to shine most days and previous Olympic watchers stated that the showers weren’t quite as heavy as in Beijing anyway! Horse Guards Parade was a spectacular backdrop and was completely different from my last seated visit for a Trooping the Colour rehersal way back in the 80’s!