Olympics – First Night of Athletics
August 4, 2012

Olympic fever is running throughout London. Everywhere you look people are wearing their national colours and seem to be coming back from an Olympic event. Though it seems that besides these Olympic tourists everyone else has left London! I took the tube to work this morning at 8:45am and it was half full. I don’t think that has ever happened to me in the 3 years I have be coming to London regularly. Very weird. And they keep putting out flashes on the news services saying that the congestion is going to be a problem from today. And then today comes and goes and you’re wondering what congestion. Today was another repeat of that for me!

At one stage today I was on the phone to SA and when I stepped out of my office I wondered what had become of my staff. Not a single one to be seen. My first thought was rapture but I wrote that off almost as quickly especially since I know the staff. Second thought was that they had gone for a staff meeting and were all waiting for me. And then I heard a cheer from around the corner and they were all watching TV (Olympic rowing finals). Even the non-sporty staff members have the Olympic website open checking the schedule and watching the medals flow in for Team GB.

I left early this afternoon so I could get to the Olympic Park. On the way to the tube I always walk past a small park. Today everyone was sunning themselves on deck chairs. Where the deck chairs suddenly appeared from I have no idea but the English were making full use of them and the sun (which hasn’t been seen much recently).

We headed for the Olympic Park at 4pm. Took the tube from Westminster to Stratford. At the penultimate station they announced that we should get off there because there was at least a 45 minute wait if we went to Stratford to get into the Park. We ignored them and wisely so as it took us about 10 minutes to get in. The biggest delay was that the ticket scanner the guy was using to confirm our tickets had stopped working.

The quantum of people coming in and out of the Park was significantly greater than last Friday though. People were leaving from this afternoons events at the Stadium, Aquatics Centre etc. The Park restaurants were also very full and so we decided to just enter the stadium. It was pretty empty and so easy to get drinks and food (or at least easier than it became about an hour later). I went down again about an hour later and they were sold out of beers!

The athletics started at 7pm. It started with the Shot Put for the Heptathlon and then the ladies discus qualifications. Some interesting sized women in that batch. The women’s 100 meter heats then also started. You sort of didn’t know where to look at stages there was so much happening.  Then the men’s long jump also started up. We had the discus and long jump pretty much in front of us. The long jump included the only South African athlete competing tonight – Mokoena. The atmosphere was great. Any Team GB person got extra cheering.

We also had the men’s 1500 meter heats and the final of the men’s shot put (almost as big as the women discus throwers). The heptathlon also had the 200 meters and the British athlete (Jess Ennis) is the favourite to win that. She was winning after this mornings 2 events and then lost the lead after the shot put as a Lithuanian athlete threw the shot about 2 meters further than anyone else and got a lot of points for doing that. However, Jess ran a fantastic 200 meters and even though she came second in her race, the race she was in was the fastest of the night. When they consolidated the points she was ahead by some margin and they announced that after 4 events this was the most number of points ever accumulated. Expectations are high for tomorrow.

The long jump took a long time. I thought the ‘long’ stood for distance but now I know it stands for the length of time it takes to get through a qualification round. One of the favourites bombed out as he fouled all three jumps. Mokoena fouled his first, jumped 7.82 for his 2nd. At that point they announced that it looked like you had to have a jump of 7.92 or better to make the finals. I thought he was toast. But with his last jump he does 8.02 and just like that he was through to the final. Fantastic to see right in front of me.

The final event of the night was the women’s 10000 meters. I cannot believe they do 10000 meters in 30 minutes. That is 3 minutes per km (or for those of you who still work in miles – 4.6 minutes per mile). In case you haven’t worked it out – that is 20km/h.  If you don’t know how quick that is – go to the gym, set the treadmill on 20km/h and try to do one km at that pace and see how difficult it is. Most people couldn’t even sustain that pace on a bicycle. Of course the African athletes lead the race from start to finish. It was pretty much 3 Kenyan athletes and 3 Ethiopian athletes. Unfortunately one of the Kenyan’s dropped out with an injury on the last lap. By 3rd last lap they were lapping some of the slower runners. The winner (Dibaba) really accelerated over the last 400 meters and in the end won by 6 seconds – the gap looked bigger than the time sounds.

I come with my brother-in-law, his daughter and two of their friends from SA. As I wanted to miss the worst of the crush I suggested we leave immediately. The ladies wanted to stay more and see the post show (they are trying to spread the transport burden). Jeff and I left. We got out relatively quickly and managed without a lot of problem to get onto the tube. We got home just after 11pm. The girls arrived almost an hour later.

Need to go to bed so that I am fresh for tomorrow’s event!



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