Saturday, July 28, 2012

London 2012 & Me

Olympic 'entertainment' at Hampden Park

The Games of the Modern Olympiad have been underway since 1896, and of course they wrestled, ran, tossed discus and raced chariots back in Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC. There are 26 sports in the London 2012 Games, and around 10,500 athletes competing. So there is no chance that this modest blog can hope to do more than give you a mere taste of your blogger’s own 2012 Olympic experiences.

Day Minus One found Peter and I making our way (eventually) to Hampden Park, a football stadium in Glasgow. We found an arena that could hold about 40,000 (our estimate), and a crowd of about 37,700 (official announcement). We had received, by email from LOCOG, strict instructions not to bring bags. I queued behind a Japanese lady in a kimono carrying several shoulder bags and dragging a wheelie suitcase. Perhaps she didn’t get the email. We all went through individual pat-downs rather than a magnetron - that’s a lot of patting - and squeezed through Hampden Park’s very narrow, medieval-style turnstile gates, into a pleasant arena. At each end of the stadium the seat colours formed the Scottish flag of St Andrew, and a Scottish pipe band were playing Highland favourites. Here we spent the next five hours or so, the only downside being the lack of food options. You could choose fizzy soft drink, chocolate, or pies. The pies had names like the “Hampden” or “Cheesy Beans”. They looked and smelled disgusting. We fasted for the duration.

Hampden Park: Scottish, obviously.

Morocco take to the field

However, back to the sports. First up in a Men’s Football qualifying double-header round was Honduras (in fetching blue-and-white striped outfits) and Morocco (green and red). The match was notable for the occurrence of actual scoring, the final result being a 2-all draw. Then the real excitement began, with Spain, the current world and EU champions, facing Japan. The stadium had by now filled with enthusiastic Japanese soccer fans, arrayed in a variety of questionable outfits and chanting “NipPON! NipPON!” They were rewarded by some very superior play by their team, who refused to be tricked or phased by the Spanish habit of kicking the ball back and forth in front of their own goal and dribbling it about and generally messing around (a tactic known, I’m told, as ‘tiki taki’). Japan scored a vigorous goal in the first half and Spain never managed to equalise, despite looking very threatening. The champs took their baby blue jerseys and funny white shorts off despondently, while the business-like navy blue jerseys of the unusually tall Japanese players ran a lap of honour for their adoring fans.

Morocco and Honduras

"NIPpon! NIPpon!"

The fans.

Making our way out of the arena at about 4 pm with 37,700 other fans we decided to take refuge in a nearby pub until the coast cleared. Many of said fans also had the same idea, providing a certain “atmosphere” in the pub. We left after one beer, to the sound of a local encouraging a contingent of Japanese fans to chant “YorkSHIRE! YorkSHIRE!”

Later, in the pub...

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