Sunday, September 9, 2012

Medal Ceremonials

Weightlifting medal recipients.

At the Olympic Games there's the Opening Ceremony and there's the Closing Ceremony, but never a day goes by without dozens of those other ceremonies - the Medal Ceremonies. Sometimes they are the most dramatic moments of all. After a tense or exciting bout, the tensions of the victors relax and all their emotions are allowed to surface. Relief, patriotism, joy, euphoria - sometimes even unbridled religious fervour. The medal ceremonies are the unsung ceremony stars of the Games.

Aussie women win Basketball bronze.

The flower guy brings out his tray.
Lauren Jackson examines her bronze medal.  

For the spectator, watching your own country's sportsmen or women up on the medal dias is of course a great moment, but there wasn't so much of that going for Australia in this Games. Well, we did finish in the top ten, after trailing at 24th at one time. And there was plenty of Silver! This spectator enjoyed the Australian Women's Basketball team on the dias for Bronze (if only they hadn't lost to France earlier, they would have been the final against the USA, and they deserved to be, on form - arghh!)

When a medal winner is from a tiny nation, or one which hasn't won a medal for many long years, the jubilation from competitors and spectators alike is fervent. When the Venezuelan men's fencer won that country's first medal - a Gold, to boot - since 1968, well, we were all Venezuelan for a moment. When Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich won the Men's Marathon on the final day, we could feel for the Kenyans, but...hey, Uganda!

Venezuela - Fencing gold.

And of course there is the Home Crowd -- after a tense first day or two, Team GB swept all before it and gave their home supporters something to wave their Union Jacks about. And they did. Loudly. Often. Congratulations Team GB - and all the others who stood hand on heart, heart in mouth, sometimes weeping, on the winners' dias at the Medal Ceremonies.

A military operation (and that's the correct Korean flag this time).

Young ladies, young men, officials, photographers - oh, and athletes. Gymnastics.

Preparing to mount the winners' dias. Table Tennis.

A fetching purple colour.

In 2012 the dias for the Medal Ceremony was a charming purple, which went so well with hot pink, that other London 2012 signature colour. The flags were raised by military personal from various branches of the services. We will skim lightly over that unfortunate mix-up of flags on day one at the football - of all the flags to mix-up, it would have to be North and South Korea. Still, we moved on from that. Out marched the military in fine formation at each and every Medal Ceremony, treating the flags as carefully as new born babes, raising them and lowering them, and marching them back to storage with all due solemnity.

The anthem of the winning country is played as the three flags are raised. Like sorting out the flags, this too must be a mammoth and delicate task. The anthems used at the 2012 Games were specially recorded by an orchestra commissioned to do so - some had to be shortened, and some lengthened. There was quite a bit of low-key grumbling about the version of 'God Save The Queen' which we heard so often following Team GB's victories. Some didn't like the somewhat truncated version, which missed out the little rising trill in the middle. Still, needs must, and flags have to be raised and the next matches played.

THE moment. Table Tennis.

The flags are raised. Basketball. (Aussie!)

The medals are presented by an official from the relevant sporting federation, and a little bunch of flowers by an IOC bigwig. They come out dressed in their special uniforms, neat jackets and jaunty hats. Various lithe young ladies attend the proceedings, moving everyone to where they should be on the dias; and several handsome young men solemnly carry out the medals and flowers on little trays, while suitable music plays. It is very ritualistic, and probably is the moment in the modern Olympics which most recalls the ancient Games - somehow you feel that when the laurel wreath was placed on the ancient winner, things were solemn, and lithe young people were involved.

Yay! Happy medal holders. 

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