Monday, 30 April 2012

Diary entry from Sydney 2000 Village

So I’m one week into my stint at the Sydney Olympics and I’m absolutely shattered. I get to the village at 8am so up at 6am. Now the competition has started it’s far more interesting. Britain has a gold for cycling and shooting so far. Ian Thorpe broke the World Record for 400m freestyle and then went on to help win the relay with his team and the Aussies are going crazy over him. He has size 18 feet (Aussie size, so probably a UK 14 or something) – practically flippers instead of feet. Chelsea Clinton is here, along with Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Ali, Princess Anne etc.

Anyway, I got given two free judo tickets from Father Vladimir Makeev, the Russian Orthodox Archpriest. He was given them by Team Uzbekistan. So in the evening, Steph and I went to Darling Harbour’s Exhibition Hall to see what it was all about. We got caught up in the atmosphere and bought Union Jacks. A Spanish girl won Gold, an Aussie got Bronze and an Italian man won Gold. He didn’t stop crying the whole time once he’d won! It was ace to see people win medals – a first and a last for me. When we got home, we headed to the Coogee Bay Hotel to join our housemates. It was packed and a great atmosphere.

The next day, I took the train to the Olympic Stadium where I went to see some athletics with friends. I saw Denise Lewis in the long jump. She won gold in the heptathlon in the end, and I saw a bit of it!!! We also saw the 110m hurdles heats with Colin Jackson who ended up 5th in the final. Tony Jarrett was disqualified in his heat – very sad. It was a great privilege to see some athletics at all to be honest – all of the volunteers were given a ticket each and we were able to get hold of additional tickets a few weeks before, would you believe. So I went twice in the end.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sat in Olympic Park, lounging in the afternoon sun and chatting to Aussies. Steph and I went on to watch Team GB play Canada in the hockey. It belted down with rain and we huddled under our Union Jack. The teams were playing for 5th and 6th position, and it ended up being a draw. It was good to see a sport I wouldn’t normally watch ¬– Steph used to play religiously at home near sunny Croydon. We legged it home afterwards, chuffed with our day out as supporters of Team GB.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mad dogs, Englishmen, women and children

It’s good to see it’s not just me with the crazy hormones coursing round my body at the moment. It seems that towns and villages across the UK are gearing up for their very own Torch Relays, in protest that the real thing won’t be visiting them. They clearly used to watch a lot of Blue Peter as their torch designs are inspired.

The other curious news is that Stuart Pearce, Team GB’s football coach is heading the LA to check out Beckham’s fitness for selection to the Olympic team. He could save a bob or two by listening to ex-England forward Gary Lineker on the subject. After all, he’s the Simon Cowell of football. If he doesn’t know talent when he sees it, I’m a twelve year old girl singing about getting my swag on.

On another note, it was great to see the capital showcased for the London Marathon on Sunday. Well done to all those who’ve worked so hard to get us looking our best. Sydney was gleaming in the months leading up to the 2000 games. Upon my return in 2006 however, shops were empty, buildings gone and you could no longer see your face in the pavements. Make the most of it London, now’s the time to see your city as never before.

And if you’ve been too busy celebrating the amazing fact that Chelsea got through to the Champions League Final with just ten men (breathe), the 30-year-old woman, Claire Squires, who collapsed and died during the London Marathon, has now posthumously raised over half a million pounds for The Samaritans. Our thoughts are with her family – may they be comforted by this amazing tribute. See more here.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

100 days until the London Olympics

It’s all too much. I’m so excited by the prospect of the London Olympic Games that I think I’m going to give birth. Oh yes, I am! I’m due in a matter of weeks and this can only mean one of a few things:

1. I’m considering calling the baby Seb.
2. I’m in for a marathon not a sprint.
3. I’m not going to get to the Olympics.

Well, one of the above is definitely true. And although a new baby didn’t make any difference to my prospects of tickets, it does mean I may have more trouble getting to some of the other wonderful things going on in and around London.

So if you’re still in the camp that this headline is aimed at (London Evening Standard, yesterday), I beseech thee to wake up and smell the elixir of fun.

I know it’s not a natural thing to do. I know you have concerns. But come on people, this is the sparkle that makes life good – the times you look back on and think, bloomin’ heck that was great! Times like when you queued forever to see your first gig at Wembley Old Stadium. You got sun burnt, your bag got nicked and you missed the last train home. But you were only two people away from Prince (insert relevant idol of youth)!

Hopefully, you’ll look back on this in years to come and forget about the money stuff and remember with fond happiness the way Team GB picked up medals like they were hot cakes. And in the same way we lament the passing of 1966 in world cup football trophy terms, it’s likely to be a moment in history that doesn’t come around again any time soon. This is our greatest chance to get behind our athletes and embrace what lies ahead. C’mon!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

God Save The Queen – here's something we can do well!

There are a few things that might get you in really hot water in some countries around the world. Like refusing to play for your national football team when you’re actually a star player. You might refuse because of, say, a political stance for example. And then you might have to get on a plane out of there. Not in the UK. Last year, ‘professional’ England footballer Wayne Bridge refused to play at the World Cup because his teammate John Terry had been carrying on with his wife. Just imagine if we all brought our personal lives to work.

So anyway, it must be a huge honour to be asked to attend a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event as a representative of your country. However, this week, John Lydon of Sex Pistols/Punk movement fame, revealed he had turned down a request to appear at the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics. I believe and hope this is due to his ideological stance rather than the fact that performers don’t get paid as this Telegraph article suggests.

It got me thinking that there must be umpteen famous Londoners, nevermind countrymen, who could easily represent the cultural achievements of the UK. Now I don’t know that I could say the same for many other places in the world. Obviously, I’m biased, but although I don’t know any famous Qatari singers or Brazilian film stars, it’s a good feeling to think that here is one area that Great Britain can excel at globally. Even the naysayers can’t doom this, surely?! After all, it’s already been reported that rock legend Keith Richards of Rolling Stones fame has hinted of their involvement in the Ceremony.

It’s also no wonder that Daniel Craig has already been signed up to appear as James Bond at the Opening Ceremony. And although he might feel a little silly in his penguin suit, doing laps of the stadium in an Aston Martin or flying in on a high wire, I’m sure the spectacle of the event will keep him going just fine. And if that doesn’t, Craig must spare a thought for Kylie Minogue in pink sequins at Sydney 2000, being wielded by scantily clad Adonises on a giant flipflop. We can only imagine what may have been in store for Lydon.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Trenton, the oxymoron

I had an interesting conversation with my dad this weekend. He lives in Australia’s Perth, the most remote city on Earth I believe it’s called. He hadn’t yet heard about the ‘Trenton!’ incident that took place this weekend on the River Thames. It’s a stretch of the river we used to live near. I’ve never rowed it as I don’t have a death wish, but I did feel privileged (and not elitist at all) to live around there. The only thing I know is that no one goes swimming in the Thames because it is so dangerous. Just ask the London whale that ended up in Battersea that time when he took a wrong turn by Graves End.

So it was a no-brainer that the guy in a wetsuit swimming in the middle of the river as Oxford and Cambridge’s boats came through was clearly unhinged and/or a protester of sorts. I don’t want to name him as he’s had his five minutes of fame, but it does seem he has created more anxiety about protesters turning up to the Olympics and putting an end to years of preparation and desire in the blink of an eye. He was protesting about ‘elitism’ – although it probably came across as more of a dislike of Oxbridge and ‘posh’ people. Which is curious, not least because there is no money in rowing, unlike football for example. See more >

Anyway, so turns out, ‘big T’ as I shall call him, is in fact a privately educated chappie from Sydney, who has swapped ‘classless’ Australia for ye olde England. An oxymoron if ever there was one. The Cambridge captain was interviewed about their ‘win’ and he was also Australian. Apparently the crew included oarsmen of six different nationalities in total. I’m not sure who else was English, apart from the umpire maybe, who, in my humble opinion, should have stopped the race when an Oxford rower’s oar broke and made the race unfair, resulting in an ambulance being called for one of the team at the finish line. Dr Woods is now thankfully out of the woods – hope you’re feeling better.

It was the most eventful boat races in years, but with one eye on the Olympics, I think we should all be thankful no one ended up like that poor whale.

See also Trenton/Fenton mash-up as reported in Australia.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Diary entry from Sydney 2000 Opening Ceremony

Well, from where we were in the Olympic stadium, we could see a giant TV screen (Pete from Aylesbury, my housemate, actually helped to install them as part of his job). So we saw all the action, from Olivia John and John Barnes singing, Tina Arena with ‘The Flame’ song and Amorosis ‘Heroes Live Forever’, which is the bit when a giant white sheet dropped over the south stand and covered the audience, making its way to the field of play and images were projected over on to it, including athletes’ images and the dove of peace. Everyone was excited by this point to see who was going to carry the flame. The torchbearers are always kept top secret so no one knows who is going to do the biggie of lighting the cauldron until the last possible moment.

By this time, we found it hard to keep the athletes contained in their ‘pen’, with lots wanting to get out and go off to the loo. It was a long time for them to wait, some 2.5 hours on their feet and they did get restless. Then the moment came when Herb Elliott ran the torch to the stadium and five of the Aussie great athletes took turns to run it on its final lap of glory. These were all women and mainly swimmers, including Betty Cuthbert and Dawn Fraser. This was because it was 100 years of women at the games. Go girls!

And then the moment of moments came… and there was Cathy Freeman standing in a white flame resistant bodysuit – she appeared as if by magic holding the torch and she took it up to the steps of the cauldron and stood in the middle of a circle of water. I watched her live, over the athletes’ heads and my God. You could see the emotion surging over her face on the screens. Anyone who was not affected by that is not alive, but having been here since April 2000 and followed the news, politics etc, the march for reconciliation etc, I think I appreciated it all the more. For this was a statement about Australians for Australians. It will have gone over a lot of viewers’ heads. ‘Who is Cathy Freeman?’ ‘Only a silver medalist’ etc etc. Simon, a lad I work with in the Athletes’ village, said the only reason she did it was because she was Aboriginee. I said, ‘And?’ Australian politics have come a long way in just one year; people’s attitudes are changing and they need to. The backlash with the press at home (in the UK) is that the whole Opening Ceremony was more about political correctness than anything; no kangaroos on bicycles like at the handover at Atlanta which caused an uproar.

At the end I had my photo taken in the stadium and I hope they came out OK. I got separated from the girls I was stood with and ended up walking out behind Matt Shrivington (Aussie athletics hopeful), the Aussie team and then past the US Dream Team (Basketball) who were signing autographs. Apparently they are very famous! I couldn’t help thinking, is some of this wasted on me?! Anyway, I was buzzing, and got home and had to go to the pub/beach to celebrate. Didn’t get home til 6am in the morning. Who could sleep after that?! What a fantastic day!

Note from blogger:
(I should note the rest of these diary entries are recorded further back in this blog, and written by my eager 21 year old self. I’m not sure what you’ll make of it, but there’s nothing like the enthusiasm of youth, that's for sure.)