Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Torch Relay runs into controversy

‘It’s about ordinary people who’ve done extraordinary things.’
Paul Deighton LOCOG on The Torch Relay.

Now something that really is extraordinary is the fact that a genuine Olympic Torch is for sale on eBay and just went for over £100,000. There are more on there now in case you’re feeling flush. LOCOG charged Olympic Torch bearers around £200 to purchase their individual torches. This was a first or so I believe, for an organising committee to profit from the torches.

Rightly or wrongly, it’s not the greatest example to set for the so-called inspirational people Paul Deighton describes. But if you’re going to make £100,000 from your little piece of history and pay off your mortgage in austere times, maybe you really are inspirational. You’re certainly entrepreneurial. One torch on there appears to be raising money for a cancer charity. Another torch is just a picture of a torch ¬and doesn’t exist at all. Be careful what you bid for, and all that. I just hope the communities who nominated the runners don't mind...

There will be more press about this issue, I’m sure – check out the Independent for more information. All that keeps springing to my mind are the Olympic values: Excellence, Friendship and Respect. Pierre de Coubertin would be spinning in his grave.

Tickets, PLEASE!

So every day at 11am last week, I’ve imagined hundreds of people asking their bosses if they can ‘nip out’ for an early lunch/meeting/phone call while they spend the next hour desperately trying to navigate the ever confusing Ticketmaster website to purchase last chance Olympics tickets. I sincerely hope that if this is you, you got what you wanted.

I had the added complication of having my ‘due date’ thrown in to the mix. Would I be up to my eyeballs on gas and air shouting, ‘But I haven’t logged on yet to get my rowing tickets!’ or would I have to just take what I could get on day one? I decided with the latter as the disappointment would likely have matched the pain of delivery. (I know, I’m crazy).

So I still haven’t given birth to my Olympic baby (due to be born at Stoke Mandeville – the name of one of the funny looking Olympic mascots in case you didn’t know). But I did press the panic button early and bought Beach Volleyball Tickets on day two of the re-sale. I read a tweet that described the ticket sale as a mass free-for-all. You literally didn’t know if you would get anything in your basket after frantically trying to work out what was still available. (Apparently, everything was that was showing on the site – except, boo! It wasn’t…)

Obviously I’m chuffed I can go – admittedly, it was something I always took for granted when the London Olympics were announced. Am also delighted I can take my Olympic baby in arms – thanks for the u-turn there Lord Coe (see earlier post). Now I can put my feet up and think of Team GB in relative peace..!

The last of the tickets will be on sale this week – Paralympic sales Monday 21st and the rest of the Olympics Wednesday 23rd, first come, first served.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Who's got the matches?

The Olympic Torch has finally arrived from Athens and burns bright on British soil. A contingency including Beckham, the Princess Royal and Wiff Waff (Boris Johnson) have made us proud tonight. Its arrival has prompted tweets suggesting Beckham will not be the one to light the Olympic Cauldron at the Opening Ceremony. I never thought he would – I mean, he's not exactly an Olympic athlete, is he? A great ambassador and an Olympic money earner, that’s for sure. To quote Obama: ‘It’s a rare man who can be that tough on the field and also have his own line of underwear.’

So it’s been suggested Sir Steve Redgrave must be the one to light the cauldron. Or will it be someone more senior, such as the legendary Roger Bannister, the first man to run the mile in under 4 minutes. He ran at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games but didn’t win a medal. I’m trying to think of a female athlete to add to the mix – Sally Gunnell or Kelly Holmes perhaps? Someone suggested the Queen, but I think she’s in the Beckham category. Sorry m’aam.

My money is also on sailor Ben Ainslie to carry the Team GB flag into the stadium at the Opening Ceremony – although I hear he has a back injury and is to be the first person to carry the Olympic Torch in the UK. So perhaps Sir Chris Hoy will be the one to lift the Union Jack?

Whatever happens, I feel very proud this evening to have marked the Olympic Torch’s arrival on British soil. Good luck to all those who are running with the flame over the coming weeks (8,000 people in total). I hope to get a glimpse at Stoke Mandeville when it passes through.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Diary post from Sydney 2000 Olympic Village

There are lots of interesting characters dropping in and out of the Religious Services Centre throughout the day. I had a relaxing chat to an Irish Boxing Coach of Cuban origin today; he’s a tall Afro-Caribbean guy who is a Buddhist, working for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. And when he doesn’t do that, he's working in prisons teaching inmates Spanish and Than-Phong – a martial art like tai chi.

I also met Maria Mutola, fresh from winning gold in the 800m. She had come to thank Phra Mana and his team for their support. She is, I believe, the first ever gold medalist for Mozambique and has appeared at an amazing six Olympic Games – which only four other track and field athletes have achieved. And considering that was over a 21-year career, I feel very privileged to have met her. Brits might remember Maria as Dame Kelly Holmes’ training partner who was thought to have assisted Holmes’ win at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

At lunchtime I sat in awe of the massive queue of athletes for McDonalds meals in the Olympic Village dining hall. My meals are free, so I always make sure I eat lots – easy, as the food is delicious. I take advantage of the amazing salad dishes from around the world – particularly as fruit and vegetables are so dear here in Australia, and on my backpacker budget, quite a luxury. My college friend Anna Hemmings joined me today. She's canoeing for Team GB and she gave me a guided tour of the athletes’ accommodation. I got to see all the physios at work and where her teammates hang out when they’re not competing, sightseeing, chasing autographs or generally having a whale of a time!

After lunch, I headed back to work and saw Gomez playing in the International zone. There must have been 3-40 people watching at any one time, mainly Brits working in the village and a few Team GB athletes. The lead singer was saying how surreal it all was as they usually play to packed venues. Once again I had to pinch myself that I was hanging out at an Olympic Village, nevermind having another amazing free experience as a volunteer. My only complaint was that Nelson Mandela didn’t pop in to see us, but by all accounts he was hanging out with his national team so we let him off….

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The great ticket scramble continues...

The London 2012 ticket saga continues this weekend. As someone who failed to get tickets in both rounds, but whose application didn’t go through in the second round, I have also missed out on the ‘golden’ window that began on Friday and ends at 6pm today (Saturday 12th May). During this period, further athletics and ceremonies tickets (around 928,000 seats as reported in Evening Standard, although news reports differ) were made available to a lucky 20,000 people. I should have been one of them. I have had endless problems with the Ticketmaster website. I feel so bitterly disappointed, but I have to be pleased for those who did achieve success yesterday…sort of!

I now have a chance to take a pick of what’s left of the tickets over the next 5 days. I can only apply for one event and up to four tickets. Not all events are for sale every day, so again, a game of tactics. Do you apply for a sport you’re not as keen on that may have more availability, or do you hold off until the last day if you like rowing the best? It’s a minefield of disappointment waiting to happen, as there is only a one in four chance for people like me to buy tickets.

I’m remaining optimistic, but I can’t help feeling that the tickets should have been available in the beginning. And with more and more being advertised in marketing promotions (yes, I admit, I am a hypocrite and am desperately entering these competitions!), I feel even harder done by. Ok, will stop moaning now.

I just have to feel blessed I was able to have my chance on the other side of the world. So far, London 2012 cannot match up to Sydney 2000 in this respect, but then, the internet is king now and with these being hailed as the ‘social media’ games, how can we expect life to go back to being as simple as turning up at a kiosk and buying tickets in person?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Who will be the 2012 legend?

I watched a television programme about 1972 last week. The BBC or ‘auntie’ as it is affectionately known, is also suffering in the recession it seems. It’s cheaper to make programmes powered by the public (think talent shows like the Voice UK or ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent) or to dig out footage from the archives, thereby cutting out expensive actors, sets and film crews. It’s a shame to have to rely on the USA for high quality dramas like Mad Men and Homeland, but there you go.

Anyway, I digress. So I spent the evening in question reading up about Mark Spitz’s achievements at the Munich Olympic Games. He is considered to be one of the most successful athletes of all time, winning seven Olympic gold medals in the pool in 1972. This was surpassed at Beijing 2008 when fellow US athlete Michael Phelps won eight golds in the pool, bringing his personal haul to 16 Olympic medals .

It got me wondering if there will be one stand out athlete at London 2012. Sure, Michael Phelps is back for his last Olympics, but he won’t be competing in as many events as he did in Beijing. Sadly, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe didn’t qualify in his comeback attempt and won’t be appearing. But this isn’t just the swimming Olympics, right?

There are so many outstanding athletes hoping to build on past successes – it's enough to make your head spin. I think the most recognised name will be Usain Bolt, who is hoping to smash his Beijing performance having run the fastest 100m time this year last weekend. Apparently, the only thing that can stop him this summer is the UK weather. I know the feeling Usain!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Alight here for London 2012

It seems to be a changeable season – I can’t say I’ve ever had to have my heating on in the month of May before. Ever since the UK announced a drought warning, it has tipped it down cats and dogs. But the good thing is, this will surely mean July and August are sunnier than usual. So pack your Bermuda shorts people, I predict London will be the hottest spot in Europe this summer.

It’s true it’s been an eventful week – England’s football manager has just been replaced with only a month or so to go before the Euro Championships. Roy Hodgson has been chosen to take on the (some might say, poisoned) chalice.

The good news is, London has kept its Mayor for another term. A little bit of consistency should be welcomed with open arms at this late stage before the Olympic games begin. Congratulations to Boris Johnson. Not sure the same will be said of our Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Secretary (the dude in government who is officially responsible for looking after the Olympics). Jeremy Hunt’s position is looking increasingly unsustainable due to allegations of corruption and backhanders.

And finally, the Olympic Torch is about to set off from Olympia in Greece. It starts its journey on 10th May and somehow gets to Lands End in Cornwall, South West England, in time to set off on 19th May. Let’s hope it has a smooth and successful journey over the next few weeks. Here’s a nice little video about the Coventry factory that created the Olympic torch. (Yes, it’s UK made!! Unlike our sports kit and a few other bits and bobs…)