Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Girl power from Team GB

It’s a month to go until the Olympics begin and the Spice Girls have been in town to promote their new musical. I say ‘their’ but it’s actually the brainchild of comedian Jennifer Saunders. A great day for inspirational women then?

Well I don’t know entirely about that, but I have been finding out a bit more about Team GB’s athletes to watch at this summer’s games. I’m glad to say, many of them are women and they really, really want gold. I don’t know why I’m so glad, except maybe it was after all the reporting earlier this year about girls being put off sport at school. That or I'm just fed up with all the gloom that's out there right now. So here we are, two inspirational ladies heading to London 2012.

Beth Tweddle – Gymnastics
Now forgive me, but gymnastics is a sport I’m largely ignorant about. My knowledge began at school with a terrifying ordeal involving a so-called ‘horse’ which wasn’t vaguely fluffy or friendly and some enormous ropes that dangled from great heights. That and navy blue knickers.

However, those in the know will consider 27-year-old Beth Tweddle to be Team GB’s most successful gymnast ever. She is three times world champion and our first ever individual medallist at this level. Beth’s event is the uneven bars and she finished 4th in Beijing. She just won gold at an Olympic test event recently, so so could very well be a contender for our first gymnastics gold this summer. And if she is, I’ll be doing a little living room gymnastics myself (minus the navy blue knickers).

Keri-Anne Payne – Open Water Swimming
You may remember this talented swimmer as the first person to qualify for Team GB last year. She was also a silver medallist in the 10k marathon swim in Beijing and a competitor in the 200 and 400 metre individual medley events in the pool. Keri-Anne was also crowned world champion in marathon swimming in 2009 and 2011.

Sadly, a shoulder injury meant she had to pull out of this spring’s European Championships. However, she’s apparently firing on all cylinders now and is a hot favourite for this year’s event in Hyde Park’s Serpentine. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this lovely lady from now on, in and out of the water.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Ones to watch at London 2012

Now I know what you’re thinking. Here’s a post about heptathlete Jessica Ennis, whose dominating image greets Heathrow’s arrivals before they’ve even left the sky. Or I could be about to launch into a spin about the incredible achievements of Mark Cavendish, as he takes on the double feat of the Tour de France and the Men’s Road Race at London 2012.

In fact, there are dozens of deserving athletes from Team GB heading to this year’s games; I bet the panel choosing the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award are going to be in a right pickle come December. It’s a great feeling as the first Olympics etched in my mind were Seoul and Barcelona where Team GB picked up five gold medals respectively. This dropped to just one at Atlanta in 1996. It’s probably fair to say that for many years Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie were the only athletes most of us could name.

So here’s the first part of my list of 'lesser-known' GB champions* with grand designs on the medal podium this summer (i.e. they aren’t in every single advert on telly).

Sarah Stevenson – Taekwondo
Sarah, the current taekwondo world champion, won bronze in Beijing and has been to every Olympics since Sydney 2000 where she was just 17 years old. Incredibly, she lost both of her parents to illness just last year but she still managed to be crowned world champion in spite of everything. Unfortunately, Sarah is recovering from a cruciate injury but with her recent selection for Team GB, we still expect great things from this remarkable lady.

The Brownlee Brothers – Triathlon
If you haven’t seen the Proctor & Gamble advertising campaign featuring mothers of Olympians, then it’s well worth a nosey. It puts you in the shoes of an athlete’s mum. So just imagine how Mrs Brownlee, mum of Alaistair and Jonathan (Team GB triathletes) will be feeling this summer. They’re expected to pick up gold and silver respectively, in spite of Alastair’s achille’s injury earlier this year. Needless to say, it would be more than a major achievement if they do the double, so keep your eyes peeled as they dive into Hyde Park’s Serpentine this summer.

[*I mean no disrespect by using the term 'lesser-known' and hope this is not a patronising term to those following their progress. It's just that many people may not be as familiar with their achievements compared with the likes of Jess Ennis and Sir Christopher Hoy.]

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What’s on Danny Boyle’s iTunes?

A list of 86 tracks have been announced for the Opening Ceremony playlist. As you can imagine, this has got music lovers’ tongues wagging as people debate which tracks they would have included. The list includes God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols, the Eastenders theme tune, Wonderwall by Oasis, Dambusters, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and Underworld’s Born Slippy, to name a few.

Last week, Danny Boyle gave a press conference releasing details of his vision for the opening moments of the ceremony. It will be an ‘anarchic pastoral scene’ with real animals, depicting England as a green and pleasant land. He says he will be try to capture the humanity and warmth of Sydney 2000’s ceremony using wit and inventiveness, rather than sheer expense as was the case in Beijing.

Just don’t mention plans to add a new airport to London’s next-to-bursting sprawl or the HS2 high-speed rail link destined to cut across precious greenbelt land as it connects London to Birmingham. (They’re already linked). I joke, but actually, judging Danny Boyle and his Musical Directors Underworld at this stage would be like hopping in a time machine and telling Van Gogh his sketches of some sunflowers were a bit ropey. Either way, on the night of 27th July, I’m sure Danny Boyle will be added to the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Arise Sir Danny!

Monday, 11 June 2012

"When you're tired of London, you're tired of life..."

A strange thing happened to me last week. I’m still coming to terms with it. There I am, breastfeeding a two week old baby and I decide to log on to the London 2012 ticket site. Just to see. Because LOCOG suddenly announced they were releasing more athletics, boxing, swimming, table tennis, volleyball and football tickets. Just like that. JUST LIKE THAT.

Apparently they were ‘contingency’ Olympics tickets that became available as organisers worked out how many seats were needed for the media and spectators. That and the fact Thomas Cook haven’t been able to shift around 75,000 tickets they were allocated. I don’t know if this is a sign of excellent organisational skills as the ‘experts’ would have you believe or a right royal stuff up.

So there I am, telling my other half that only the really expensive seats would be left. And I click on the £20 athletics tickets. And before I know it, I have passed the point of no return. The screen refreshed once, twice and three times. The message was good. The message told me the tickets were mine. MINE! I had major surgery just two weeks ago but I ran around the bedroom squealing with delight – nay, ecstasy! No wonder I am in pain again today.

I have spent hours and hours on the Tickmaster site before now. My hopes, like many others, have been raised, only to be dashed half an hour later during each of the previous rounds. Now I hear there are several still available? I’m confused and battered by the process. So like a lamb to the slaughter, I went back for another go. What’s so astonishing is that I nearly didn’t. Then I read a tweet from Daley Thompson… DALEY THOMPSON! He can’t get London 2012 tickets. I feel so bad that I have them and he does not. He must be best mates with Lord Coe, but even he hasn’t been lucky in the Ticketmaster lottery.

It’s such a shame, because whether the experts are right or not (see article here), news items entitled ‘Ticket fatigue’ have started appearing in the press. This Olympics did not need any help in presenting itself in a negative light to the general public, so I can’t help but feel this is incompetence on a grand scale. But of course, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no expert.

Thanks to Samuel Johnson.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Olympic Torch goes to Ireland

“There’s no divisions when it comes to the Olympics” local, Newry.

I’ve been quiet while the Olympic Torch has been busy this past month. My Olympic baby is now two weeks old, born at Stoke Mandeville, home of the Paralympic Games (and a rather outstanding NHS hospital). It’s also home to one of the largest specialist spinal units in the world. Jimmy Saville was a big champion of the hospital and many’s the time we’ve enjoyed a cuppa in the large cafĂ© name after him.

Anyway, I digress. If you also missed the past few weeks of Torch action, it’s travelled to all sorts of wonderful places including underground and to the tip of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I think it got lucky that day as the sun was actually shining which is more than can be said for when we visited a couple of years ago. You couldn’t see the Causeway for thick grey cloud.

Most excitingly perhaps, was its journey to the only city outside of Greece and the UK when it crossed the Northern Irish border and arrived into Dublin. This was a brilliant moment for the north and the south – and once again, a sharp reminder of how sport and significantly, the Olympics, brings people together from all different walks of life.

And there in Dublin, another first: only two-time Eurovision entrants Jedward, could get away with running as a pair. I wondered if someone would try to take them out as they jogged along O’Connell Street, but I needn’t have worried. Although their hair looked pretty flammable as it had been moulded into a similar flame look, the event passed off safely. Nicely organised Ireland and Locog.