diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 09, 2012

London 2012  London Prepares
  London Disability Athletics Challenge
  Tuesday 8th May 2012

Many people were gutted when they failed to get tickets to the 100m finals at the Olympic Stadium. Losers. Yesterday I got to watch not one but ten different 100m finals at the Olympic Stadium. What's more, I only had to pay a fiver for the privilege. These London Prepares test events, seriously, they're sometimes better than the real thing.

Yesterday's test event was the London Disability Athletics Challenge - a name dreamt up because they couldn't say "Paralympics" because it wasn't. Athletes with a variety of disabilities turned up, or indeed didn't, because there were a lot of no-shows during the day. It was billed as an international event, and included sizeable contingents from the Netherlands, Canada and Brazil, although the majority of athletes appeared to be British. Even so, we occasionally demonstrated a tendency to get thrashed, as for example in one women's race where Finland finished first and we filled all the remaining eight places.

You couldn't fail to be impressed by the perseverance, skill and stamina of the athletes. The wheelchair racers in their low-slung chariots, hands spinning, careering forward. The amputees running, not bouncing, on carbon fibre springy limbs. The visually impaired athletes paired off with guide runners who helped keep them in the correct lane, even when it curved round a bend. And then the athletes with no visible disability, but who must have had something, except it wasn't possible to tell. All the races are described by a category, for example T12, T44 or F32-34. Nobody in the commentary box explained what these meant, and nowhere in the programme or fixture list were the codes explained, so were were left to concentrate on each athlete's ability, rather than their disability.

The crowd were well up for supporting everyone who participated. One of the Olympic sponsors, a well known credit card company, had kindly given every spectator a free concertina of cardboard on the way in. This "Clap-Banner" could be used in lieu of applause, if moving your palms together was too much effort, which for many it seems it was. The thwacking started as athletes powered by, and the noise resembled a forest of artificial chirping insects. Alas not a terribly loud noise, not when there's an entire stadium to fill and only two thousand spectators present.

One of the joys of a 3% capacity audience was the opportunity to sit in whatever seat you wanted. Large sections were roped off, obviously, but there was still significant scope to take a front row seat, or shift under cover when it rained, or go and sit on the opposite side of the stadium to see what things looked like from there. One of the best areas was block 156, square on to the 100m start at trackside, although it was impossible to see who was winning once a race had begun. Block 140 was ideal for watching the long jump, if nothing much else. Blocks 102-115 gave a great overview of the home straight, closer than the row of corporate boxes strung out on the mezzanine above, although the curve of the stadium still left you at some distance from the action. It was even possible to stand in the ring of disabled spectator spaces, assuming they weren't already occupied, without getting moved on by a grumbling attendant. That won't happen again.

You had to feel sorry the athletes taking part in the discus or the seated shot put. They were having a great time chucking stuff and competing for points, but none of us were watching. The announcer kept referring to their latest ranking, as and when appropriate, but we were all fixated on the track. At least the shot-putters got their moment in the limelight when they were selected as one of three events to simulate a medal ceremony. Special music played and out they processed in their wheelchairs to line up behind the special step-free podium. As their names were called they propelled themselves up the ramp to have their prize presented... but no, it wasn't a medal. Instead each winning participant received a cuddly Mandeville mascot (available in John Lewis in Westfield for £19.99), and very pleased they looked too. Each ceremony then played out with the appropriate national anthem, with God Save The Queen being heard just the once. I can reassure you that, at a Disability Athletics event, not everybody stands.

An army of volunteers kept everything ticking over, a significant number of whom appeared to be either about 20 years old or about 60. In they trooped at the start of each event, like clockwork, because that's how it has to be. If the starting blocks needed to be moved, two volunteers per block lined up and simultaneously moved them. A line of youngsters brought in one plastic box per competitor, for the offloading of gear, then calmly marched out again. Each set of athletes was led in behind a lady carrying a placard above her head ("Women's T36 200m final", or whatever), to ensure that everyone ended up at precisely the right point in the stadium as and when. If the test event was testing the organisation, the organisation was only rarely found wanting.

Six hours of events, we got, which was damned good value in such an iconic location. Only one of the Athletics events in the summer will last that long, with most stadium spectators in their seats for less than half that. We got to experience overcast chill and rain, but also sunshine. We watched 50 different events, including those ten different categories of 100m finals I mentioned at the beginning. We saw three world records broken (one by the athlete who came third, which seems perverse, but that's how categories of disability work). We marvelled at the non-able-bodied doing things better than we able-bodied folk could manage. And the friend I went with only fell asleep once.

When Paralympic tickets go back on sale on 21st May, maybe you should consider grabbing some. It's not the headline act this summer, that's for sure, but you'll get to see world class sport all the same. Plus, if you're still cursing loudly at missing out on stadium or 100m finals tickets, your passport to the Olympic Park may be cheaper than you think.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards