diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 09, 2012

I went to the Paralympics again yesterday.
I went to the final evening of athletics in the Olympic Stadium.
The very final evening, before the sport switches to football.


Athletics - the event: 15 athletics finals
• Conditions for the athletics were perfect, with temperatures at 25 degrees and barely a breeze. I was sat in a decent seat high above the heart of the action, sandwiched between a pair of serial Games-attenders and an elderly local couple. We chatted, they Mexican-waved, and we all agreed that the claret and blue sunset was a portent of a West Ham future to come.
• You were probably tuned in for Oscar, but we had fourteen other events to watch. Races on the track were generally brief, if thrilling, so a lot of our attention was turned to the field. Here the crowd-pleasing event was the men's high jump, which delivered clearly-defined nuggets of excitement as each competitor attempted to leap clear. We cheered each success and mourned each disappointment, even roared with approval when we should have been focused on a medal ceremony. The winning Polish athlete was spurred on to break the F46 world record in a series of additional jumps after he'd already won the gold medal. And we gave him such a reception on the podium that you could see he was bursting with appreciative emotion. Not even Oscar earned that, because we thought Maciej deserved it more.
• Nobody really watched the javelin final - it carried on outside the spotlight for almost the entire evening. We had a Welsh competitor, but when he failed to qualify nothing was ever mentioned of him. But didn't we love the little Minis shuttling across the field returning each delivery - the stadium's very own Javelin service.
• The only Government minister to risk presenting a medal was the Secretary of State for Sport, and he survived without incident. No such luck for the chairman of Ticketmaster, whose reception was a mixture of polite applause, loud booing and what sounded like mild cackling. Perhaps he hoped he'd be safe in front of a crowd who'd all managed to get tickets to a blue riband event, but it seems we'd all had bad enough online experiences that he deserved what he got. Sub-Chancellor levels of abuse, so nothing over-disrespectful, but hopefully a bit of a wake-up call.
• I wasn't expecting a DJ, but someone behind the scenes was dropping music into the mix throughout the evening. There was nothing Heart or Smooth about their taste in tunes, more Absolute with a touch of 6 Music. Some Rolling Stones circa 1981, a bit of Goldfrapp, a burst of This Charming Man. When Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough got an airing I grinned and clapped along, thankfully concealed by the fact that everyone else was applauding the high jump at the same time.
• And yes, the evening rounded off with a record-breaking burst of Pistorius. The trackside commentator hyped him up too much, almost forgetting that any of the other competitors existed. But he burst down the home straight with aplomb (I was glad I'd bought my binoculars) to bring the London 2012 track and field events to a close. We loved his slow victory lap, bouncing with the South African flag beneath a succession of grandstands. And after a lengthy slew of Victory Ceremonies, rounded off by Oscar's gold, that was it. Less than half of us had stayed to the end, but we still roared our approval, and left buzzing.
Seven photos from the athletics


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