diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 09, 2012

I went to the Paralympics on Friday.
I had a Day Pass for the events at ExCel.
And that's four more Paralympic sports ticked off.


Ah, the ExCel Day Pass, one of the bargains of the Games. For only £10 you could wander around a giant exhibition centre for twelve hours, popping in to watch four different sports (including several medal sessions). They might be some of the more obscure Paralympic sports, but that's not a bad thing if you want to see the true spirit of the Games. And it was unreserved seating throughout, pretty much, which meant I got some excellent close-up seats for a change in a variety of arenas.
One grump - the lack of information about precisely what was taking place in each arena. On turning up at each spectator zone there was nothing to say what event was underway, nor what might be up next, nor how long it was until the next action. I knew to turn up at the Table Tennis at half past twelve for men's gold medal matches because I'd checked online, whereas all everyone else had was "Table Tennis 10:00-15:00". The central information booth only had photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of something over-general, plus a few specific printouts sellotaped to a board with all the key information in tiny type. It's as if the Games Makers at each Paralympic venue have been left to their own devices regarding how they provide session information, and some do a brilliant job, and some are rubbish.

Boccia - South Arena 1
In this little-known game, competitors who aren't especially mobile (or coordinated) play a ball-throwing game that's similar to bowls or petanque. Each player throws six balls - one player red, one blue - with a final score equal to the number of balls closest to the jack. I'm not sure I'd have worked the rules out by myself, so I'm indebted to the lady sat on my left for explaining all. In the games in front of me, both players were in wheelchairs and in need of help to move around, but still threw brilliantly to gain tactical advantage. In the game to my right, however, the players were so disabled that they couldn't even hold a ball. They had to knock the ball instead, using a stick attached to the top of their helmet, so that it rolled down a tubular ramp aimed by an assistant. Again, it was amazing how often the balls rolled to nigh exactly the right place. The judges performed all their directions and scoring in silence, using gestures and signals and coloured bats, which added to the unfamiliarity. But very tense, if you allowed yourself to get into watching it, and about as far from running a 100m race as you can imagine. Serious disability sport.

Wheelchair Fencing - North Arena 2
You might be imagining white-clad folk in wheelchairs whizzing up and down like knights at a mediaeval joust. The sword-wielding bit's true, but these athletes are going nowhere, their wheelchairs carefully bolted to the floor before competition begins. There are a lot of preparations - indeed the entire event's more set-up than play. Is everybody sitting the correct distance apart, check. Are both players wearing their heavy white conductive aprons, check? Does the coloured light flash up when someone scores a hit, check. Let's play. I got to watch the women's team quarter finals, which meant four simultaneous tournaments taking place within the same arena. Most of the audience were cheering on the British girls, despite them being invisible from our side of the arena except on the big screen. Trounced by Hong Kong, they were. Let's never speak of it again.

Sitting Volleyball - South Arena 2
This is ordinary volleyball, but with the levelling factor that every player competes with "at least one buttock in contact with the floor". This means it can be played by athletes with any number of legs - indeed the British men's team displays almost every different possible combination. Some walk onto the court, some shuffle, others crawl - then you'd hardly notice the difference when the game gets underway. Rallies are swift, the ball sometimes high in the air, sometimes dangerously near the ground. Thwack, lob, lob, thwack, pat, pass, lob, thwack, bounce, cheer. There's much yelling to team mates, a lot of co-operation, and plenty of backslapping when a point goes well. It is amazing to watch a team of six manoeuvring into position without standing up, and the physicality probably explains why this is a game for fired-up youngsters. Our hyped-up commentator was so busy enthusing the crowd that he completely failed to mention we were watching the wooden spoon match. We thought we were cheering Great Britain to glory, whereas in fact we were battling China for eighth place in the overall tournament. Straight sets defeat, but hey, the crowd went away loving it.

Table Tennis - North Arena 1
Played at elite level this is a fast and furious sport. But a tiny table in a huge arena doesn't make spectating easy. We had four finals matches to watch in two classes, so it was hard to know where to look. The scoring was complicated to unravel too, with simultaneous points in simultaneous games in simultaneous best-of-five matches. The broadcast cameras focused on the match between China and Germany, but that was pictures without words because the commentators weren't allowed to say anything while any game was underway. I was glad I'd had my London 2012 Commentary Radio (an over-ear mini plastic device tuned into arena-specific channels at every Olympic venue) because I could listen in to the audio description nobody else could hear. I think their price has recently been slashed (they're only £5 now), and they double up as FM radios after the Games have finished. Transmission carries far enough that I can listen to commentary from venues in the Olympic Park while sat at home in my living room! Commentary Radios were available from certain programme sellers at various venues, but dear LOCOG, these were appallingly marketed. Sorry, I know I'm offering this top tip too late, but I wish I'd bought mine earlier.

Photos: [boccia] [wheelchair fencing] [sitting volleyball] [table tennis]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream