diamond geezer

 Friday, September 07, 2012

I went to the Paralympics again yesterday.
I had a great seat in the Aquatic Centre above the diving pool.
Unfortunately I was there to watch the swimming.

Swimming - the event: 15 swimming finals
• Attending fifteen Paralympic swimming finals sounds great. A mix of men's and women's events, over the space of three and a bit hours, covering a wide variety of strokes and distances. Thrilling, but with just one catch - attending fifteen Victory Ceremonies. Each Victory Ceremony took five minutes to complete, or more like eight by the time the medallists had left the poolside, which meant we spent far longer applauding winners than watching races. Our cheers delivered collective heartfelt praise to all the winning athletes, but VC Fatigue had certainly set in by the end of the evening.
Last time I was in the Aquatic Centre, my view of the main pool was part-blocked by a stair rail. This time it was part-blocked by a lady's head, sat a knight's move in front of me, who insisted on leaning forward throughout the evening (presumably because her view was part-blocked too). If only the action had been closer I might have coped, but that's twice now I've been stuck up the diving pool end while all the action's been in the swimming pool. So I'm afraid I'm awarding the vertiginous grandstands of the Aquatic Centre my "worst view of the action at the Games" award. Thank goodness they're coming off when this place becomes Newham's newest swimming pool.
• You could tell that most of the crowd weren't used to watching swimming. In the first 200m race they cheered frantically as the competitors approached the end of length two... only for the volume to suddenly drop when the first swimmer turned to start length three, oops.
• We got a British victory to cheer, as young Josef Craig set a new world record in the S7 400m freestyle final. And then he left the pool on crutches, which goes to show how liberating the power of water can be.
• Some venues in the Olympic Park are haunted by a roving fancam which alights on members of the audience and encourages them to perform. The commentator in the Aquatic Centre was particularly insistent on everyone joining in, even when some poor unfortunate soul wasn't watching the screen and didn't know they were 'on'. At one point he invited the crowd to turn to anyone who wasn't clapping along to Queen's We Will Rock You and demand of them why they weren't taking part. For those of us who don't do spontaneous (or enforced) jollity, this man was the devil incarnate. Thankfully the cameras couldn't reach the upper half of the grandstands, so those of us in the cheaper seats never once risked embarrassment.
• In one 50m backstroke final, the bloke with no arms beat the blokes with some arms. Inspirational.
• No Government minister risked turning up to present the medals or hand over some bouquets. Political balance was provided by local MP Lyn Brown and Mayoral Sidekick Daniel Moylan, while the chairman of Sainsbury's was also duly rewarded for his company's Games sponsorship.
• Doesn't the Mexican national anthem go on a bit?
• World Records fall thick and fast at the Paralympics. The Aquatic Centre had seen 106 before our session, then our batch of finals delivered another nine. In one brief backstroke race the victorious Ukrainian knocked 15 seconds off the previous record, that's a 20% reduction. Are Paralympians really performing so much better, or were the pre-London benchmarks less than robust?
• The final Victory Ceremony of the session was postponed, for mysterious reasons, but fourteen was really quite enough.

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