Old and New

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Image Source: blogyfutbolMy excitement and awe over last night at Olympic Stadium prevented me from mentioning the other events I saw yesterday. The men’s soccer match between Mexico and Senegal at Wembley was highly entertaining – won by Mexico in extra time. While soccer fans would no doubt prefer the senior teams of each of the participating countries, the policy of having under 23 teams play actually leads to a more open game. And sombreros at Wembley? Loved it.

Another beauty of these Games was revealed yesterday and today. The venues present an appropriate balance of old and new – the history of Wembley where the 1948 Games were held, coupled with the sparkling new Olympic Stadium, for instance. And today, I saw China vs. Korea  in women’s volleyball at venerable Earl’s Court, which suited the volleyball competition well (China won a thrilling, back and forth, 5 set affair). Earl’s Court did not get much of a makeover for the Olympics, but that might have been part of its charm. Its highly accessible location is unique among Olympic venues.  It’s not often that you see an Olympic event and then walk from it to a friend’s house for lunch, as I did today.

Also, yesterday, I went back to Mecca – being Horse Guards Parade – and saw one of the legends of the game plying his trade, Emanuel Rego of Brazil. The highly ranked women’s team of  Xue Chen and Zhang Xi was also in action. They were all victorious. Rego is 39 years old, but he may indeed be able to hang on for 4 more years to play in his home country in 2016, and I’m hoping he does. If beach volleyball is this much of a party in the shadows of Whitehall, imagine what it will be like in Rio.

The home grass showed itself to be even greener today, literally. Andy Murray beating Roger Federer in straight sets at Wimbledon?! The Brits are competing in an inspired way, and are inspiring each other. Murray stated after the match that he had indeed drawn inspiration from Mo Farah’s 10,000 meter victory last night. Federer’s marathon match against del Potro certainly made him vulnerable, but give Murray credit for rising to the occasion.

I entered the Aquatics Center for the first time tonight for the women’s 3 meter springboard competition (dominated by the Chinese). It’s an odd venue, as the stands rise high above the dip of the facility in the middle – meaning you can only see straight down to the pool and not people sitting on the other side of it. But the diving competition was over early enough for me to get out of Olympic Park and get back to where I was staying on the west side of London in time to see the men’s 100m final. The BBC commentator’s line as Usain Bolt crossed the line? “Why did we ever doubt this man?!” So true. Bolt answered the question as to how fast he can run – as fast as he wants to. It’s interesting to me to see how long modern day sprinters keep their heads down before looking up and getting fully uncoiled – as if they borrow a technique from water skiing.

Image Source: flickrI had someone ask me what the big deal is about Usain Bolt and the men’s 100 meters. It was in the context of how there could be 80,000 people show up just to see him qualify for the 100m final. The answer is simple. His success is so tangible. When we see Roger Federer play, do we really know that he is the best tennis player ever? No. There is no objective way of measuring that (though grand slam titles are certainly a metric). But because Bolt’s performance is measured by a clock, we know that he is not only the fastest man alive, but the fastest human ever. And running is something that everyone has tried to do. Bolt can deliver a pure and definitive accomplishment.

I was put off by Bolt’s antics in Beijing. But now I give him credit for making the sport fun. My favorite cartoon in the British press was a horse in an equestrian event striking Bolt’s signature victory pose.

The comment of the day came from Greg Rutherford, last night’s long jump winner. He revealed that he was so revved up by his victory that he couldn’t sleep. He finally gave up, and got up at 5:30 to stroll around the athlete’s village. All he saw at that hour, he said, was drunk Russians coming back in. Good to know.

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