Steve has many memories of London 2012. Here are a few of his favourites.
It was a good Games, wasn’t it? Better than that, the best Olympic Games ever – of course! Now, a confession; I had the golden ticket for two weeks. Because I was working for the BBC and LOCOG on a number of sports, my pass gave me access to all events, all venues. Yes, that includes the main stadium, plus cycling and swimming. I could write about Alistair and Jonny and Stuart; Helen and Vicky and Lucy, but I have other memories too.
The man with the keys
I was sitting on the King’s Cross to Stratford International super-fast javelin train, on my way to the Games looking very posy, the magic golden ticket of accreditation around my neck. A delightful young lady, maybe seven, maybe eight years old sat down next to me. Her dad didn’t manage to get a seat and stood just behind. You know me; I’ll talk to anybody. “Hello, are you going to the Olympics?” (OK, I know, daft question) “Yes”, she replied nervously. “What are you going to see?” I asked. “Basketball,” came the reply. “Are you supporting Great Britain?” A quick look up at Dad. The people on the train were quiet – listening. “No, it’s Spain versus somebody else,” she replied. “OK, would you like a Great Britain team badge?” I said feeling generous. “Yes please!” “Check with your dad to see if it’s OK” – a look behind again, his nod confirms yes. I hand over the GB badge. “Oh, thank you! Are you working for the Olympics?” She was enraptured by it all. “Yes, I am,” I said, feeling important! “What’s your job?” Quieter still. “I’m the man with the keys who opens all the stadiums up,” her face was by now glowing. “See Dad, I told you we weren’t late!” I swear the entire carriage just laughed inside; that little girl made my day.
Possible opportunity missed?
I only got to see one session of water polo. I was desperately hoping that the entrance music for the teams would be the theme from Jaws as it had been (true story!) in Beijing; sadly, it wasn’t.
The girl with guts
In the main stadium I got to see heats of the women’s 800 metres. This time another young girl, competing for Saudi Arabia; 19-year-old Sarah Attar. Sarah has dual USA and Saudi citizenship and she made a decision to run for Saudi Arabia, the first woman ever to compete in track and field for that country. She ran with her head, legs and arms covered. But she ran. She ran knowing what the reaction would be in Saudi Arabia. Not good. The entire crowd stood up and clapped and cheered when she still had 200 metres to go. And they stayed standing. Sarah Attar finished last but her finishing time was irrelevant; that single run may well have a similar impact on women’s sport as that of a certain Tommie Smith and John Carlos (black, USA) and Peter Norman (white, Australian) had on Human Rights 44 years ago in Mexico City. Me? I cried.
I read a lovely story from Oscar Pistorius, The Blade Runner, talking about growing up playing sports with his brother Carl. “My mother used to tell us in the mornings, ‘Carl put on your shoes, Oscar you put on your prosthetic legs’. So I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.”
The best finish of all
No, not Nicky Spirig and Lisa Norden; one of my commentaries for the BBC was race-walking; my final event to cover was the women’s 20 kilometres. Defending Olympic champion Olga Kaniskina (Russia) is an awesome athlete. She race-walks the half marathon in under an hour and a half. Think about that. On race day, Olga went out so fast that athletes who attempted to hang on to her simply wilted and fell apart. With two laps of the two-kilometre course up and down the Mall remaining, Kaniskina had a lead of around a minute; her second Olympic victory was assured. Except, there was 20-year-old Russian Elena Lashmanova in the field, not too long out of the youth ranks. She caught that one-minute deficit and, as they turned onto the finish carpet, went past the defending Olympic champion. It was stunning; and women’s race walking is now officially my second favourite sport.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
You’ll find loads more blogs from the likes of Steve, Phil Graves and the Triathlon Plus team in triradar.com’s blogs section