Handball

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sam_5291I decided a while back that I wanted to experience at least one event as a spectator – not wearing uniform, not being stopped by people to find out where something is and to be subjected to the full brunt of Olympic food prices (OK, not strictly true, I bought my own lunch in 😀 ).

When I saw that handball tickets were on sale, I found myself really tempted. I was aware that handball was a popular event in a lot of countries and many people who have seen a game have enjoyed it. For £20, I thought “why not?”

I got to the Olympic park a little early (well, 3 hours in advance!) I explored the park and it was only then that I realised the sheer scale of it – it took me about half an hour to walk from the entrance to the basketball arena! Obviously it makes sense that the venues have a bit of breathing space for crowd control purposes, but it still surprises you.

Eventually, I made my way to the Copper Box (the venue for Olympic handball) and waited for the doors to open. While stood here, a loudspeaker informed us that the venue is “not called the copper box for nothing” and is covered in 3,000 square metres of copper cladding – thanks loudspeaker, that was actually pretty interesting… the first time I heard it! For the half an hour or so I was waiting to get in, I heard this little fact about 15 times!

Anyway, handball was far more exciting than I expected – I think they may have converted me into a handball follower! For those of you who are not familiar with it, handball is a mashup of a few different sports – the ball handling of basketball, the goals of football (and the brutality of rugby!!) There are also a lot of goals scored in a game.

I got to see two games; Great Britain vs Russian Federation and then France vs Spain (both women). Obviously my support went to GB, but I was disappointed when Russia managed to score around double what GB did – a valiant effort nonetheless, especially considering that handball is not commonly played in Britain. France and Spain managed to draw, and they seemed pretty evenly matched.

The Copper Box

Whenever I’d been watching sports matches in the past, and seen shots of the managers or coaches watching from the sidelines, I always assumed someone was watching them through a telephoto lens. So you can imagine my surprise to see how close the cameras actually got!

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To be honest, I’d be pretty annoyed with a camera this close to me. I’d also find it difficult not to acknowledge it! So glad I’m not important enough to be subjected to this. 😀

In future, I think I may be watching more handball – this has definitely got me interested!

Reality hasn’t quite hit me yet!

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I’ve been in London for a few days now, and it still doesn’t feel real – probably due to the juxtaposition of being involved in a massive worldwide event and the fact that my home for the Olympics is a tent three miles north of Stratford. Had someone told me, back in 2005 when we got the Olympics, that I’d be a medal bearer I wouldn’t have believed them! Had they then told me that I’d be watching the swimming on an iPad in a tent three miles north of the aquatics centre, I definitely wouldn’t have believed them (actually, I’d ask them what the hell an iPad is, but that’s a different matter entirely!!)

My home for the Olympics

My home for the Olympic games!

I’ll soon have my first victory ceremony, and I feel both excited and nervous. For now though, I have a few days off to enjoy London before. I’ve managed to acquire tickets to see handball at the Copper Box in a few days, so I’m quite looking forward to that – not only because it’ll be a chance to watch an Olympic event as a spectator, but because I’ll also get into the Olympic park (none of my ceremonies are based there).

I’m now off to see what other tickets I can get my hands on – wish me luck!!

Ghost stadium

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There’s something strange about a stadium with no people in it – not when you’re being taken on a tour, but when you’re actually involved operationally. The stadium is almost empty apart from a handful of people, most in games maker uniform, and it doesn’t feel as if it’s about to stage Olympic football matches.

This was, of course, our second on-venue rehearsal. After all the training at 3 Mills, this was our chance to try it out in the venue with the real podium, on the real field-of-play, even with the real announcer (as opposed to our producer shouting at us in French!!)

Before starting, we were given a brief tour of our operational areas, and our main one is the field of play. As we were walking out of the tunnel, I imagined a full stadium of around 90,000 people – and the thought actually scares me! On the way out through the tunnel, there’s a quote from Baron Pierre de Coubertin (the founder of the modern Olympics), which is a nice touch. It reminds the athletes why they go out there – to have fun and try their hardest!

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Wembley

And this is our main base – one of the athlete changing rooms – I feel quite privileged to be based here, and there aren’t many that can say they’ve actually used one of the rooms (used, not been in). We quickly made ourselves comfortable!

sam_5274And this is the lovely, Royal College of Art-designed suit we’ll be wearing for our ceremonies!

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Also, if you do notice some strange formations being used during Olympic football matches, we may have had something to do with that – everyone got excited when someone noticed the whiteboard in the corner, and people were quick to use it for their own “tactics talk”.

Tactics whiteboard

And last, but not least, this is my team for the Olympics. There are 24 teams (as far as I’m aware) and we happen to be called team V. We’re the biggest team since there are 18 medal/flower bearers in the team – football is the largest victory ceremony in the Olympics with 18 athletes in each team.

Victory Ceremonies Team V

Lee Valley Rehearsals

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So by now, you may think that the job of Victory Ceremonies people is to stand and look pretty – it’s so much more than that (well, for the others at least!) The victory ceremonies team works with almost every other functional area (if not all) from the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) to ensure that the ceremony looks its best on TV, sports presentation to ensure that the athletes are in the correct order (not too much of a problem for canoe slalom), UPS to make sure all our costumes have arrived on venue and even catering (yes, medal bearers DO require food!)

A lot of rehearsals go into that short ceremony you see on TV – it’s been over a month since I started training, and I haven’t even done a real ceremony yet! For those of you who are interested, this is what a rehearsal looks like. I’m not in it, but it does give you a sense of what’s going on:

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Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

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*NOTE: This post was written on July 25th, but it wasn’t published until AFTER the opening ceremony to save the surprise.*

This morning, I made my way to London not realising the magnitude of what was to come. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I acquired tickets to one of the “secret” opening ceremony rehearsals – you know, the one that wasn’t much of a secret! Since London 2012 have the mammoth task of following Beijing 2009, I wasn’t expecting much of Danny Boyle and his massive team of volunteers and performers.

As most of you will have probably seen it by the time you read this post, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Danny Boyle is an absolute genius – he definitely impressed the sceptics. I managed to get amazing seats in row 7, which made for some stunning photos:

The walk to the Olympic park:

Walking to the Olympic Park

I have to admit, the Olympic Stadium looks fantastic – definitely an iconic stadium:

The Olympic Stadium and The Orbit

Me at the Olympic Park

The Olympic Stadium

I think we can safely say the weather was better for the rehearsal than it was for the ceremony itself! Despite this, there was this one cloud I didn’t like the look of:

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This bit was entitled “Pandemonium” – it involved the deconstruction of the set to make way for the industrial revolution:

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As a tribute to the fallen troops of the country, they slowed down the ceremony in their honour. I think it was these parts that made the opening ceremony what it was – without them, it would have been an emotionless extravaganza.

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And in come the Olympic rings!

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The nurses were fantastic! To think that most of these people have never been in the performing arts before makes their achievement extraordinary – even more so considering that some of them fit rehearsals around full time jobs in the NHS!

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The joys of being at a rehearsal is that we get a conductor without an orchestra:

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