[Skip to content]

Search our Site
  • Instagram Icon
  • RSS Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Facebook Icon
  • YouTube Icon
UK Athletics
In this section

British Athletics Supporters Club Diary - Part 1

Share this

Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Tell friends via WhatsApp Email us
Supporters Club

A unique series from British Athletics Supporters Club members on the Olympic Games, led by Richard Cooper, Sandra Hogben and Jane Ainsworth in the UK, and Philip Andrew, in Beijing


14th August 2008




After a very efficient transit through Beijing's airport, I arrive at my hotel.  I soon settle in and meet up with some old friends from BASC.  At about 8 o'clock we decide to go to a restaurant for some Peking Duck, but it is still pouring down with rain (we arrived in a massive thunderstorm with torrential rain; in my first 5 hours I guess we had about 3 inches), so taxis are hard to come by and it takes us a while to get near to it and then find it.  They close at 9pm so we can't get in; no 24 hour city here.  We go over the road to a fast food dumpling bar and order far more than we could eat in three sessions, since we have no common language.  Still, it cost only 6 quid each, so no great loss.

A 25 minute walk back to the hotel through deserted and wet streets and into the lobby for a beer.  Bill appears from nowhere, as well as an athletics fan he follows the England cricket team He tells us that we have our first gold in the ladies road race and generally updates us on events.  Come midnight I retire to bed, content that I am amongst friends and back on the emotional roller coaster that is Team GB at the Olympics.


It is now Wednesday and the majority of the supporters have arrived.  Most are orientating themselves with trips to the Forbidden City, Tian a Mein square, Summer Palace etc.  We are near a local residential compound with local shops and restaurants; a very small proportion speaks a little English, so conversation is difficult!  However they are all very friendly and helpful.  The weather is much like England, except 10 degrees Celsius warmer and higher humidity.  Walking round has to be done at a gentle pace due to heat and humidity; no sign of any pollution except that some of the drains smell!  The best way to travel is by taxi, only 80 pence (metered and a receipt, no tips accepted) but needs pre-planning as no driver speaks English, so we have to ask the hotel's reception to write out the destination in Chinese script.   Beijing is an enormous, modern city, with a combination of wide streets; I can't believe how little traffic there is - it's rather eerie.  When I was here 10 years ago the bulk of the traffic was pedal-powered, now it is less than in Holland.

Fans that have been here for a few days have taken in their respective second favourite sports of rowing, swimming, tennis, badminton etc as well as new, to us, sports such as handball and canoe slalom amongst others.  Well, the venues are impressive, while travel and security are not too bad.  Hotel to seat at the swimming took about an hour, but it was nearly three hours to the rowing.  Security is an issue here; bags have to pass through an X-ray machine before we go into the Metro and no drinks or food is allowed into any sports complex.  Mark, another of the large BASC contingent out here, fell foul of this rule on the main Olympic site by visiting the on-site souvenir shop after a morning session, only to have his souvenir mug (complete with box) confiscated when going into the evening session.  Such matters are best taken with good humour as it would be inconceivable to make someone lose face.

Keeping up with what is happening is getting more difficult as the flow of new arrivals with UK newspapers has almost stopped and the local papers have very little in English; what there is mostly concerns Chinese athletes.  So far there have been no event programmes nor results sheets. How spoilt we are by Fast track (I never thought I would say that!).  So we rely totally on word of mouth and finding an internet shop/cafe (there are a few) and looking at the BBC and BOA websites.

The athletics fans are reminiscing, over the odd glass of beer, about past Olympics and fine performances and looking forward to Friday with Kelly and Sunday's marathon.

Best Wishes




Back Home


Week one of the Olympics is all very well; a chance to catch up on all those long lost sports; short corners, penalty turns, half pikes; you know the sort of thing. But for many of us the real Olympics starts this Friday with the athletics.

All the final preparations have been made now. We've stocked up on snacks, done the washing up and the coffee table is groaning under the weight of Olympics special pull-out guides. All we're waiting for is the athletics. Having said that, I've found myself inexplicably gripped by the archery, and commentary of the Games must already have gone to Hugh Porter's "All the chips are down, the hats have been thrown in the ring, and the medals are up for grabs".
I have taken the second week off work to watch on TV and I'm not the only nut to take holiday to watch telly--other British Athletics Supporters Club members are doing the same, judging from the text messages we've received already.  Clearly we're not as lucky as those that are actually in Beijing, but it looks pretty murky out there, so maybe we're better off at home.
That leaves the debate on how to watch: mainstream BBC, red button or Eurosport?  Preliminary trials over the first few days suggest the red button, which avoids unnecessary repeats and irritating post-event interviews (if I hear one more competitor finishing 12th and saying "I'm just loving the whole experience..." I'll go mad!); it also comes without the inevitable adverts and spot-the-gaffe commentary on Eurosport.  On the other hand, Eurosport shows field events.
Still, with China being seven hours ahead of the UK, my body clock is in for a real shock. I could get up at 2am every morning for the heats and qualifying rounds. This will finish around breakfast time, when I'll be ready for lunch and a spot of track cycling, then after lunch I can watch the evening events, which will finish around teatime our time, then I can be in bed by about 7. Are you still with me? It's all very well moving to China Standard Time, but you've got to factor in basic things like sleep and food and, in any case, I'm on holiday, I'll probably want to go to the pub at some point.

It's a far cry from 20 years ago when the Olympics were last in the Far East. I was 12 and it was those Seoul Olympics, Ben Johnson and all, that got me interested in athletics in the first place. It was September and I remember curiously catching a "cold" which meant I couldn't possibly go to school. Fortunately, I was well enough to get up at 3am each day and watch most of the action...

So who are we looking out for?  Well, we all know who our best medal hopes are, and one of our biggest hopes will be in the very first event. Kelly Sotherton in the heptathlon could set the mood for the rest of the week, with Jo Pavey, the 800m girls and Andy Baddeley all in action on day one.  On Saturday we have Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders starting their campaign to emulate their 400m success of last season. In the early hours of Sunday morning we have the fascinating, yet nerve-wracking, prospect of Paula Radcliffe in the marathon, and don't forget Mara Yamauchi and Liz Yelling too. It could all be going terribly well after just a couple of days.

Besides medals, what I'm possibly more interested in is the athletes' own targets. I think in Athens 2004 only two of the team managed a PB - Ricky Soos and Kelly Holmes. I'm hoping that this year we'll have far more of our athletes setting new PBs. Where a medal may be unlikely, to set a new PB is success in itself.  Will Simeon Williamson break the 10 second barrier after going so close (10.03) at the Trials? If Chris Tomlinson can overcome his injury problems both he and Greg Rutherford could break the former's British record. I watched Martyn Rooney in the recent Monaco Grand Prix and thought that he could do with the first round of the Olympics straightaway. He seems to have timed his season perfectly and it's anyone's guess how much further under 45 seconds he can go. In the field, all the high jumpers have proved they can perform well on the big occasion, and although we are only taking three throwers to Beijing (Philippa Roles, Zoe Derham and Goldie Sayers), a PB from any of them could see them in their final.

And because I do watch with both eyes, occasionally, there are some fantastic battles looming.  Never mind the sprints; Defar vs Dibaba, anyone?  Can Šebrle pull out another last minute javelin monster to beat the youngsters?  How will Klüft fare with only two events on which to concentrate?  And can Jenn Stuczynski rattle Yelena's pole? Possibly one of Osaka's best moments was Valerie Vili's last-gasp put to beat Ostapchuk. I, for one, thoroughly hope she manages it again.

Good luck to all our athletes.  All you can do is your best. Whether it's in the stands in the Birds' Nest Stadium or on the sofabeds of Britain; I and other BASC members will cheer you all the way--and provide the flags for your victory laps.