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British Athletics Supporters Club Diary (BASC) - Part 2

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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.


17th August 2008




Thursday, the day before the main event (athletics of course) I watch the badminton and then spend two hours travelling to watch the rowing.  It is wet and windy when I get there and the thunder builds up and wind gets gusty.  After a couple of hours standing in the rain we are told all is postponed until tomorrow and our tickets will be valid. 


Get into conversation with some experts who propound the theory that the Chinese are manipulating the weather to ensure good weather for the main event; boy it really did work!


Friday the whole day within the Olympic site to meet up with some folks and have a chat.  The food in the venues is Coca-Cola drinks of various types and biscuits.  On the main site there is a McDonald's and nothing else so have to compromise on my principle and have a meal deal.  Tom Lancashire disappoints in his race but later when talking to his mum and dad they are not too disappointed. 


Heptathlon was a good event with over 40 starters and a wealth of talent which as Kelly was not breaking PBs and somehow lacked that edge led to a creditable but not outstanding performance.  The view from the top of the stands is very different, birds-eye view, but actually quite good for seeing what is going on.  The stadium design leads to a lot of noise and a great atmosphere. 


Not too sure why the BBC have to be one of only two broadcasters to have an outdoors studio in the stands; make a note to complain about my licence fee.  The men’s 100m has a great build up but below par performances from Simeon and Craig.  Talking to Niels and Lynn Davies over lunch on Sunday they are hoping for some early above par results to lift the team's moral and get on a roll.

Now some moans:

The programmes are only available to IOC family and neither UKA nor IAAF seem to have them.  The Chinese have really missed a trick.

The team kit is so like half the other nations that identifying team GB is hard work, personally I think they all should wear pink shorts!

The seats seem to be from a job lot due to be delivered to a junior school.
On the plus side the hotel now has draught beer which we managed to drink dry within 40 minutes of getting back from the stadium; so too much to talk about with that mind blowing 100m final; who said athletics wasn't thrilling enough?

We have cracked the transport system and are now addicted to taxis and have acquired the art of jumping into a line of traffic to hail a taxi; veritably an Olympic sport!






Saturday, London, 3.29pm: Trafalgar Square is full, chocker; 3.30pm Trafalgar Square is silent, eerily so; Trafalgar Square erupts with applause, cheers and gasps of amazement.


The young man sitting beside me whips his head round, his face etched for a moment with shock and fear. A Chinese visitor, he obviously has no experience of spontaneous public displays of delight by thousands of people! Eat your heart out Tiananmen Square.


Annette and I wanted a taster of London 2012 and arrived at the giant screen in our BASC T-shirts just as it focussed on a magnified Marilyn Okoro, ready for her 800m semi. She and Jenny just couldn’t live with the pace, but I felt she missed an opportunity by backing off on the back straight.


We had a fantastic afternoon and the whole experience bodes well for those who don’t get stadium seats in four years time.


Although Greg Rutherford’s great single leap into the long jump final and Jeanette Kwakye’s splendid run into the 100m semis were the only opportunities to celebrate Team GB athletes, it was so much more fun to be out in the open among that vast multi-national crowd than to sit at home in front of the TV. Four London Ecuadorians in national dress and enormous flags celebrated Jefferson Perez’ 20k walk silver: where else would they go?


We had not expected the Beijing link to close down for an hour at 1pm for live performances, part of the Trafalgar Square Festival. But athletics anorak Annette had brought her pocket TV, so we crouched over and saw the 100m semis and quarters as they happened. Tyrone can’t quite run with the big boys yet, but he’s on his way. Jeanette’s qualification was brilliant; it’s sad Montell won’t be joining her.


And one of the live performances was a fun show, a series of dances emulating sports: fencing, boxing, rowing, with a 1945 street party theme and original newsreel footage as a backdrop.


Between events we saw items about the run-up to the London Olympics, film of the TSB-sponsored kids working hard in various disciplines, hoping they will figure when 2012 arrives, alongside messages from Steve Redgrave and Seb Coe.


The culmination of the outing was that glorious 100m final. Usain Bolt’s dominating run aside, I marvel once again at how the major championships throw up unexpected results. Richard Thompson’s silver will give Trinidadians the world over the chance to get out and celebrate, as did our Ecuadorians. And little Walter Dix, the unexpected American. But why he did leave off his sleeves?


Chatting on the phone to other members supporting from home, we’ve all now got our routines. I sleep three hours, get up for the early session and sleep another three hours, except when there’s a swimming or rowing  or cycling final…


Friday’s first session had been so heartening with so many of GB’s new generation athletes progressing. Do we refer to him now as Andy-heart stopping–Baddeley after that long box-in on the final back straight?


And all fans must feel for Helen Clitheroe, who ran that incredible national steeplechase record of 9.29.01, taking seven seconds off her old record. Yet she missed qualification by 100th of a second. ”I was so excited being here,” she said, “and saw my husband waving a flag as I came in.”


Jo Pavey, too, ran a PB and reacted in her usual gutsy way: “Well, I’ve got to run the 5000m now.”


Kate Dennison went out in the pole vault; but she jumped 4.40 outdoors for the first time. Good stuff.


Natalya Dobrynska was the revelation of this year’s heptathlon. Is she the new Carolina? She’s young, she could be.  Sadly Kelly didn’t walk as well as she’d talked. Julie Hollman is 31st in the whole world, and her smiling face throughout told all.


The marathon was really boring until the very end. Constantina Tomescu-Dita’s front running finally paid off! Like the commentators, I was amazed that the others didn’t chase in time. I felt that Mara Yamauchi lost out there through timidity. And Paula’s tears at the end left me strangely unmoved. I felt more for Liz Yelling after that terrible fall.


The second event of the weekend was certainly that amazing women’s 10,000 metres. Good for Lorna Kiplagat for taking them out so fast. It didn’t prevent the inevitable, but those final laps between Elvan Abeylegesse and Tirunesh Dibaba were nail-biting. What a race. And I cheered happily for majestic Tomasz Majewski and Valerie Vili the Polish and New Zealand shot champions, and for Angelo Taylor, back to his best in the 400m hurdles.


So what’s to look forward to from Team GB, given we can’t put them on a bike or in a boat? Well, all the 400m women have progressed easily and that event should bring some good races; Andy and Greg now promise something, and I’m looking forward to the men’s high jump and the triple jump.  Good luck to our athletes, and a miracle or two!