Category Archives: London2012

Who are ya?

Mo FarahThere is a US television presenter this week who needs to go back to the drawing board and make sure she does her research before making a complete idiot of herself in front of millions of viewers.

Mo Farah, one of the most recognisable faces to have come out of the London2012 Olympics, had just won the New Orleans half marathon in a record time of 61 minutes.   Imagine his surprise to be asked by the anchor, LaTonya Norton, firstly “Haven’t you run before?” and then “This isn’t your first time?”   Surely this is on a par with asking whether the Pope is a Catholic?

Viewers were left cringing throughout the interview on local television station WDSU – she quite clearly had no idea who he was – something perhaps a quick Google search might have sorted out for her?   I thought that was what the numbers on their vests were for, to help news crews identify the individual runners.  This seems to work for most other sports.

It is unsurprising therefore that someone has taken the opportunity to update the list of anchors on WDSU’s Wikipedia page to read ‘LaTonya ‘Doesn’t know who Mo Farah is’ Norton’.

Mo Farah postboxSo Ms Norton, let me put you in the picture.  Farah secured  his place in history in London last summer, becoming the first British man to win Olympic gold in the 10,000m, and one of only five people to  also win gold in the 5,000m.   Britain’s  most successful distance runner of all time, he was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s  Honours List.

He has had two post boxes painted gold as a permanent tribute to his achievements, one  in Isleworth, where he grew up, and the other in neighbouring Teddington, in  south west London, where the athlete spent time training.   A nice touch with the one in Teddington is that it is right across the road from a Fara charity shop which has had its signwriting changed to Mo Fara as a further tribute to a local hero’s success!

Who are you, LaTonya Norton?????

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The Man who fell to Earth

Back in 1996 there was a film released starring David Bowie called “The Man who fell to Earth”.  Bowie played the part of Thomas Jerome Newton who was a humanoid alien who came to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him [obviously!]. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.  But that was just a film … it wasn’t real … but could it be?

Fast forward 16 years and this weekend we saw Austrian Skydiver Felix Baumgartner become the first man to literally fall to earth by jumping out of a balloon 128,100ft (24 miles; 39km) above New Mexico.  This somewhat lunatic activity making him the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching a maximum velocity of 833.9mph and also smashing the record for the highest ever freefall.

In addition, another record has reportedly been broken.  Unofficial figures show that the live stream of Baumgartner’s jump received over 7.1 million views surpassing the 500,000 YouTube live stream views record for the London Summer Olympics.

But why would he want to do this?  At Sunday’s jump altitude, the air pressure is less than 2% of what it is at sea level, and it is impossible to breathe without an oxygen supply.  Others who have tried to break the records have lost their lives in the process.

Well the researchers on the Red Bull Stratos project say it has already provided invaluable data for the development of high-performance, high-altitude parachute systems, and that the lessons learned will inform the development of new ideas for emergency evacuation from vehicles, such as spacecraft, passing through the stratosphere and indeed NASA and its spacecraft manufacturers have asked to be kept informed.

He says he is motivated in part by scientific endeavour, the desire to see what the human body can achieve. But Baumgartner is also spurred on by the desire to see what no-one else has seen, to be alone at the highest reaches of the skies.

He has built up to this latest stunt by undertaking various other dangerous activities such as in 1999 when he set the world record for the highest parachute jump from a building when he jumped from the Petronas Towers in a Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The twin skyscrapers were the tallest buildings in the world at the time, only overtaken by the Taipei 101 in 2004. Naturally, in 2007, he also jumped off the Taipei 101.   He then went to the opposite end of the scale, completing the world’s lowest ever base jump from the 30m-high arm of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.    He followed this in 2003 by becoming the first person to literally fly across the English Channel.  Using a pair of specially made carbon fibre wings, Baumgartner leapt from a plane above Dover, landing 22 miles (35km) away in Cap Blanc-Nez near Calais just 14 minutes later.

I can’t help but worry about what he might do next, and will it be the last thing he ever does.  It would appear that his need for danger is addictive and each time he does something it is bigger and more dangerous than the last.  I just hope that this doesn’t end up as life imitating art.  After all, throughout the film of “The Man who fell to Earth” there are brief sequences of Newton’s wife and children back on his home planet, slowly dying, and by the end of the film they are dead and Newton is stuck on Earth, broken, alcoholic, and alone.

This time Red Bull “gave him wings”.  I just hope they are still there to help him fly the next time, whatever or whenever that might be!

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…,”

There are many courageous stories from the Paralympics, but the one that has captured my interest today is that of swimmer Achmat Hassiem, who uses special motivation to go fast: he imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.

The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother.  Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.

It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records. 

The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago.  On Saturday, he won bronze in the men’s 100-meter butterfly. 

‘My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4 ½-meter great white shark at my feet,’ Hassiem said. ‘It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast.‘  With more than a little irony he added ‘I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean,’ .

Speaking after receiving his medal he said: ‘I believe I lost my leg for a good reason,’ he said.  ‘Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.’

And making the best of it he certainly is!  This, and of course the hundreds of other incredible stories we’ve heard during these Games, are an inspiration to us all.  Well done!

Gold!

At last we’ve achieved a couple of gold medals at London2012!

On day 5 we were treated to an amazing win by rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in the female pairs.  The world silver medallists led from the start, clocking seven minutes 27.13 seconds to become the first British female rowers to win an Olympic title.

The duo, who joined forces only two years ago, looked calm on the start line at an overcast Eton Dorney, and got their race off perfectly with a heavy acceleration out of the blocks.  By 500m, they were almost a length clear, looking settled and focused.  As they entered the final 250m, the packed grandstands either side of the lake began to cheer, with fans getting to their feet as they cruised across the finishing line a length clear of Australia.

Then a few hours later there was one for the boys!  Our Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins (yes him with the sideburns!), became Britain’s most decorated Olympian with victory in the London 2012 time trial.

He now has 7 Olympic medals to his name -four golds, a silver and two bronzes – one more than rowing great Sir Steve Redgrave.  Millions of people took to the streets around Hampton Court to cheer him on and he didn’t disappoint.  What a 10 days this has been for him and as he said when interviewed at the end of the event: “I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now,” said Wiggins. “That’s it. It will never, never get better than that. Incredible.”

To round off the day, the GB football team managed a scrappy 1-0 win against Uruguay, making them top of Group A and taking them into the quarter finals against South Korea on Saturday.  If they win that game they are assured of a bronze medal at the very least but on the downside, they are likely to meet Brazil in the semis so let’s not get too excited just yet!

Mind you, after a truly inspirational performance by the GB women’s football team the night before when they beat a strong Brazil side 1-0 in front of a 70,000 strong partisan crowd at Wembley, there’s more than just a little pride at stake!!!

What planet is he on?

Like a lot of people I was somewhat surprised to see on the first day of London2012 that there were lots of empty seats at events including swimming, rowing, tennis and basketball, despite most folk not being able to buy tickets when they came on sale.

To add insult to injury, London 2012 chairman, Lord Coe has insisted today that Olympic venues are “stuffed to the gunnels” with sports fans.  

Is he (or does he think we are) blind?

While millions of people turned out on the streets to cheer on the cyclists (for free!), the empty seats were apparently in the accredited “Olympic family” areas – reserved for groups including officials, sports federations, athletes, journalists and sponsors.   I for one don’t think this is any kind of excuse!

Perhaps, however, he was just thinking of the beach volleyball taking place in Horse Guards Parade?  For some reason this venue was filled to capacity ….. can’t think why?!?

 

Feathered fiends

Despite living at the very least 15 miles from the nearest coastal area here on the southside of Glasgow, we are currently being plagued by marauding seagulls, keeping us awake at night with their squawking and littering the street with their droppings.

This noisy nightmare occurs every time there is something on at Hampden.  They have replaced the pigeon population here as the “flying rats”, feasting on the fast food rubbish that the crowds drop willy nilly on the pavements as they leave the venue.

Seagulls are perfectly capable of finding natural foods and if they are not provided with an unnatural meal, intentionally or otherwise, they will turn eventually to a more natural source of food.

Can I therefore ask all the people attending the football matches at Hampden for London2012 to dispose of their rubbish in the bins provided.  Thank you! 

Good job Danny Boy!

Having just sat through almost 4 hours of TV coverage of the opening ceremony of London2012, I can’t help wondering what the rest of the world made of Danny Boyle’s ceremony.  His concept was to give us “a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people”.  Undeniably clever, for the viewing public it was certainly a spectacle but a lot of it would have been lost on you if you weren’t British!

What we were all waiting for though was to find out the identity of who was to light the symbolic flame which had been shrouded in secrecy ahead of the ceremony.  Fittingly it was a group of seven young athletes, chosen by British Olympic champions, who each lit a single tiny flame on the ground, igniting 204 petals, one for each competing nation or territory.  Long stems then rose towards each other to form a cauldron, signifying unity.  This for me was the highlight of the whole night – incredible!

   

   

There was so much happening that this post would become something akin to War & Peace if I tried to cover it all, so as I’ve given you my highlight of the occasion I should probably mention my lowlight …..

Sorry all you Beatles fans out there but Paul McCartney was DREADFUL!!!  His performance out of tune and completely shambolic at the start.  He did get a bit better as he warmed up but I think that it is probably time he gives up and goes home – it’s not like he needs the money!

London Boosted

Following on from my previous post “Athletic Art“, I’ve managed to find a YouTube clip showing the double-decker bus that has been turned into a sculpture of an athlete doing push-ups – you can see it in action here, it’s so clever!  If you get the chance to pop along to Islington and see it for yourself, please send me your pictures!

Projecting the right image

Just to prove that I am not completely negative about the London2012 Olympics, I wanted to share with you these spectacular images that Olympic bosses beamed onto the Houses of Parliament in a truly dazzling display last night.

Enormous images including world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, a giant Union Jack flag, and the Olympic rings were among those beamed on to one of London’s most iconic buildings as final Games preparations took place.  Enjoy!

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Bad Korea move

Most people thought that the problems we might face in holding the Olympics would be something to do with security or traffic delays.  No-one could have imagined what would actually be the first embarrassment of the London2012 games!

Last night, at Hampden Park in Glasgow, what can only be described as a “schoolboy error” occurred when bungling officials displayed the WRONG Korean flag!

NORTH Korea’s women footballers stormed off the pitch in fury when a giant screen showed the SOUTH Korean flag instead.  The emblem of their bitter enemies was flashed up on the big screen as they came out to warm up for their match against Colombia.

The North Koreans — fanatical supporters of dead leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un — refused to take to the field for the 7.45pm kick-off.  Organisers said there was an “off-the-field” dispute they were trying to resolve and the game was delayed for over an hour as officials tried to placate the North Koreans.  The game finally began at 8.50pm after the correct flag was shown on the screen.

London 2012 bosses were forced to issue an apology. A spokesman said: “The South Korean flag was shown on a big screen video package instead of the North Korean flag.  Clearly that is a mistake, we will apologise to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”

But there is something else that is bothering me about the Games themselves.   If the opening ceremony is not on until Friday, why have the games started already?  Answers on a postcard please!

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