05 September 2012

Going for Gold

Today represented my last day of participation in London 2012 activities. Last month I watched the Olympics opening night ceremony, I attended some women's volleyball and I went to check out the paraphernalia on the river, and today I finally got to go to the Olympic Park. It was great!

Check my colour-co-ordination

We had tickets to the morning athletics session and although I knew we would be getting a mix of track and field, heats, finals and victory sessions, I wasn't sure exactly which events we would see. In the end, there turned out to be a lot of shot put and discus--who knew there were so many different possible shot put categories?--some men's long jump and a few different track events. One of the most fun events to watch was the heats for the men's T11/13 4x100m relay (see the video below). These athletes have visual impairments and so some run with a guide (who will usually be the one who passes over/receives the baton) but even so, making the change-overs requires a huge amount of skill and needless to say, the crowds were asked to be quiet until the final change-over had been completed. We also saw some British ladies doing well in the heats of the T37 200m, and we watched David Weir storm to victory in his heat of the T54 800m, before we saw him pick up his gold medal for last night's performance in the 1500m. If you are unsure of what the home advantage means for Team GB, you only have to sit in the Olympic stadium when any British athlete is competing to find out.

The field events took a lot longer to complete--they only got about halfway through the F54/55 discus final by the end of our three-hour session. The athletes compete from a sitting position and so have to get settled into place, before taking their three turns one after the other. The coolest part of this event was the little remote control Minis that return the discuss to the athletes at the end of each turn. In some Paralympics events, distances and times have to be weighted depending on the severity of the athlete's disability, which left the odd situation of the athlete who was placing second breaking a world record, but the first-placed athlete not breaking the record. On a final throwing note, Assunta Legnante was hugely impressive as the winner of the women's F11 (visual impairments) shot put contest.

Give me an 'R', give me a 'U', give me an 'N'

Our session finished at lunchtime and we went outside in search of food and warmth. It was a glorious, sunny day but we had been in the southeast corner of the stadium, which was in the shade. We got some Asian food from the Street Market and then sat by the river, soaking up the atmosphere. Given that it was a Wednesday afternoon during term time, the Olympic Park was packed. It was so fun just wandering through the park, enjoying the sculptures, the sporting venues and the wildflower meadows. I'm really glad I got to go to the Olympic Park and to watch a number of exciting athletics events. If you are in London and can get your hands on any remaining Paralympics tickets, I strongly recommend that you do.

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