Dizzying heights at the basketball
7 August 2012
James Lewis, who is doing a PhD in Earth Science and Engineering went to watch the Basketball in the Olympic Park with his parents. He reports on his experience:
“After all the anticipation, all the media reports predicting disaster and warnings of a transport apocalypse from TfL it’s finally here, a so far mostly flawless Olympic Games. Ever since the brilliant Opening Ceremony it’s been a slightly surreal but wonderful experience watching the events and living in this city.
Last week I got the chance to experience things first hand and went to go and see the women’s basketball. I’ve been lucky enough to get tickets to several different events and for this one I took my parents. We arrived at the park at 11 am and getting through security was very straightforward. In fact it was so quiet they looked very happy to see us. We came in through the north entrance from which there are great views of the velodrome and the Olympic Stadium and the Orbit to the south. Despite the thousands of people in the park the wide avenues and crowd management from the games maker volunteers meant that it was surprisingly easy to get around. The buildings were well spaced with lots of areas dedicated to grass and trees with the grassy banks around the River Lea acting as seating for a massive central TV screen floating on the water.
After a quick explore of the park it was time to go to our event. There was some queuing but everyone was good-natured. Looking west you could see the city’s fantastic skyline including the Shard, the Gherkin and the Eye. It remains to be seen if the Olympic Park can bring the same prosperity to East London but everything so far looks really positive.
While we were queuing a recording by Peter Dickson – of X Factor and E4 voiceover fame – went out every five minutes or so. Unfortunately they had only given him one fact to read so by the time we got in we were extremely aware of the fact that all of the doors in the arena were 2.4 metres high to accommodate the extra height of the basketball players.
Our seats were high up and gave a fantastic view of the whole arena. The steep sides meant that the noise and the atmosphere were incredible; it’s definitely not a stadium for vertigo sufferers! Being high up also gave us the advantage of avoiding ending up being embarrassed on kiss cam or bongo cam during the breaks in the games.
Two matches were scheduled for the afternoon session, Brazil vs. Australia and Great Britain vs. Russia. Some enthusiastic Aussies had smuggled in a horn and a big flag into our corner and they cheered on their team to a 67-61 victory. It helped that the Australians seemed to be about half a foot taller on average than their competitors. Their tallest player was a terrifying 6’8. Then it was the main event.
The roar as Great Britain came out was enormous and being amongst 12,000 people cheering on your home side was an incredible experience. Our support was definitely needed, Russia are ranked third in the world, Britain 49th. It seemed like a miracle might be on the cards when GB pulled ahead to 10 – 2 in the first five minutes. However, Russia’s superior skill soon began to show and a painful number of three pointers solidified their lead, but this was no ordinary competition. The fighting spirit of the home nation, who brought the score back to 58 – 61 with 54 seconds remaining, eclipsed the gulf in the team’s rankings. Sadly Russia maintained the edge but it was a fantastic match and a fantastic experience.
If you get an opportunity to attend an Olympic or Paralympic event I cannot recommend it enough.”