New fans and vociferous supporters at the wrestling
10 August 2012
Emma Caseley, Head of Strategic Projects (College Headquarters), reports on going to see the Women’s Freestyle Wrestling on 8 August at the Excel Centre with her husband Mike and 16-month old son Matthew.
“Wrestling wasn’t my first choice of Olympic event but, having failed to get tickets for some of the more popular sports, we felt very lucky and excited just to be going to the Games. As we headed for the train I had no idea what to expect from the day. The DLR was busy with people headed to Docklands, but the usual commuters had been replaced by a multi-national crowd, all slightly giddy to be going to the Olympics.
The wrestling has been taking place at the ExCel Centre, a massive exhibition space which has been turned into five arenas, each hosting different sports. As we arrived with our son in the buggy, we were ushered through the accessible entrance and then straight into the venue by smiling and efficient volunteers and security staff. Everything seemed incredibly well organised.
ExCel was already busy with spectators attending the morning sessions, and we had plenty of time to wander around the enormous hallway which runs the length of the building. There was a great atmosphere, mainly due to the thousands of Irish fans who had come to see Katie Taylor’s semi-final in the boxing.
As we approached the wrestling arena, music was playing and the crowd was being warmed up. To add to our excitement, as we arrived we were told that our seats had been upgraded, and we were seated in the second row! We had a fantastic view of the three mats in the centre of the arena where the bouts were to take place. The session was women’s freestyle wrestling, the 48kg and 63kg categories. The sport is very quick and exciting. Each bout lasts a maximum of three periods of two minutes, with a 30-second break in between periods.
For much of the session all three mats were in use at once, so there was always something to see. The aim is to force the back of your opponent’s shoulders down onto the mat, and points are awarded by the referee. It wasn’t always easy for us to see why points had been awarded, but that didn’t spoil the excitement! Speed and agility seemed to be just as important as pure strength.
Things were very fast-moving, and we moved quickly from qualifiers to the round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals all during the same session. The crowd was made up of curious neutrals and vociferous supporters, who made their presence felt with foot-stamping and flag-waving enthusiasm.
Along with Japanese, Poles, Canadians, Americans and Swedes, there were also Mongolians, Azerbaijanis and Kazakhstanis. Our toddler was fascinated by all the activity, lights and music, and was very interested in his fellow spectators. By the end he had made friends with the large group of Azerbaijan supporters behind us.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The atmosphere at the ExCel was brilliant, and that’s also been my experience at the cycling road race, the women’s marathon and on the streets in the past week and a half. It feels like the world has come to London, and we’ve been able to show the best of what London can be.”