My Olympic Moments
Moment 1: The Setting And Atmosphere At Horse Guard’s Parade For Olympic Beach Volleyball
Whatever people may think of me for seeing beach volleyball (my friend bought the tickets, honest), it turned out to be a personal highlight of my Games experience. Walking down the majestic Horse Guards parade towards Buckingham Palace, the sense of grandeur and history fills the air, so what better place to stick multiple tonnes of golden sand and a beach volleyball net, right?
The moment we took our seats and looked around was unforgettable: Big Ben plonked right in front of us, the London eye staring at us from the left, with White Hall nestled just in front of it. As one commentator said earlier in the week, has there ever been a better setting for this sport?
Besides the surrounding landscape, the atmosphere that befell us was nothing short of carnival. I simply love how these Games have embraced music as one of its bedrock ingredients; the Opening Ceremony made it clear that music has been one of our greatest exports and many of the events I have been fortunate to have seen during the Games have pumped out major anthems between points. Despite its undeniable American feel, it has been one of my highlights of the Games - always keeping the spirit alive and the rhythm flowing.
Moment 2: The Moment We Landed Basketball Resale Tickets Inside The Olympic Park After So Much Heartache
I have recalled my entire experience and all the lessons learnt here, but here is a snapshot of this moment of ecstasy:
After failing to obtain basketball tickets after something like 20 hours of trying, I attempted a long-shot: to buy tickets to get me inside the Olympic Park at the same time as a basketball session I would be interested in and try to nab tickets for it whilst I was inside!
After the empty seat fiasco in the first couple of days of the Games, they experimented with Wimbledon-style resale tickets. We spent one and a half hours of our lives queuing in the cold for tickets we were surely never going to get. I missed my coach back to Cardiff. I had no battery left on my phone to call home to say I was staying another night. It was all set up nicely to fall spectacularly flat on its face.
Then the ticket office shutters were heaved open; a limited number of resale tickets were available. Being about 120th position in the queue wasn’t a position of great hope. But it wasn’t the time to give up now. Daft hope and dogged stubbornness kept us there.
We got 6 rows from the front of the queue. 5 rows. 4 rows. 3 rows. 2 rows. 1 row from the front. Surely they didn’t have any more for us?
The moment we broke free of the queue and had tickets firmly in our hands, we broke into hysteria. We were laughing and shaking uncontrollably with stress, relief and joy. We were going in; the sacrifice had all been worth it.
Moment 3: The Dip Coming Home From Olympic London, Then The Pride As I Arrived In Olympic Cardiff!
So, after such a high getting basketball resale tickets the night before and having a wonderful day in Horse Guard’s Parade, I felt a post-Olympic blues on the coach home early Tuesday morning. I had left the colour of the Olympics and was heading back to grey Wales. Coming over the Severn Bridge it felt as if someone upstairs had deliberately stained the sky many shades of grey darker than normal.
The coach station was closed because of the football in the Millennium Stadium, so instead the coach pulled up right outside the Stadium. I felt new life running through my veins. Why, of course, I had left one Olympic city and arrived in another! It was not over. I saw the same purple-clothed volunteers and pink venue signs all through our wonderful capital, and I felt gloriously proud that our city and home was hosting the Olympics. It had the same feel as London – what a feat for humble ‘ickle Caerdydd.
Moment 4: The Gracious Michael Phelps Coming Second
If there is anything better than Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in Beijing four years ago, breaking world record after world record or becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time in London this week, it was Michael Phelps coming second to Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly on Tuesday.
Before you section me for madness or question my appreciation of Phelps’ incredible achievements, hear me out. Everyone thought Federer was the nicest guy in sport, and then he started losing. He isn’t such a nice guy when he gets beaten. But Mr Phelps was the most gracious and dignified soul I have ever seen in “defeat” (“defeat”, of course, is being used in media circles to imply failure relative to Phelps’ own high standards. Please see Moment 9 for my thoughts on “defeat”).
Sometimes one can stick out, not for the number of gold pieces around one’s neck, but by humbling oneself. Phelps acknowledged it as le Clos’ moment, displayed genuine happiness for the deserved winner, and even showed him the ropes with the photographers, the media and the public on what is le Clos’ first major win. It was the perfect change of guard. I am someone who stayed up until 4am during the Beijing Olympics to watch Phelps make history and get his eighth gold in the one meet, but it is for this feat of humility that l will always remember Phelps – a true Olympian.
Moment 5: Chad le Clos’ Dad’s Interview: A Great Interview And Man!
Whilst our minds were swirling with admiration for Phelps’ humility that night, the colossal character of le Clos’ dad just bounded onto our screens for what is perhaps one of my favourite interviews of all time. Whilst interviews this week have seen everything from unrivaled jubilation to desperate heartache, see the video below of a proud father’s wonderful (and slightly hilarious) reaction to his son’s Olympic triumph.
One wise man once told me; raw emotions convey a thousand words. Just beautiful.
Moment 6: People Applauding Bradley Wiggins’ Gold In The Hayes, Cardiff
This next moment combines the beauty of human togetherness with the bemusing shortfall of human rationality.
Whilst walking past the Hayes on Wednesday, I noticed Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins’ face on the giant screen as he received his gold medal in London. Everyone erupted into applause at this incredible feat, which lines him up as Great Britain and Northern Island’s most decorated Olympian of all time. It was simply infectious and overcame us all. I looked down and found my hands hitting each other in some rhythmic and noisy fashion, which modern humans now describe as clapping. I felt like the bewildered caveman who beat two sticks together to produce fire for the first time.
People walking in every direction stopped and turned to the big screen and we all cheered and wolf-whistled in unity. It was a beautiful and proud moment, but one that struck me as slightly (if not wholly) bizarre. We were applauding this man standing some 200 miles away from us, whom we’d never met before. Olympic fever had spread and taken over.
Moment 7: Russia Scoring In The Last Shot Of The Last Move Of The Game To Beat Brazil In The Men’s Basketball Prelims
If you’ve ever touched a basketball, you’ve undoubtedly imagined or even role-played yourself scoring the winning shot in a tightly-contested match and receiving all the glory and praise from your team-mates. You hero.
What I didn’t mention earlier was that after 20 or so hours of trying for Olympic basketball tickets, I did finally manage to get my hands on some, although they are still far too expensive for me accept!
Anyway, after a nail-biting three and a half quarters of pulsating play by Brazil and Russia’s men’s teams on Thursday, the scores were just too close to call. Within the last minute, Russia scored a 3-pointer to draw the scores level at 72-all. With ten seconds to go, Brazil scored to go two points ahead of Russia.
At 6.1 seconds remaining, both teams (and weirdly, I do mean both teams, one after another) called time-out. Russia had the ball and would have time for one last play. Surely, they couldn’t pull off a three-pointer and win the match Here’s a video I took of this moment (sorry for the quality). Commentators are hailing it as one of the greatest international basketball matches of all time.
Moment 8: Thousands Celebrating In Park Live At Sir Chris Hoy And The Gang’s Team Sprint Gold
In another example of human unity and infectious mass hysteria, my next Olympic moment came inside the Olympic Park on Thursday, whilst in front of the large screens put up in what they call Park Live.
We were already hyped after witnessing the above basketball moment, but then we sat down in the park just in time for the start of Sir Chris Hoy’s team sprint group in the gold medal race. Weirdly, we could hear the noise in the Velodrome behind us to start with, but then it was drowned out by own our own electrified sound waves as Team GB took the lead. It was a fine performance and another gold for Team GB and Sir Chris Hoy.
We all jumped up and down like chimps on speed at feeding time in a zoo, and the noise never stopped. This living legend and great British ambassador had delivered again and there were thousands of us all celebrating together. More than Lord Coe could ever have dreamt, these Olympics have crazed so much of the British public.
Moment 9: Rebecca Adlington Proud Of And Standing Up For Her Bronze!
Our darling of the pool, Rebecca Adlington delivered again last week, winning Bronze for Team GB. Another poster-girl of these Games, Becky has been criticised for not retaining her Gold medals from Beijing. But what filled me with pride most of all was how she stood up for her Bronze performance.
Whoever thought that being the 3rd best in the world at something is a poor effort? She has had a hard year and did her best, which to me, is always a triumph. The British press are so quick to build up superstars in this country, and then knock them back down again. Well, I would like to big up Becky for her outstanding performance, effort and guts as she stood up for herself and all those out there who try their best at something. It is literally all that can be asked of you.