So Luisa and I were at the O2 (currently known as the North Greenwich Arena for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics) today to watch the wheelchair basketball. Particularly, my colleague Sarah Grady play for Team GB in the women’s game against Australia.
Whilst the result might not have been what the crowd had hoped for, and despite a massive “camera fail” moment, both Lu and I really enjoyed the day.
Despite all the warnings about leaving plenty of time to get across London and then queue for the tickets, our journey from East Finchley only took 40 minutes. Also we collected our tickets for both today’s and Monday’s events within minutes of joining the queue. The much vaunted Games Makers were numerous, helpful and very welcoming. Everyone was smiling, waving and wishing you good morning and you just want to smile back, it made for a great atmosphere. Moreover, what was really noticeable was how efficient, polite and friendly the security staff were at checkpoints. Airports could really learn a thing or two by observing how the staff at the North Greenwich Arena dealt with people. The only negative thing we had to say in the organisation of the event was we wished the ticketing website had really pushed the fact the tickets were bundled with free travel cards more – so we could have saved ourselves £20.
So we had time to get a coffee and cuddly lion for Luke – who appears to have had a great day at his Nanny’s – and still had our pick of the seats in the arena.
So far everything was going great until I opened my camera bag and found I had left the batteries for the camera at Mum’s! I just could not believe it, Luisa found it most amusing, but I was less than impressed with myself. Oh for one of my film cameras which don’t actually need batteries to take photos (I even had film on me, just not flipping batteries). This meant I also discovered how bad my cameraphone’s zoom really is (it is worse than pants – hence all the photos accompanying this post are so shockingly bad).
Lunch at the O2 was far better than I have had at any other venue (with the possible exception of the giant Yorkshire puddings I had in 2007 at the Bristol Balloon Festival). On top of the usual burgers we could have gone for a carvery, pizza (and not just a slice – take note Emirates Stadium), fish and chips, a good range of sandwiches or the stir fry that we actually went for. The lemon chicken with rice, dim sum and prawn crackers, whilst a little expensive for the portion size (but no worse than I have experienced elsewhere), was as good as a few Chinese restaurants we have been too. It knocked the Emirates Stadium’s caterers completely out of the park.
We settled into watch the basketball, trying to figure out the rules by referring back to my 17 year old secondary school memories of having played it in PE, listening to the commentator and reading the snippets in the leaflet which came with our tickets. The precise details of the “shot clock” took us a minute or two to sort out (especially when it started the count down), and we never really got to the bottom of what the big red numbers on the referees’ table were (any help would be appreciated). However, all in all, it was enjoyable to watch and easy to understand – far more so than American Football which seems to be far less consistent in the play, and so, harder to follow.
Having never watched any basketball games before, even on tv (they have never really appealed in the past), I really enjoyed the spectacle wheelchair basketball presents. It was fast paced with some great skillful passing plays, packed with a lot of end to end excitement. I am not sure if wheelchairs cause more contact than playing on foot, but there appeared to be a lot going on. I knew it wasn’t a “completely non contact sport”, but there was more than I expecting – with blocks causing players being suddenly left on the deck – chair and all – which all added to the drama.
The result was a shame, but it appeared the crowd really enjoyed themselves, with the commentator and MC doing a great job to keep them interested and informed throughout.
If I have the opportunity I definitely would:
a) go and see more sport at the O2 again – it seems like a great modern venue
b) and perhaps more importantly – would love to go and see more wheelchair basketball in future – really enjoyed it (I am sitting here watching the GB vs Canada mens’ games right now).
I can only hope our time in, what I imagine will be the far busier, Olympic park on Monday will be as good.