The wait is over. The eyes of the world are firmly fixed on London. After seven years of planning, the 2012 Olympics are upon us.
The papers have been raving for what seems like an age, knocking the Olympic spirit at every opportunity. We have heard that the Underground won’t take the strain, that security is a shambles, that no-one can get tickets and the M4 Olympic Lane is ruining people’s lives… We are coerced into believing that the London games WILL be a total disaster… Well the time of reckoning is upon us, and we should all be pumped.
From a personal point of view, I was childishly excited on Sunday evening, when I landed at Heathrow and saw the Cuban team collecting their bags. These dozen or so men, resembling extras from the beginning of Scarface and probably no-hopers in obscure disciplines, were still enough to install in me a sense of keen anticipation. As they shuffled around in their blue team tracksuits, shepherded by officials in lurid highlighter pink (who on earth decided that was an appropriate colour?), their nerves were contagious. An hour later, even the minor inconvenience of having to exit Earl’s Court station the wrong way was only registering as a positive in my mind. I was hooked.
The funny thing about this situation though, was that a month ago I had very little interest in the games at all.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in saying that the prospect of a million tourists clogging up the tube, while all Londoners could get tickets for was tiddlywinks and poohsticks, was seeming rather unappealing. But times change, and now I am raring with anticipation for my sojourn to the, erm, Handball next Saturday.
Anyhow, in order to help you follow me into the light and spread my excitement, I have created Part 1 of my bumper Olympics preview below. Like a rabid born-again Christian or a tediously pious teetotaller, I will throw information at you, until you share my new-found joy and optimism… Lucky you.
Firstly, to assist you through the minefield of the underground, I have collated information from various sources and come up with the map below. With this as your guide, hopefully you can bypass the worst of the tourist traps and avoid becoming the unwitting meat in a sandwich of expectorating Spaniards and obsessive Japanese.
Friday 27th July
Okay, I realise that the football will have been underway for two days, but given that I fervently believe the sport to have about as much right to be in the Olympics as dwarf-tossing, we shall begin here. The Opening Ceremony.
Now, it won’t be as well choreographed as the efforts of Beijing four years ago. It can’t be. We in Britain have free-will instead of communism, while mistakes in practice were presumably met, at worst, by a massive huff from some precious Pineapple Studios instructor. Rather than a firing squad. Nonetheless, it is directed by Danny Boyle, who once managed to add a sort of balletic quality to a shaven-headed man diving into a shit-encrusted toilet, so anything it possible.
The archery starts too. At Lords. Sacrilege.
Saturday 28th July
Residents of SW London will be woken on Saturday morning by the clack of baseball cards in spokes (do people still do that?) as the Cycling Road Race whizzes through Fulham and Putney on its way out to Surrey and back. Record-breaking Tour-de-France sprinter and reigning Sports Personality of the Year, Mark Cavendish, is hot favourite to win here and should kick off Team GB’s medal charge some time in mid-afternoon…
Unless our ladies have already done so in the swimming, that is, where the 4x100m Freestyle team have a decent chance of a medal… Elsewhere in the pool, amidst the veruca warnings and presumably avoiding any bombing or heavy petting, Michael Phelps will probably be winning the first of the three medals he needs to break the all-time Olympic record.
Sunday 29th July
Day three offers the prospect of more gold in the pool than a kids’ party. Beijing poster girl Becky Adlington takes on a pair of filthy Australians in the defence of her 400m Freestyle gong. Later on, the men’s 4x100m Freestyle is one of the headline aquatic events and may see Michael “12,000 calories a day” Phelps win again. Once more the Aussies offer the main threat there.
Back on terra firma, Beth Tweddle is, at the grand old age of 27, bidding to become the oldest gymnast to win gold in 48 years. Her competition will probably be a bunch of nubile, pre-pubescent teenagers from Eastern Europe with morally dubious relationships with their septuagenarian coaches… But such is the joy of sport. On the Road Cycling front, Lizzie Armistead could be inspired to victory by the Cav’s efforts the previous day, but in reality, any medal would be a result.
Elsewhere, team U! S! A! start their basketball procession against France, and Stuart Pearce’s useless football team take on the might of the United Arab Emirates.
Monday 30th July
The general joy of going back to work on a Monday is likely to be compounded by a relative lack of success. Tom Daley, a much-hyped boy who seems to be modelling his diving career on such heroic sporting also-rans as Tim Henman and Andy Murray, is a medal chance for the 10m Synchronised event. The Chinese are hot favourites, but Daley and partner Peter Waterfield could throw a “fry” in their ointment. We have a few other competitors in swimming events, but a bronze in any would be cause for celebration.
Back in the short-shorted and plimsolled world of Gymnastics, the men’s team have a great shot at a medal. We are the current European champions, although given the strength of the Japanese team, featuring triple world champion Kohei Uchimura, this is no guarantee of gold. Silver is likely, but in gymnastics one slip or display of heterosexuality could prove costly, and our boys are ready to pounce. Over at Greenwich Park, the merciless William Fox-Pitt leads an imposing-looking 3-Day Eventing team into the cross-country phase.
Tuesday 31st July
Beijing silver-medallist David Florence attempts to put a canoeing medal in his pocket (or maybe he’s just happy to see us) in the C1 Slalom Single final. Andy Murray is joined by his infinitely more likeable and charismatic brother Jamie for the Men’s Doubles Tennis, which also should not be an Olympic sport. In terms of novel but hopeless causes, GB’s Volleyball team have an “ashes” clash against the convicts, while our b-ballers (featuring a genuine NBA superstar in Luol Deng) take on Brazil.
Meanwhile (and I’m getting slightly bored of writing this), Michael Phelps will almost certainly win more medals; this time in the 200m butterfly and the 4x200m freestyle relay. Australia’s golden girl Stephanie Rice is in action in the 200m individual medley too.
Right. That’s your lot for this week. In addition to the above, various heats and trials will be taking place, while connoisseurs of masturbation will doubtless be found at horse-guards parade for the Beach Volleyball.
I’ll be back next Wednesday for your next instalment, but until then don ye all your gay apparel (and it doesn’t come much gayer than a bright pink polo shirt) and get behind team GB for the games. What a few weeks it promises to be…
by Harry Harland