‘Incredible’ sporting experience at London 2012 Olympic games

Nick Rabbitts, in Lo

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts, in Lo

INCREDIBLE. There is no other word to describe the last two weeks of sport over in London.

INCREDIBLE. There is no other word to describe the last two weeks of sport over in London.

The eyes of the world has been on the British capital as it has staged arguably the most spectacular games in the history of the Olympiad.

Once I found out the games were being held in London, there was no way I was going to miss out.

Way back in April last year, we applied for a batch of tickets for a variety of venues across London. Although the action is focused on the Olympic Park in Stratford, many other parts of London (and indeed the UK) have staged events.

Although our group missed out on some of out first choices of tickets (Athletics and the Opening Ceremony in particular), we were still lucky enough to secure tickets to some popular sports including the much talked-about Beach Volleyball in Central London.

We were also fortunate enough to get tickets to stadia in the Olympic Park, where we saw Britain’s women’s hockey side beat Korea 5-3 in the Riverbank Arena. Meanwhile, Britain’s men’s handball side fell to Tunisia in the aptly named Copper Box.

As well as this, we saw fencing in the Excel Arena in the Docklands part of London - the same venue which played host to world number one boxer Katie Taylor.

Unfortunately, her magic did not rub off on any of the British fencers, as they were eliminated early on .

Although we did not see Jessica Ennis’ spectacular Heptathlon win, Becky Adlington coming oh-so-close in the Aquatics Centre, or indeed Katie Taylor’s advancement in the boxing competition, we were in the next best place: the viewing area in the heart of the Olympic Park.

The location the BBC’s cameras invariably pan towards when a British athlete wins a medal, the atmosphere was electric.

There was so much cynicism among my friends in London ahead of the games. Many discussed leaving the area for a few weeks.

One went so far as to tell me that “most Londoners would rather the games were not here at all.”

But all that cynicism was swept away once the spectacular Danny Boyle created Opening Ceremony took place.

Pessimism turned to regret that they had not secured some of the hottest tickets on the planet: everyone in London was so positive, especially around the Olympic Park in Stratford. It is hard to believe that seven years ago, it was wasteland.

On one of the nights we ventured to the Irish Supporters House (many participating countries enjoy dedicated bars).

There, I met Kieran Behan, the young Irish gymnast who has battled cancer, and other injuries which meant at one point he could not walk.

Despite this, the inspirational athlete battled back, and only just missed out on a medal at London 2012 - getting a mention on the BBC’s Olympics Tonight show.

Also taking time out was Team GB basketball player Rachel Vanderwal.

Despite her Canadian upbringing, it is through her Liverpool-born mother she qualifies to play for Team GB. For the last five years, she has been playing for the UL women’s basketball side.

Although GB’s women’s basketball side lost all their games - including a late heartbreaker against France - Rachel is upbeat.

She said: “The whole experience has been amazing. Any time you walk inside the Olympic Park, people have come straight up to you asking you what you play, and wanting their picture with you. It is a real shock: I am never going to get this again.”

The focus will soon switch to the Paralympic Games in which Limerick will be well-represented through shott-putt thrower James McCarthy (Caherdavin), rowers Shane Ryan (Ballybricken) and Sarah Caffrey (Clonlara) and Killaloe swimmer Jonathan McGrath. In the meantime, here’s hoping there are more medals for both Team Ireland and Team GB - although not at the expense of one another!