Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taekwondo and Flying to Ireland

I'm sitting on a bus to the airport in traffic near Baker Street. Hopefully the traffic will go away soon.

I got up early this morning after about six hours sleep, made some last minute packing changes (though I'm still pretty sure I've forgotten my camera and my glasses...), decided I had no time for breakfast and ran for the bus, only to find it absolutely full at 6.50 in the morning. It was a double decker bus. So I had to wait for the next one.

When I got to North Greenwich Station I began to realise that this is the last time I will see soldiers and police and purple-shirted games-makers and tourists wandering around for the Olympics, and felt a bit sad. There's still the Paralympics, but that's in a few weeks and I don't know if it'll be the same. I've enjoyed living in Olympics London - there's a kind of excitement in the air, and the predicted transport apocalypse never eventuated. In fact, my trains and buses were pretty empty.

I guess I know why: everyone had packed onto buses at 6.50am.

Now I'm at Lord's Cricket Ground. I'm amazed at how many statues and sculptures I'm seeing as we wend through the streets of London. Of course I knew there were lots, but on this particular route there seem to be hundreds.

When I boarded my tube train, it hit home that this actually wasn't that early in the morning - even though I still felt half asleep and I hadn't had any breakfast (I always have breakfast), these were normal commuters on their way to work. They got up this early every day.

So really, you probably want to know about the Taekwondo. It was really good, despite the changing of the draws so I wasn't watching any New Zealanders and the terrible directions and fences everywhere. Okay, so maybe some of me getting lost was due to specifically passing through the 'no exit' signs and refusing to do what everyone else was doing, but there was one very important place where there should have been a sign and THERE WAS NOT. After a ten minute detour and a pause at security (apparently my glasses case looks like a bomb when it's empty), I got into the ExCel Centre, which is ginormous but has no Olympics shop where you can buy T-shirts. I know, I walked its entire length.

This may be a ranty post.

I'd taken the gondola/cable car across the river from North Greenwich (after standing in two consecutive queues to get a ticket and then board) which was amazing, and not as scary as I'd been led to believe. You get beautiful views of the O2 and the buildings of Canary Wharf and The City, as well as the Olympic Park and a whole swathe of London. If you can, take your pet dog with you - it means you get an entire car to yourself.

Next came the journey from the station to the ExCel, to which I have already alluded.

Once I got into the Taekwondo arena, it was great. Apart from the unenthusiastic family beside me, where the father was at times reading the paper. There were a few seats empty so I moved closer to the action halfway through, and sat among much more interesting people who shouted and cheered satisfactorily.

We saw a demonstration from WTF, the World Taekwondo Federation, where the group of them did a few fighting patterns and broke lots of boards, sometimes three held 1.5m, 2m and 2.5m off the ground in one go. I feel I should learn to do this. I wondered if the floor was bouncy, considering how high they were jumping, but it didn't look like it was.

Then the actual fights started. The officials and athletes were announced, and they all marched out from the backstage area looking very impressive to music. The fight is held on a raised platform in the centre of the room in three bouts of two minutes with a minute's rest in between. The athletes were mostly using kicks to get points, each kick resulting in 1-4 points depending on complexity. I don't remember them mentioning that a spinning kick to the head gets you four points when I was in a tournament, but possibly they didn't want lower-belt teenagers trying to spin-kick each other in the head.

I was watching the quarter-finals and the semis. Some of the opponents were very closely matched, and two fights ended in sudden death rounds, but others were decided almost from the start. It was actually relatively relaxing having no Kiwis to watch - I could pick and choose who to support and not be too invested when they didn't win. The semi-finals were exciting: they decide who will go through to the gold medal fights, so 75% of the athletes we were watching would get a medal. As the pressure built, there were more and more appeals from the coaches or the athletes, asking for a kick to be reconsidered by slow motion video. At this point, the Who Wants to be a Millionaire music came on while the judges deliberated, and the appeal was deemed successful or unsuccessful.
Tied at 10 points with 4 seconds to go...

I should really check up on who won the Taekwondo, seeing as I've actually seen it all now.

You've probably guessed from the title that I'm spending a few days in Ireland. The flight wasn't all that interesting, so I'll put the rest in a future post.

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