London 2012 (07.31.2012) – Being A Spectator

Watching the gymnastics’ women’s team final from the Sports Desk newsroom.

A historic day for Team USA in the gym and in the pool.

The US women’s gymnastics team put behind the drama of qualifications and came together to win the gold medal since the Magnificent Seven did it in 1996. Aly Raisman sealed the deal on her floor exercise with a 15.3 performance as the US defeated silver medalists Russia by five points. Romania, a traditional powerhouse, claimed bronze while the defending Olympic champions, China, were left off the podium.

The entire team stood together staring at the scoreboard waiting for confirmation that they had indeed become Olympic Champions. The Fab Five proved themselves worthy of the nickname.

Meanwhile, Michael Phelps may have put an end to the debate of Greatest Olympian Ever (or may have sparked it) by winning his record-setting 19th Olympic medal, becoming the most decorated Olympian ever. He won a silver in the 200m Individual Medley and then earned a gold with his teammates in the 4x200m Freestyle Relay.

Other headlines that’s got the IBC buzzing today/tonight:

– The US women’s Field Hockey team made history by upsetting No. 2-ranked Argentina, 1-0. The winning goal was scored by Shannon Taylor, a former Syracuse player. Orange pride.

– Another American victory in shooting. This time Vincent Hancock won gold in the Men’s Skeet, setting an Olympic record in the process.

– Team GB claimed silver in the Equestrian Team Eventing competition. The squad included Zara Philips, who is the granddaughter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Royalty aside, many Brits (and the world) are wondering when Team GB will finally claim gold. It’s already been four days and still no top podium finish. (It’s actually been an on-going joke that we at NBC have with some of the locals working in our office.)

My First Ever Olympic Event

USA women vs. Angola at the Basketball Arena.

In my last post, I detailed what it was like just to get to buy the ticket to my first ever Olympic event. Here I’ll pick up from the “thrilling” ending where I left off.

When I arrive, the women’s game between USA and Angola is already underway. I climb to my assigned seat, and then look around and realize I probably could have picked any seat I wanted. That prediction from a Games Maker outside the arena that many would stay to see the American women play did not hold true. This was the same guy who said outside, “Yeah basketball is a weird sport. They’ve got timeouts and breaks.”

There’s a good sized crowd (certainly more than there would be for a Syracuse women’s basketball game, I thought) and for a women’s basketball game, there was more than decent cheering and applause. Granted, it’s the Olympics but I’m used to seeing empty seats and the sound of polite golf claps at women’s events.

I spent the first half really just taking it all in.

Taking in the fact that this is a temporary venue and will not exist soon after the Games end. Taking in the Olympic rings that hanged at one end of an arena.

The Olympic Rings.

Taking in the fact that I’ve seen some of these players before when they visited Syracuse. From Maya Moore to Angel McCoughtry, from Tina Charles to the head coach Geno Auriemma, these were figures that I have now witnessed on the global stage. How many players have you seen gone from college, or even the pros, to playing in the Olympics?

This is the best of the world taking on Angola.

Then it hits you. They’re taking on Angola. You realize it by halftime when the Americans lead 41-18. If this wasn’t the Olympics, many witnesses to this game would be tempted to leave, or if you’re at home, change the channel.

But I waited in line and paid five quid, and this was my first Olympic event. And who knows if I’ll get to go to another one. I decide to stay.

I am thoroughly entertained by the halftime show featuring a very talented group of jump ropers. But before I settle back for the second half, I decide to grab a pint. Who said watching this rout has to be a sobering experience?

The Americans were very impressive and showed that they are gold medal favorites. They’ve won the Olympic title four straight times already. And then you’ve got coach Auriemma, who has already made a name for himself coaching the UConn Huskies.

So while I enjoy watching any sport, watching this dominating performance wasn’t exactly entertaining and you wonder why not many people stayed this late. I did stay for the whole game, including the closing seconds (you’ll appreciate one Brit who was cheering for underdog, Angola).

For full highlights, click here. In the end, I was thankful that I had finally been to an event in London. I’ll look back and think about how cool it was that I got to see the likely eventual gold medalists.

And that I saw from the fans an appreciation for what was in front of them. I’m not sure if a game like this would have gotten the same kind of support in host cities other than London. Could it be because the USA was playing that there were was still a very good crowd for a women’s game? Maybe women’s sports get more attention here in the UK than in the USA, where they aren’t getting enough attention.

Or maybe, it’s because it’s the Olympics.

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