Posted by: ralphmexico | August 18, 2012

ONE DAY – MAKING A SPLASH AT THE OLYMPICS; ANOTHER DAY – GETTING TO GRIPS AT THE GAMES

Before London 2012 wrapped up with the pretty lame finale, and the Olympic Flame was put into cold storage, there were two more events to attend, namely ladies diving and gents wrestling.  Not quite the golden tickets I aspired to but still a helluva’ lot better than dressage, sailing or nothing.  Especially dressage or sailing.

Conveniently, the diving was on the Sunday evening a few hours before the men’s 100 metres final so there was an almighty buzz in the Olympic Park.  We arrived early and mooched around the various venues, enjoying the sunshine, throwing wry glances at the big screen where that odious toad Murray was losing his mixed doubles tennis final.

Of course it was all corporate advertising overkill in the park, yet everyone’s mood was so unremittingly upbeat you couldn’t help but feel good about the place.  The eyes of the world were going to be glued to the Olympic Stadium in a few hours when Usain Bolt took 9.63 seconds out of his busy partying schedule to take 41 strides; before that we were going into the Aquatics Centre which was about 60 strides west of Bolt’s running track.

So, ladies 3 metres springboard diving was the competition.  £90.00 was the price of the ticket.  Twelve competitors had five dives each.  Sixty dives.  £90.00.  At £1.50 a dive, this was expensive splashing.  So it goes.

The electronic scoreboard would give us the name of the diver and a description of the dive she was about to attempt.  The obligatory “berk with microphone” would read this out to us in between encouraging us to “make some noise”.  The diver would step up on the board, get some spring going, launch herself into the air, throw a few shapes, and swoosh into the drink causing as little of a splash as possible.  The seven judges would quickly throw their marks out of ten onto the scoreboard, and we were ready for the next diver.  Bounce-spin-splash-applause-score.  Sixty times.  Hmmm.

It was graceful, somewhat balletic, quite interesting.  You’d have your work cut out though convincing me to ahem, spring for another diving contest.  Still, it was the Olympics, Once in a lifetime, Blah-blah-blah.  Just a pity that each “Blah” cost £30.00.

In the end a Chinese girl won, another Chinese took silver, and a Mexican held off the noisily-supported Italian girl for the bronze.  “With all the will in the world, Diving for dear gold, When they could be diving for pearls”, indeed.  Then we had the medal ceremony pool-side.  The flags were hoisted, the jaunty Chinese anthem was played, and we all filed happily out of the Aquatics Centre to go home to watch Bolt prove again that it’s his world – we are merely lucky to live in it.

If its Friday morning, then it must be men’s wrestling.  55kg (a small weight for a wrestler, a huge weight for a chicken) and 74kg (big, bad and dangerous to know in any form) were the categories.  The action was taking place in the ExCel Arena down in the Docklands.  The previous day Katie Taylor knocked Fifty Shades Of Bray out of a repressed Russian in the ExCel, and the huge complex was miraculously still intact after all the buck-lepping and whooping the celebrating Irish did.  Which was nice.

Whereas the diving suffered from an excessive price tag and a lack of activity, the wrestling scored a knockout on both fronts.  £20.00 for over two hours entertainment?  No need to “take the change outta’ that”.

There were three mats laid out, so there was three bouts played out at the same time.  The competitors marched on to the beat of “Whoo-ooo-ooo-oo-ooo Barbra Streisand”.  They climbed onto their mat, bowed to the ref, assumed the position, and tore bald-headed into each other without any of this “Crouch, touch, pause, take steroids, engage” pussyfooting.

They grappled with gusto, jousted with joie de vivre, attacked with abandon.  It was marvellous entertainment.  I got chatting to a former wrestler, now a referee, from Pennsylvania who gave me the inside scoop on the scoring, the skills, and the moves.  The close combat occasionally resembled two duffel coat-wearing drunks wrestling over a fallen chip in the laneway outside Joan’s Cafe, but when we got down to the quarter-finals and only one mat was in use it was easier to appreciate the nuances of two men wearing man-kinis trying to horse each other out of a circle marked on a platform of rubber.

The arena announcer was hollering it up a storm and kept referring to wrestling as “the oldest sport in the world”.  And there I was thinking Luis Suarez getting “the bird” from opposition fans was the only sport that had been going around since time began…

It was obvious that the geographical strongholds for wrestling are east of Greece, especially in the former Soviet republics and in Iran.  It was the presence of so many Iranian competitors that led to the most welcome attraction of an olive-skinned beauty a couple of rows to my left frequently hopping up and shaking it to “Barbra Streisand” in a manner that would most definitely have the brothers in the Islamic Republic in a hot funk.  I’d wager that there’s nowhere in the Koran where supporting “the oldest sport in the world” while dressed and dancing like someone from “the oldest profession in the world” is given a free pass.

(Train)ing In Vain!!
Ralph Mexico

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