paralympics 2012

anish kapoor’s ‘helter skelter’

Today is the very last days of the Olympics and the Paralympics in London for the year 2012. It has been incredibly exciting and I feel very emotional about the amazing achievement of the olympians; especially the paralympians!!!

Having been frustrated at not being able to get tickets for the olympics, our friends Caroline & Natalie gave us 2 tickets for the Goalball on Thursday the 6th September 2012.

goalball – china vs finland

The day pass that it comes with meant we could enter the Olympic Park at any time from 9am but I had to go to a site meeting first and couldn’t get there until just before the event started at 1.30pm.

JC couldn’t make it because of last minute work commitments so my friend Sam stepped up when I offered her the ticket (I’d have stood in the park and shouted for any takers rather than waste it).

We met at Stratford and quickly took in the scenes of the park before we headed for the Copper Box to watch China and Finland fight it out in the women’s Goalball quarter final. It is very quiet in the stadium to allow the athletes to hear the rattle in the heavy ball that they pass across the pitch aiming at the goal beyond the 3 olympians trying to stop it hitting the back of the net. The girls have to hurl themselves onto the floor to stop the ball!! Ouch!!

brazil’s blind 5 a-side football team

China won and although we could have stayed to watch the next match, we had seen the LCD screens announcing that there were seats available for day pass holders to go and watch the mens blind 5 a-side football.  So off we went to the Lakeside Arena and watched Brazil beat Argentina on penalties (Brazil eventually went on to win gold on Saturday, yey!!).

argentina’s team making their way to the pitch

It’ remarkable to watch people (it happened to be men) who can see nothing whilst running around a pitch, dribbling a ball and performing tackles with skill and complete control. There are clashes and a few awkward misses but that happens in any game of football. The players have a guide on the sideline who shouts directions to them, the goal keeper is sighted and they also have a guide behind the goal to give them some aiming and positioning tips.

jefinho & ricardihno

Something else that struck me is that there is no stupid egotistical reaction to tackles or a bump. When it happens, it is a fact and they just get over it and get on with it. But better than that is how lovely everyone involved is with each other. I appreciate that they need to help each other for obvious reasons. Aside from the fact that they are playing the game without sight, it is a team sport and team players help each other, that’w what a team is. But watching how far this needs to go, I think we’d all benefit significantly from needing to put our own needs aside and concentrating on the needs of another (and I mean outside the parameters of parenting, marriage, friendship and all of the situations where we might already do that). It was very moving to watch.

brazil celebrating the win

a paralympians celebrating the weird!!

Having become very excited by the mens blind 5 a-side football, Sam & I went in pursuit of another event and hopefully a new venue. As luck would have it, the basketball arena was the venue for GBR vs France’s final stages of ‘Murderball’. We got food and a drink and then settled into our seats. I have to admit to knowing nothing about murderball except that someone made a film about it in about 1978.

The LED score board at tehe paralympics

In the warm up the rules, the players grading and the scoring was all explained and the chairs used for each positions was also described in detail.  It all sounded interesting enough and the team line up was already whizzing around psyching themselves up by this point. It was undoubtedly a charged atmosphere and it was becoming infectious.  We were surrounded by spectators who were clearly already supporters of the sport and new the line up and their obvious excitement was easy to catch.

When the play finally started, I was immediately hooked by it and fell in love with the sport and the sportsmen.

team GB murderball team prepare for the came against france

It is exciting, tactical, fast, skilled and completely compulsive.  I was on my feet, hollering, arms in the airs, wooping and eventually crying. I was completely blown away. Team GB won which was great (there is no doubt that supporting an event for your own country can’t be beaten) and although their final ranking was eventually 5th and outside the medals, I enjoyed watching the play tremendously.

We didn’t leave straight after the joys of wheelchair rugby and sat at the picnic benches outside the athletics stadium and soaked up the crowd’s noise in the ‘field of dreams’.

In all, it was a marvellous life changing experience. I came home feeling elevated and inspired with a few new sporting heroes.

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