Sportsthoughts (22) – Another visit to the London Olympic Park, for Water Polo and Wheelchair Tennis

The “London Prepares” series of events continues and this afternoon we took the Central Line to Stratford to see some water polo and wheelchair tennis. When we got there at about 1.30, it was raining and the tennis was off, so we went straight to the water polo, starting 2pm. This was the first time I’d been to the site in daylight so I thought I’d take a few pictures on the way to the water polo arena.  iPhone quality. Double click for full pics.

First up, Anish Kapoor’s “Orbit”. A remarkable construction, but what on earth is it meant to be? Maybe it’s left to us to decide.  I keep thinking of a coffee pot! Or is it an upright wasp?

Foreboding against the gloomy skies…

Detail.

Wouldn’t it be great if the grey spiral was a helter skelter? I think it’s the steps.  Can’t wait to climb them!

The main stadium is pretty much completed.  Looking good. Not exactly the Beijing Bird Nest, but it will do the trick, and I look forward to watching my football team, West Ham, playing there one day.

I wrote about the Aquatic Centre before in my Sportsthoughts 13 post (see right toolbar), so just a single photo reprise.

I like these lights that look like mini wind turbines.  Maybe they are mini wind turbines.  We were speculating that they might generate enough power to light themselves.  Green.

The water polo centre is a temporary structure.  Seems a bit of a shame…

Inside it looks great.  Here’s the pool before the action started.

I’ve never watched water polo before, but my son plays it for his school and I know what the physical demands are like.  Ever tried to raise yourself out of the water, arms raised high? I just sink. I need my arms to float! At this international level a game lasts 32 minutes: four 8 minute quarters.  Players come on and off, and frequently get sin-binned for 20 seconds, but still, this is tough.

And the skill level is high. Catching that ball one handed in the water all the time.  Throwing a hard, accurate pass. Leaping out of the water to aim a shot at goal. Phew!

We watched the last round of the women’s four team group competition: Great Britain, USA, Australia, Hungary.  First game was Australia vs Hungary. Both teams had previously beaten GB but lost to the USA.  They were fighting for the right to play the US again in the final.  The Aussies won 17-12 and looked fast and slick.  I loved the way they surged forward if they regained the ball near their own goal, the Hungarians desperately trying to get back with them.  Worked the other way round too, but there was something dolphin-like about the Aussies.  This photo sort of captures it, but you need to be there really, seeing the back wash of the water as 10-12 people go for it.

Another fun bit is the beginning of each quarter.  The ball is placed in the middle. The teams are all on their goal line. Whistle blows and all six outfield players rush, in arrow formation, to get to the ball first. I think the Hungarians (right, white caps) might have stolen this one.

And then it was time for GB vs USA. On the form of the previous games, it looked like our girls were in for a drubbing. But they got a big, big cheer. And on the first start, they got there first! Right, white caps again.

The US immediately showed their power and quickly drew into a 4-0 lead.  It looked ominous for Team GB.  They got a goal back, let another in and then started to take the Americans on… and clawed it back to 4-5 at half time. There were a couple of guys in the crowd really leading the the GB chants.  The place was rocking.  The sound resonates in these swimming venues.  The team must have been inspired by the support. They kept going in the second half. The US had more chances, but it stayed close.  With two and half minutes left, GB were 6-5 down and had a shot which hit the post! Could have been 6-6. The US then went down the other end and made it 7-5.  Game over, or was it?  GB came back again and got a sixth, but time ran out. 7-6 to the USA.  I suspect the US probably always had another gear if necessary, but my guess, as a non-expert in the game, is that this will be hugely encouraging for the British team. And the crowd, all of us, loved it. Really exciting stuff.

Photo of GB on the attack.  Sorry to American readers for my bias here! USA were worthy winners.

So, the water polo over, and the weather improved, we thought we’d seek out the tennis. Not many of the guides in the park seemed to know much about where it was located and the one thing the park doesn’t yet have is good maps and signage. But we got there in the end.  On the way, we took in two of the most interesting structures on the site, the basketball arena (left) and the velodrome (right). The latter may be the jewel in the crown. Both on design and as the venue where we may have our greatest success.

And some good views of the main stadium.

There’s a multicoloured cork/rubber carpet as you can see.  We were wondering what that might be for.  Maybe for some children’s activities, cushioning the inevitable falls?

In close up. Could be in the Tate Modern!

The wheel chair tennis was amazing.  The mobility of the players, in specially designed chairs, extraordinary.  And their tennis shots were top notch too. Some superb rallies. It was 5.30 and freezing cold, so there weren’t a lot of viewers. But I reckon it could be a big hit in the Paralympics.  The match we watched a part of was between McCarroll and Reid, both British,  and Ammerlan (Dutch) and Simpson (British). What was also striking was how good humoured it was. Doubles always lends itself to that spirit.

On the way back we came close to the basketball arena.  Another temporary structure, I believe.  Even more of a shame than the water polo, if this one is taken down. Close up it is a work of art!

It’s all in the detail.

And roll on August 2012!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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4 Responses to Sportsthoughts (22) – Another visit to the London Olympic Park, for Water Polo and Wheelchair Tennis

  1. Great pictures. Will be at the Olympic park tomorrow, so this is a nice insight into what it will be like.

    • John S says:

      It’s really taking shape. The only thing I didn’t like was the airport-style security, though I accept it is probably necessary. But really, I had to take my belt off, though at least not my shoes!

  2. LuluRou says:

    Wow, the velodrome is amazing. The main stadium and its carpet are great too, with a bit of sunlight it must be spectacular ! I would love so much to go see the Olympics, right now I’m a bit jealous we didn’t get it 🙂

  3. John S says:

    Thanks! Let’s hope the sun shines in August. It was FREEZING yesterday!

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