chicago trip day 08

Woke up at 5.30am because we had an early start. We loaded up my suitcase and muji bag of things for people and the silent auction and were off at 7am. It being a public holiday the roads were relatively clear. I took a chance and asked reception if the room was ready and it was. I dumped my bags and joined the group for breakfast and part of their meeting.

chi022wrigley

Very interesting meeting but I and another meeting attendee had to leave at 11am to get a lyft to Wrigley to see the baseball game. A was at a downtown hotel and would meet me at our seats. I’m not sure why we needed to get to the park so early, we got there at 11.45am and they wandered off to their seats. I walked around the outside of the stadium, made my way inside and explored the concession stands. Lots of food–beer,hot dogs, snacks. Souvenir shops too. I got a goose island beer (had to look for it, it was mostly budweiser) and a giordano’s pizza–I asked for cheese and got pepperoni, sigh. Our seats were in the shade behind first base. The game started at 1.20pm, I had over an hour to wait. Again, not sure why the friends took that lyft so early.

chi033flag

It being Independence Day, there was a parade of military personnel, a display of an American flag that covered most of the field, and we stood for the National Anthem.

chi043baseball

To be honest, I found the game boring. There’d be short bursts of action then long periods of waiting around for teams to get organised or change positions or talk strategy. It’s not continuous and makes the game very long, total I think this game was 3 hours.

The cubs were playing tampa bay rays. Cubs took a 1-0 lead but rays in one innings went up 1-6. It wasn’t till the end of the 9th innings that things got exciting. Cubs fought back to 5-6. Two out and two strikes there were people on bases. If the batter hit the ball far enough they’d have a chance to win. But in the end they didn’t so final score cubs 5 rays 6.

We took the red line to A’s hotel, stopping off to get some stuff at walgreens and visit cheesecake factory. Taxi to a blue line station, L to rosemont then taxi to the hotel.

chi113quesadilla

A little tired but hungry. Walked over to the retail park 5mins from the hotel. There was a band and food stalls as people celebrated the holiday. We found seats at a mexican place and I had blackened shrimp quesadilla which was quite good.

chi081fireworks

Had a wine at the hotel bar and joined others to watch fireworks. Long day and tired.

foam roller bottle

foamrollerbottle

I’m not running, and one of the consequences is I get more aches and pains than before and I need to roller my back fairly often. I’m starting to think about what to pack for chicago and mulling whether I should take my foam roller. It comes with a travel bag and I can just take the outer one and stuff clothes and shoes inside. Still, it’s not practical; it’s too bulky.

Sis shared this roller bottle with me. Two purposes in one. Stainless steel bottle and the whole thing tested for 350 pounds. Most pictures show people rollering their feet or arm so I wonder if it’s strong enough or large enough for using on the back. I guess the 350 pounds bit means it does. Is it hard enough? And most importantly, it seems a tad small to cover a large area like the back. $40 is expensive too, considering a regularfoam roller is under $20. There’s another brand for arund $28.

The biggest advantage is convenience, especially for travelling.

I’m undecided.

ronnie o’sullivan 147

elonex

I was reading a post about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fastest 147, which may have been even faster than recorded. To remind ourselves, he made his first 147 at the Crucible at the 1997 world championship, at the record-breaking time of 5:20. Apparently the time is wrong. Going back 5 minutes 20 seconds from the end of play, ie when the last black was potted, gives a point when the other player was still playing. Which means the actual 147 took less time than 5:20:

  • 5:05 if the clock started when he hit the first white
  • 5:15 if the clock started when his opponent’s ball came to rest

Technology wasn’t as sophisticated in 1997. There at around the 3-minute mark is the Elonex logo, so the BBC must have been using Elonex computers then. Not the computer’s fault, it’s likely a human operator had to start the clock. I’m just blown away by seeing Elonex. It’s a name long ago buried in the past, like Amstrad or Sinclair or Commodore. I can’t remember if I ever bought an Elonex; they were good computers for that time. I wonder if they’re still in business.


It doesn’t matter whether it’s 5:05 or 5:15 or 5:20. The break is still worth watching. Deadspin positively gushes about Ronnie O’Sullivan, comparing him to Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, Brian Lara, LeBron James, and Mozart:

when in the zone, he seems to have mastered the natural universe around him. His play is symphonic, orchestral, balletic, majestic, beautiful.

In the days of only 4 terrestrial tv channels, I grew up watching a lot of afternoon sports like cricket and snooker. Ronnie O’Sullivan brought a lot to the sport, and is still going strong, winning the 2017 Masters.

spring marathons #bostonstrong

It’s spring marathon season. Brighton was last weekend, Paris was yesterday, London is next weekend. Today is Boston, which is an anomaly in world marathons in that it’s run on a monday.

I’m mesmerised, watching how they let pedestrians cross the street in the middle of the marathon course. Effective and using low tech ideas. Just a few officials, a couple of signs, rope and a rectanglar box in the middle of the street. Very clever.

switzer

And talking about Boston, it’s the 5th anniversary of the bombing so #BostonStrong. The biggest finisher wasn’t Geoffrey Kirui or Edna Kiplagat (yay for Kenya) but bib #261, Kathrine Switzer, aged 70. Ms Switzer was the first woman to officially run Boston in 1967, having registerd as K.V. Switzer. The iconic photo of the race director trying to grab her mid-course seems so ridiculous now, but what she did for women’s sports was set a fantastic example and role model. 70 years old and she finished in 4:44:31. Amazing.

The BAA has retired her bib #261, in her honour.

#46 wall climbing

bbwallclimbing01

The one task I didn’t fully complete from 101.1001 was #46, to go wall climbing. I counted it as complete because I made the booking before the end of the challenge. So today was the booking.

I got to the ymca around 20mins before the course, to fill in forms and give them a couple of photos. There are 2 sections there, and one of the sections had a kid’s birthday party going on. It was a small class, just me and 3 young women, friends from Singapore I think. The first hour was going over rules, safety and first of all learning how to fall. Then it was earning how to use the harness and belaying system. Learning how to make knots, use a carabiner, use a <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigri_(climbing)” title=”wiki’>grigri. We could climb up to 3m without a harness but anything above that we need someone to belay.

We were then paired off for our first climb as a team. Learned how to belay and steady our teammate. Checking each other’s equipment was paramount, as were the signals we have to give. Also learned how to fall and brace someone who is falling. The first time I did the fall I pushed off using my arms only and fell upside down, hahaha.

“Climbing.”

“Okay.”

“Tension.”

“Lower.”

“Falling,”

Climbed up and down a few times. I got stuck at the bit that was an outcrop but it didn’t matter. It was fun.

After 2 hours’ instruction was the assessment. Went through everything that we learned so far and made sure we did everything correctly. I was nervous and didn’t do too well. Was tired at that point too so couldn’t even climb very far. But I passed the assessment, so yay! Now I can book climbing sessions myself, but obviously without a teammate can only do the 3m or less bouldering. Definitely need more practice.

england vs france at wembley, the score didn’t matter

englandfrance20151117
image from the independent

If I were still in London, I would have thought about going too. And I’ve never gone to a football match.

On Tuesday night, France came to Wembley to play a football match with England, four days after the terrorist attack in Paris, during which their own game with Germany was under attack at la Stade de France. While most people will agree that sports and politics shouldn’t mix, this time

football itself has been rather thrust forward into the vanguard of the response to the horror in Paris.

Kudos to the FA their french counterpart and the government, for the determination that the game will go ahead,

defiance, normality, business as usual: this was the message.

It was always going to be an emotional night. It was well known beforehand that the Duke of Cambridge, Cameron and the team captains would lay wreaths on the pitch; that there would be a minute’s silence; that the words of La Marseillaise would be shown on the big screen so England fans can sing with their counterparts.

I looked for videos of that. I did not expect to be so moved. Wonderful display of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Yes, the words were mangled, the band wasn’t perfect. It was perfect:

it suited the often funny fraternity between France and England: our closest neighbour, but a sibling kind of relationship that leaves each afraid to say to the other how much we care, until something truly awful happens.

In the meantime, politicians, most especially Republican governors in America are portraying Muslims and Middle Eastern refugees as all terrorists and falling over each other to slam the door on Syrian refugees. Wow, that’s inhuman and cruel.

Oh, the final score was 2-0 to England. It didn’t matter. Marchons, marchons.

 

 

not the superhero runner

8.5km 1.12.30hr 8.32min/km plus 1.5km walking

I took advantage of a little breeze and cloud cover to go to the park. It was still a bit of a struggle as the temperature was high and I was dripping with sweat very quickly. Argh.

Need something positive, and I came across an article in medium called the superhero runner. The author’s son (age 5) is British and was born in Japan and lived there till he was 2.5 years old. Naturally he feels a connection with Japan. His parents are also avid runners so when his homework was about his own personal real-life hero, he wrote about Yuki Kawauchi, the “maverick” civil servant runner from Saitama.

Kawauchi is fast, very fast. 2:08 at the 2011 Tokyo marathon, multiple victories in a year and a member of the Japan world championship team. He is also one to buck the system. In Japan, professional runners are part of a coporate or university team. Kawauchi still has a day job as a government clerk, pays for his own expenses and generally does things his own way.

Great role model for a 5 year old.

Even better news is that after his dad tweeted his homework, the folks at Japan running news passed on the image and Kawauchi sent a response:

I’m not quite the fastest in Japan yet but I’m very happy to hear that English children know and value that I try to be competitive and to never give up. I will keep trying to really become the fastest in Japan. Thank you.

#thisgirlcan ad campaign wants women to exercise

 
It’s January. People make resolutions which inevitably include losing weight and exercising more. Newspapers and magazines are full of articles about the 10 ways to start running or 5 foods to eat instead of cake. The intentions are noble and grand; the tone of these articles at times seem condescending, but if it inspires someone, then it’s all for the good.

Except, apparently, women in the UK aged 14-40 are not exercising. Sport England conducted extensive research to find out that 2 million fewer women than men regularly participate in sports. Worryingly, there doesn’t seem to be such a big disparity in other European countries. They heard that one of the main reasons is that of body image and fear of judgement. With that in mind, they launched a campaign called this girl can:

to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome

 

The campaign includes videos showing real women of all ages, shapes and sizes exercising and enjoying the exercise. The beat of Missy Eliott’s Get Ur Freak On is combined with catchy inspiration quotes like “I jiggle, therefore I am” and “hot and not bothered” to get the inactive off their couches.

There are criticisms for the campaign. The ads have been described as clumsy and and having some of the worst typographic design you’ve seen in ages. The Guardian is disappointed that the campaign still plays into the norms of objectifying female flesh by referring to women of all ages as girls and using the familiar video formula

where highly mobile, athletic female bodies are performing for a male audience

I think that any campaign that gets people exercising and watching their health is a good thing. Healthcare shouldn’t be just about curing illness; it should also focus on improving health to prevent illness. Not enough money, resources or focus goes to the latter. With binge drinking in women increasing at an alarming rate, any effort to get them from the pub to the gym is worthwhile.

thisgirlcan

Will the campaign succeed? Let’s hope so. It needs more positive images and messages. I guess they had to use innuendos like “I kick balls” to grab attention when they should have focused on the friendship and camaderie of participating in a team sports. I like the one of the cyclist lapping everyone on the couch. I also like the one where a mum exercises in the living room with her kids [youtube]. There should be more emphasis on the benefits of exercise besides looks.

Will it change people’s attitude towards body image? That’s a longer battle to fight. I never understand the issues behind body image concern, although I know plenty of people who are worried about how other people see and judge them. I’m puzzled at why, for instance, mum spends so much money on eye gel, goes for dubious skin treatments and stands in front of the mirror for what seems like hours before going out. I try to tell her that no one on the street will give a damn about how her, and why on earth is she bothered about what the shop assistant thinks. I’ve come to the conclusion that people believe certain things and act in certain ways because they themselves are like that—people who are afraid of being judged on how they look are the ones who are guilty of judging others. This type of attitude is what needs to change.

Anyway, I have 6 miles to run this weekend. In my tatty t-shirt and cheap shorts. I will end up covered in sweat with my hair like a rat’s nest underneath my cap. I won’t look at anyone and I don’t think anyone will look at me.

 

RIP Phillip Hughes 63 not out forever #putoutyourbats

I love cricket. Summer in the UK, in the days before internet and cable, was spent a) outside playing in the garden and b) sitting in front of the tv watching cricket. In those days there were only 3 tv channels and during cricket season, BBC2 showed the test matches all day. Cricket was a new sport to me then, but I had great teachers. Between the likes of Richie Benaud, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and a revolving chair of experienced commentators, I learned how the game worked, how to score, the terminology and strategy.

I never got the chance to play (aside from bowling a tennis ball at the garden wall occasionally) or to attend a game in person (the only time I made it to Lord’s was for Olympic archery) and I don’t follow the sport as much nowadays (cricket channel is an expensive add-on to my cable).

This week, the cricketing world was shattered by the news that Australian batsman Phil Hughes died after being hit at the side of his head by a bouncer. I don’t know why, I’m even more affected by this accident than normal. We read about tragedies all the time on the news and they are all extremely sad. This one came as such a shock that it’s hard to put my head around it. People don’t die playing cricket, and for this to happen to a 25 year old, world-class batsman, it’s so awful, so awful.

Around the world, people are paying tribute to Phil Hughes on twitter, instagram and social media by putting their bats outside. The images under the #putoutyourbats hashtag are fitting, dignified and very powerful. This is from former Australia captain Adam Gilchrist:

I don’t have a cricket bat (on this occasion, substituting a baseball bat is not appropriate) and I lost my cricket ball during the move back from London. So all I’ll do is pay my respects silently, and share on these images instead. This next one is from the New Zealand team:

Sincere condolences to the Hughes family, but the thoughts of every cricket fan and player are also with Sean Abbott, whose pitch hit Phil Hughes’ head. It was a freak accident, there was no fault.

 

olympics pics

After almost a year, I finally got round to dealing with pics from August / September 2012. Olympics, Prague, Provence, Paris, London and Paralympics. There is also a folder of misc pics that I want to sort too.

Anyway, full Olympics set, 195 photos, 12 videos. Includes Olympic torch, screenshots from opening ceremony, beach volleyball, archery and both diving finals (3m and 10m). There’s still the Paralympics pics to sort.

taekwondo exam

We all went to see my niece’s taekwondo exam today. She’s at red-black belt and today’s exam will bring her from one to two stripes — she can’t get the black belt and dans till she’s 15. There were about 30 kids altogether taking the exam, ranging from around 4 years old to older kids who look 15-16. The test consisted of some set moves, self defence, plank kicks, plank punches and two spectacular moves — high jump kick (plank at tip of outstretched hand height) and obstacle jump kick. She got a few A grades, really spectacular. Both sis and I got pics and videos, but I’m not posting them. Instead, this is a video of a couple of really really cute tiny kids sparring.

london2012 withdrawal day 1

I missed the parade of heroes because the movers were here packing and I barricaded myself in a corner in the kitchen. They were done by mid-afternoon. The flat is now full of boxes ready to be loaded to the truck tomorrow. I’ve gone for groupage shipment so it won’t be the container that arrives in the morning. They will load my stuff into the next available container and I may have to share with other people.

The movers left the TV and bed. I looked at the schedule and there is nothing worth watching. No Clare Balding, no Lexi guide, no overly eager 5-min segments explaning the difference between the two types of rugby wheelchairs, no one running incredible races or swimming their hearts out or playing blindfolded ball games. And sob no Last Leg sob. #isitok to have gotten addicted to the most un-PC coverage of disabled sports?

final games day at excel

ldnpara00boccia ldnpara00tabletennis

I woke up early and was out of the door by 8.30am. Ah, rush hour on the tube. Had to remind myself not to go to Stratford and get on the DLR for Excel instead. Excel was much, much quieter than the Olympic Park, the security and everything else was efficient.

The only event taking place was boccia. Amazing game. Very slow, very quiet. Similar to bowls, and played by athletes with obvious great disability. It’s quite entrancing actually. I stayed for about half an hour. Then headed to the opposite hall for team table tennis. Both men and women’s matches, standing and wheelchair. Quite a job to keep track of 4 matches at the same time. Both matches involving China had them surging on in front quickly, they would win them easily.

ldnpara00fening ldnpara00volleyball

It was only 11am, and time for sport #3. Wheelchair fencing was amazing. The fencers weren’t allowed to come out of their wheelchairs. Each bout was 3mins, and to be honest, it took way longer to get them ready beforehand. There were 8 fights at the same time, it was a women’s team match with 3 team members each team fighting every member of the other team. With 9 bouts in total, there was a lot of volunteers running around and fixing wheelchairs. Vocal support for Team GB, who got hammered by top seed #1. Strange tug of loyalties for me, teehee.

I didn’t need lunch, having packed a bagel and bought fruit at M&S. The stalls were a bit sad, more about that later. Watched a bit more boccia and the end of the table tennis matches before heading back to the fencing semi-finals. Got a better seat this time, to watch the GB team as well as the extremely close HK vs China semi-final. Then it was across the hall to sitting volleyball. Watched the first set of Morocco vs Rwanda, then headed home. Could have stayed, GB was up next, but it was more than an hour away.

That was the problem with Excel. Unlike Horseguards or Lord’s, which were single events, it was sort of like the Olympic Park but much less so. The best things were that it was indoors and the walking between venues was less. Not a lot of atmosphere though, it was like going to a business conference and going from room to room taking in the various ongoing events. The sports and athletes were the same level of amazing though, from the severely impaired boccia players to the athleticism of the single-armed table tennis players.

In a way, I’m glad Excel was my last Olympic and Paralympic experience. If it were at the Park, I’d be more emotional. As it was, I just wanted to get home. It had been an inspiring, humbling summer of sports. I’ll never get to experience this again, and words can’t describe my feelings are about all the sports and venues I’ve watched.

a day at the olympic park

ldnpara00tennis ldnpara00football

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all good plans never work out the way they were planned.

I got to the park around 10.30am to learn that there were no day pass seats left at the Riverbank for the 5-a-side football. So there went my well laid plans. A quick look at my schedule, and it was over to Eton Manor for the wheelchair tennis. OMG, it was a scorching day, we were all sitting right under the sun, and I’m sure I turned 3 shades darker. But what about the tennis? It was brilliant! All the rules of able-bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice. The skills and speed were great. I saw the #1 seed from France play the #3 seed from the Netherlands. The match was won by the French athlete.

By then I was desperate to get away from the sun. Over to the basketball arena to watch Australia vs Sweden in murderball. What a great match! Lots of banging, the wheelchairs really got a hammering. And lots of strategy too. Ryley Batt from Australia murdered the opposition (pun intended) and Australia won comfortably.

There was enough time to run back to the Riverbank to catch Brazil vs Argentina in the blindfolded 5-a-side football. Now I worry about Rio2016. I was sitting behind a Brazilian family and they had absolutely no discipline. In blindfolded football the crowd has to remain quiet so the players can hear the clinking of the ball, but this family kept talking, the kids whining and climbing all over the seats. The match was a 0-0 draw, and it went to penalties, which Brazil won. Very skillful playing, imagine dribbling and shooting in the dark. Huge admiration.

ldnpara00murderball ldnpara00goalball

It was by then 5.30pm, and I was pleased I’d seen 3 of the 4 sports on my list for today. Logically it’s over to the Copperbox to see goalball, but emotion won out. 7pm was the start of the murderball match between GB and France. It was very close, and the noise of the crowd stunning. Yes of course it’s home advantage, and we have used it, and will intend to use it, as much as we could.

I left at halftime. There was just enough time to go see goalball. More quietness. All I can say is, what a strange sport.

It was 8.45pm and time to head home. I still have Excel tomorrow so it’s not goodbye to the Paralympics. It is goodbye to the Olympic Park. I’d visited 4 times, walked miles and miles, from Orbit Circuit to Eton Manor. Sat at Park Live to watch the screen. Bought expensive beer and food. My lasting memory, I can’t pick on just one. It’s been amazing. Coming to see diving on that first day with mm was magical (and hot and bewildering). Watching the athletics on Tuesday was another piece of magic. The Paralympics was another highlight. I had a terrific time, a terrific day, have the utmost respect for all the athletes, feel so utterly proud to be British and privileged to have seen both Games in person.

paralympics day pass planning

I’ll be at the Paralympics for the next 2 days, the 2 day passes that were originally all I got. Olympic Park tomorrow and Excel on Friday. Access to sports other than athletics, swimming and cycling. I had thought that I should just go, walking around and see what’s available. But with visitors topping 1 million, some strategic planning is needed.

I don’t plan to be there too early, probably around 10-11am. At Olympic Park, the choices are 5-a-side football, goalball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. Studing the schedule and what teams have been announced:

  • 11.00-12.15: 5-a-side football, China vs GB
  • 1.30-4.00: goalball
  • 4.00-6.00: wheelchair tennis
  • 7.00-end: wheelchair rugby, France vs GB and Japan vs USA

A little bit of football is enough for me. Goalball is supposed to be quiet and relaxing. Tennis goes on all day, so it was useful to schedule. The first wheelchair rugby, aka murderball match started today, and it looks very interesting.

Friday’s plan:

  • 11.00-12.15: fencing, including a HK vs GB match
  • 12.30-3.00: table tennis
  • 3.00-5.00: boccia
  • 7.00-end: sitting volleyball

Again, the intriguing and new sports is boccia, probably the exact opposite of murderball. That murderball might end up being my new love.

paralympics athletics

ldnpara00T13 ldnpara00T54

It was impossible to resist, there were paralympics athletics tickets on sale last week. I’d never been to a track and field event before, and of course there is the opportunity of being inside the Olympic Stadium. My seat was in row 10, very close to the track, at the top end of the back straight where 200m races start. Would have liked to be on the other side, but it’s fine. Especially since I had an end seat overlooking one of the tunnels where athletes come out.

Field events took place all evening — 2 men’s shot put final (F35/38, I think and F40); men’s F20 long jump, which was nearby on my left and women’s F35/38 discus which took most of the field of play. Not a lot of attention from the announcers or screens, they went about their competition quietly. Well except the long jumpers, who got clapped on their approach run.

The track events got the bulk of the attention. There were final after final, in many different classes. There was a 100m, a couple of 200m and 400m but mostly 1500m. Every time a GB athlete competed, the noise of the crowd rose 1 million decibels. The most cheers were understandably for David Weir in the T54 1500m final, and when he raced to gold, it was pandemonium. So moving.

GB also won a silver and 2 bronzes on the night. The Russians did well, as did the Kenyans, Brazilians, and Assia El Hannouni of France, who won her third gold medal in T12 400m before retiring. Every so often there’d be a victory ceremony, a good opportunity to stand up and stretch our legs. The 2 Brazilians who won the 200m T11 race had the best celebration, I’d never seen anyone so happy at wnning medals. Lots of cheers for everyone, and they all deserved them.

paralympics lexi

lexi

Ran 12k around Hyde Park, and spent the rest of the day watching the Paralympics. The standout moments today — medals in the velodrome for GB, wheelchair basketball (my new love), T11 athletes running with their guides, Aled Davies of Wales receiving his discus gold medal from the Duchess of Cambridge. And that class 7 table tennis final between GB’s Will Bayley and Germany’s Joachen Wollmert. Will Bayley had endeared the entire nation yesterday with his unabashed joy at winning his semi-final, running and jumping up to his coach. He was understandably distraught at losing the final. The great moment for me was Joachen Wollmert, almost twice Will’s age (47 vs 24), who coaxed the weeping Briton up from the floor and acknowledged him to the crowd. Terrific sportsmanship.

As the Games progress, I’m learning more about the classification system. For instance I can now tell the difference between T13 and F46 in athletics as well as the various S-classes in swimming. The guides from the various newspapers helped, and certainly the graphical lexi interface on Channel 4 has been useful. I’m slowly warming up to C4’s coverage, still not happy about the ad breaks and the presenters talking over each other, to give them credit they are trying very hard. And hey, Clare and Ade in the evening works for me.

paralympics super saturday

Watched quite a bit of Paralympics today. I only get one of the channels, and all Channel 4 seemed to be showing was swimming, cycling and athletics. Tiny bit of football and wheelchair basketball. A very emotional day, all the big stars performed — Oscar Pistorius set a world record in his first round 200m race, Ellie Simmond’s world record freestyle, Team GB cyclists and equastrian athletes.

Two images stayed with me today, on 2 extremes. I could only find the video for one though. The first, Omar Hassan from Djibouti finished his T46 1,500m race at over 11mins, 7mins behind the rest of the field, to a standing ovation. He is one of the single participant who got a wild card.

The second was Richard Whitehead’s gold medal in the T42 200m, how he simply powered through once he got going and round the bend. Visually, it was stunning, running through 2 other athletes. Tearjerking stuff.

paralympics 2012

Watched the London 2012 Paralympics Games opening ceremony. It was on Channel 4, so there were differences between that coverage and the BBC’s for the Olympics. Some of the presenters were the same (Clare Balding, yay!) but overall it wasn’t as good, primarily because the commentary was poor and, ugh, there were ad breaks.

The theme of discovery and ideas was thoughtful and beautiful. Highlights for me were: Stephen Hawking’s words, Princess Anne waving her scarf and the countries represented by wild card athletes — the first country in the parade, Afghanistan and the single female athlete representing Syria. It’ll be a great next 10 days.

olympics diving 10m

ldnoly091diving10m

I had 4 tickets for the women’s 10m diving final, so we met up with CC and M at Olympic Park. Our second visit, so we know the drill now. The seats were a little better, less obscured by the roof, important because this is the 10m platform. The diving, wow. Very close competition, and M was especially pleased the Malaysian competitor got bronze.<

olympic diving 3m

ldnoly00aquatic ldnoly00diving3m

The day has finally come. The tickets I originally won during the lottery process, that meant mm could come to London. Women’s 3m springboard final. Lots of anticipation. We rested at home, watching tv for most of the morning, then left around 3pm knowing that it will take us over 1hr on the tube, plus walking, security and walking around the Olympic Park. Our estimate was right, althought there was no delay going through security. We had plenty of time to explore around the Olympic Park. It was crowded, it being super sunday and all, we managed to go to the shops, took lots of pictures of the venues too.

The diving started at 7pm, we climbed the very long staircase to almost the top. It’s a short contest, compared with, say, football or even the archery I went to last week. 12 competitors each with 5 dives. By the end of the first 2 rounds it was obvious that the 2 Chinese divers are the ones to beat. By the 5th round it was a competition for bronze medal and at the end the Mexican diver won against the Italian diver. It was an very impressive competition, so much athleticism, precision and bravery in these divers.

We stayed for the medal ceremony, and was out of the stadium at after just around 1.5hrs. Tube home. Fantastic day out.

olympic archery

ldnarch010course ldnarch021gbrus

I went to olympic archery competition at Lord’s yesterday. It’s nice to have an event so close to home. It normally takes me about 10mins to run there on my way to Regent’s Park, and walking it’s about 20mins. I was quite early so no delays with going through security and looking at the shops. There’s a small area where spectators could try out archery, and they just opened so no wait. My first 2 shots were inside the yellow zone, then I got distracted and my last 2 were outside in the red and blue zones.

My seat was very high up (3rd from top of stand) and right at the shooting line. It was wet and rainy and the seats were wet. It was a long session, with 10 matches in the first and second rounds. The course is 70m long and we could hear the shots, but like on TV had to rely on the screen to see where it hit the target. There were various competitors in both men’s and women’s competition from a great mix of countries including Norway, USA, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia and 2 from Team GB. Interesting morning.

glorious greenwich

Canoeing, table tennis, weightlifting are the new sports I saw today. It’s also the cross country day of the equestrian event. Cross country is being held at Greenwich Park across the river from Olympic Park. Oh what a beautiful course, glorious.

first olympic weekend

Did some running in the morning in the showery weather, then settled for a day of Olympics on tv. So lucky that I have the BBC. Waking up on Saturday to comments that coverage of the opening ceremony in other countries weren’t as good was a bit shocking. NBC cutting the Abide with me segment was insulting and insensitive. I watched the whole ceremony live with no interruptions and sensible commentary.

On the BBC website, we’re supposed to be able to watch 24 channels of streaming coverage, although all it did was crash my flash plugin. I only have freeview so I have a limited of extra channels on my red button — during the day I have 3 channels in total, at night 4. Still, I’ve managed to catch 22 out of the 37 sports, which I think is wonderful. Some of them haven’t started, I’m hoping that I can at least watch a segment of every sport. The 22 so far:

  • archery
  • badminton
  • basketball
  • beach volleyball
  • boxing
  • canoe slalom
  • cycling – road
  • diving
  • equestrian
  • fencing
  • football
  • gymnastics
  • handball
  • hockey
  • judo
  • rowing
  • sailing
  • shooting
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • water polo

Some of those were brief segments, most of the morning was watching Team GB lose in various sports. Again, it was cycling that got my attention, keen to not let yesterday’s men’s road race disappointment dwell. And wow, the women’s race was edge of seat stuff. Tactical attack, torrential rainfall and a sprint finish. In Beijing, the first British medal was by a female road cyclist and this time it’s no different, Lizzie Armitstead winning silver. So proud, so happy.

The evening turned better. Becky Adlington winning bronze, the men’s football team 3-1 against the UAE, news of preliminary successes for Ben Ainslie in sailing, the rowing team, boxing and eventing.

The biggest heartache is the news that Paula Radcliffe is out of the marathon through injury. She’s such a giant and role model that I’m truly distraught. I know she didn’t stand a chance, but she’s Paula, you know. Sigh.

The public row over empty seats continue, and I feel that the public should, and will, keep giving this issue the high attention it needs. Sounds like it’s not corporate sponsors but the Olympic “family” that are hogging all those seats, and without fail, they are the best seats. Someone need to be held accountable for this. Complete shambles.

olympic beach volleyball

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The plan was to watch all the Olympic games on TV, but the disappointment over the men’s road race took the steam out of that plan. I didn’t want to hear about how Cav didn’t get any medal all over the broadcast tonight. Idly, I clicked through the ticketing site half searching for returns and any games available. I wanted basketball, even though it’s too far away. Looked for events in this part of town — badminton at wembley, volleyball at earl’s court and beach volleyball at horse guards. It was 4pm, and there were tickets for beach volleyball at 8pm. They only give you 2mins to decide on whether to take the tickets, and it did take me the whole 2mins.

Horse Guard Parade is only 45mins away, but there wasn’t a lot of time. Had to get there early to physically collect the tickets and go through security. There was a lot of traffic too, so I didn’t get there till almost 6pm. The line for ticket collection took a whole hour! Security was fast though and I was inside, got some water and fish’n’chips and in my seat by the time the first game started.

The first game was men’s Brazil vs Norway. The stadium was quite full, except the usual sight of the best seats (Olympic “family” and sponsors) left empty. Disgusting really. My seat was behind one of the ends and not too high up.

The game was exciting, with the commentator drumming up the atmosphere, dancers coming on at intervals and lots of noise and music. Brazil is one of the favourites and won the game in 2 sets. The second game was women’s Switzerland vs Greece. Lots of vocal support for Greece, the game was won by Switzerland in 2 sets.

Game 3 was men’s USA vs South Africa. Great game, lots of athleticism and powerful spikes. A group of drunken dinosaurs were behind our seat and they were pretty loud. Didn’t matter, the whole stadium was loud. Game 4 was women’s USA vs Australia. It was already 11pm and pretty cold, I’d only brought my running jacket in case it rained and my teeth were chattering. The players also were feeling the cold, instead of the regular skimpy costumes, they were wearing warmer clothing. That was a thrilling match, obviously with the big names of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. Both USA teams won in 2 sets too.

The matches were finished at around 11.45pm. Got the bus home, by the time I’d showered it was 1am already. I’m glad I went, it was really interesting and exciting.

get ready

It’s Friday 27 July and the London 2012 Opening Ceremony will start in a few hours. The TV is decidedly tuned to BBC1, the Pimm’s is ready and the anticipation is building. Thinking back, I actually was in Singapore that day in July 2005 when the IOC announced that the 2012 Olympics will be held in London. It’s a bit surreal, that I can be here in person during this event. Yes, I complain about the various issues that have cropped up and am annoyed that my day-to-day life will be severely disrupted. But it’s hard not to get super, super excited. It’s such a huge event that the only reasonable thing to do is to get with the program and embrace the spirit. It will be something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Bring on London 2012. Go Team GB and best of luck to all athletes.

olympic torch relay

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I was thinking about whether to go, and the consensus from several people was to definitely go. It’s day 69 of the olympic torch relay, the last full day before it goes to the olympic park. It started today at Camden, moved east to Haringey, Islington, the City, south towards the south bank, Peckham, Lewisham, round Battersea Park, King’s Road, up towards Shepherd’s Bush, Westfield, Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, Regent’s Street, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and coming back to Hyde Park. A lot of those spots are so near me that there’s no excuse. Initially the plan was to go to Bayswater and the Hyde Park area, I ended up a bit further west at Holland Park. It was a good decision. The crowds weren’t that thick, there was plenty of shade and this was where the route doubled back.

I stood next to a nice lady who was there with her grandchildren. Her daughter had gotten men’s diving and canoeing, she was very excited. They were running late and the first we saw of the convoy was security and police started to congregate. At the head of the convoy were police motorcycles, followed by some runners and then the sponsor trucks. About 2-3mins later the actual torch convoy came by, police first, then a lone torchbearer surrounded by security, then a bunch of buses and cars following.

They headed towards Westfield, so we had about 45mins to wait till they came back. I walked around the shops and had half a pint of a very sharp and bitter beer. Other people congregated at an ice cream shop and inside Tesco’s.

I found another good, shady spot to wait for the return. The crowds were thin enough that I actually crossed over to the median and had a clear view. The group went by quickly and I, like a few others, ran after it. Each torchbearer ran for 300m, so I was able to catch a couple of changeovers. It was an easy bus trip home too, to catch the rest of the relay on tv. There’s a concert at Hyde Park tonight, but that’t not my cup of tea.

Most of the torchbearers are locals who contributed to the community through charity work, or soldiers, or emergency workers, or brave souls who battled illness or disablity. Some are celebrities or sportspeople. Kate Nesbitt who took the torch to Downing Street was the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross for her work in Afghanistan. I didn’t know who the ones were today, but I thought they were great. The whole event was impressive, moving and I’m so glad I went.

and so it begins

London 2012 kicked off…in Cardiff. Football starts before the opening ceremony, and since the games are played at grounds all over the country, the Millenium Stadium has the honour of hosting the first event. And it’s Team GB vs New Zealand women’s football. I hardly watch football, and I think it’s the first time I sat through an entire women’s game. It was a thrilling game, with many missed chances and lots of pressure. Team GB had the upper hand, and the goal that secured the 1-0 win was brilliant. Hoping this is a sign of more wins and medals for the team. I have nothing planned for the weekend, I’ll be glued to the TV with my cups of tea.

more olympics tickets

olytickets

Locog are trying to get us more into the Olympics spirit. Additional Olympics tickets are being released. I guess they are the ones with low takeup or returned for resale, because they are all at the higher price categories. There are even opening and closing ceremony ones, so if I had a spare £1,600 or so I can go to the opening ceremony. Um, no thanks. There’s wrestling, weight-lifting, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball (regular and beach) as well as scads of football tickets. Even the diving final that we are going to, the top price tickets are available.

I could be patriotic and go to women’s football at Wembley to see Team GB play Brazil. Or volleyball at Earl’s Court — both men’s and women’s preliminary round matches involving Team GB are available. How about beach volleyball at Horse Guard’s, there are loads of sessions available. The venues are better for me, no need to trek all the way over to Stratford. Problem is that they are all category A or B tickets, do I want to see women’s football for £45 or beach volleyball for £50?

I think I will try to go watch the marathon though, support Paula and Mara and Claire in the women’s event. I’ll be in Provence for the men’s.

paralympics tickets

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Hot on the heels of olympics tickets are the paralympics tickets, which were delivered today. I have day passes for the olympic park and excel, for events such as wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, football, fencing, basketball, volleyball and boccia. I’ve always been interested in the paralympics, and these events I am looking forward to attending.

olympics tickets

ldnoly00tkts

Olympics tickets are being sent to successful ticketholders. They tried delivering mine 2 weeks ago when I was in the US. I got an email about the non-delivery and went online to reschedule delivery, that’s one good thing I’ll say about locog (or rather, the royal mail). I have 8 tickets, all women’s diving: 2 each for the 3m springboard semi-final and final, and 4 for the 10m platform final. All of them very desirable events.

The Diamond Jubilee was really successful and set the scene for a great summer for the UK and London in particular. There are differences between the jubilee and olympics events though, and I’m not convinced that locog will run the olympics as well. First, there will be vastly more people in London. It’s less than a month, and I have yet to feel the excitement. The tickets come with free zone 1-9 travelcards, and that’s the first dread — the crowded and hot tube ride to Stratford. The sessions are 1-1.5hrs, and it takes me longer to get there.

Then all the rules in the spectator guide — can’t bring water, only one small soft-sided bag per person, get there 2 hours before your event is due to start, be prepared to go through security — sounds familiar? It’s like going to the airport and going through security theatre.

Don’t even get me started on the ticket sale fiasco. Anyway, I have tickets so I can’t complain. I should be grateful and treasure this olympics event. It’s going to take place in a city where I live. I’ll be able to sample the atmosphere and explore the olympics park. I have some great tickets. The best thing is, mm will be here with me. Get those union jack bunting out, dust off the union jack hat, get ready for the olympics.

olympics diving

london2012tickets

“You’re going to the Olympics!” said the email. I have 8 tickets for diving. All women’s, 3m springboard semi-final and final plus 10m platform final. I didn’t get any other sport, which surprised me. No table tennis, badminton, synchronised swimming or taekwondo. I’m quite happy that we get to go to Olympics Park and I have tickets at all. Still, the process of taking money from people’s account and making them wait 4 weeks before knowing what they’ve bought irks me.

olympics tickets

london2012

We’re definitely going to the Olympics next year. I checked my account yesterday and money has been deducted. Excluding the 4x£995 Opening Ceremony tickets (which were a punt anyway), I got about 25% of what I applied for. I can’t tell exactly which sessions but worst case is we’re going to 3 events; we may have up to 5-6. Fingers crossed we get something good.

Considering that 250,000 people didn’t get a single ticket they applied for, I think I’m pretty lucky. I understand why locog did it this way, but I can’t help the feeling that we the public are being cheated somehow.

  • no indication of how many tickets are really available in each price bracket
  • they take money from me but I have to wait 3 weeks to know which sessions
  • money taken over 1 year in advance, think of the interest earned
  • most people who got tickets are for the less popular events, so who really got tickets to the best events
  • people in Germany or US or other countries didn’t have to go through this painful process

giro d’italia tribute

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I loosely follow cycling, if I see it on TV I’d watch it a bit. I was very saddened to read about the horrific accident that claimed the life of Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt. I can’t help but cry at watching his teammates and friends lead the peloton in a tribute on the neutralised stage 4 of the race. Each of the 23 teams took turns leading the peloton, and his team Leopard Trek the last 6km to the finish line, together with his best friend Tyler Farrar. Not many videos yet on youtube because of copyright, but this picture tells the story already. To see the sombre faces of the racers, the dignified way they paid tribute to their colleague, and to read that his team Leopard Trek has pulled out of the race. Very very sad.

london 2012 tickets

london2012

Submitted my application for the 2012 olympics. Only 20 sessions allowed per application so I chose the ones that mm, sis, my niece and I were interested in. And then planning where to go each day. Ended up with quite a diverse selection — diving, table tennis, badminton, taekwondo, swimming, gymnastics, athletics, cycling, fencing. I have no idea if I’ll get all the tickets I applied for. Heh, if I did, I’d have to make sure I have an astronomical amount of money in my account.

london marathon

I had thought about going out to watch the marathon but at the end I didn’t feel like fighting with the crowds. Looking from this video I could have staked a spot along the Embankment and gotten a good view. Ah well. It was a hot day, and the Kenyans dominated. A good day for the sport. Congratulations to David Weir, Mary Keitany, Emmanual Mutai.

london 2012 fail

london2010

How embarrassing. On the day that 2012 Olympics tickets go on sale online, there’s a glitch with visa purchases (only visa is accepted). And to add insult to injury, the official countdown clock stops working only hour after it goes live.

That said, I was able to login tonight and start applying for sessions. So far I’ve got:

  • opening ceremony
  • beach volleyball
  • diving
  • athletics
  • cycling
  • handball
  • swimming

and I’m still going through the calendar. Maximum possible ticket cost so far is £6,000, but I doubt I’ll get allocated all the tickets I applied for.

blind skiing

I wrote vision quest almost 3 years ago, a short story about a blind skiier [warning: fanfic]. At that time I tried looking for examples of how skiier and guide function as a team, and there were only a few articles and videos.

There are more now, just search ‘blind skiing’ on youtube. As the winter paralympics get underway, I just want to express my amazement and awe at the skill and teamwork that goes into a blind skiing team. This is Jessica Gallagher winning Australia’s first ever medal, a bronze, at the winter paralympics.

world series | spare clothing

I was watching the baseball last night, it’s the World Series between the Yankees and the Phillies. First of, competition between teams in the same country does not “world” make, but I give up re: Americans’ lack of awareness of the rest of the world. Anyway, the game was interesting, albeit boring with all the stop-starts (another characteristic of American team sports, think American football. The other insane characteristic is the obsession with numbers and statistics). The Yankees won, which I’m mildly happy about.

Then I read today about where commemorative t-shirts from the losing team go and I’m very very happy that they go to charity and then to people in poor countries.

The merchandise doesn’t go to waste, people living in poverty receive new, clean clothes, and the clothing makers recoup some of their losses—they get tax credits for the charitable donations. Why don’t the clothes go to needy families in the United States? Overseas donation is part of the agreement between World Vision and the leagues. The farther away the clothing is, the less likely it is to offend a losing player (or heartbroken Buffalo Bills fan).

olympic medal table

To be consistent I took the medal tables off local yahoo sites. Yahoo China took forever to load so I took yahoo HK. From top left: US, HK, Japan, UK.

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The most widely used classification method is by number of gold medals, which places China absolutely at the top. It’s only the Americans who use total medals. It should be obvious why, and hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Guardian even calls them on it.

Thinking about it, ranking by the number of gold medals isn’t right either cos this belittles the achievements of the silver and bronze medalists. Applying a weighting of gold=3, silver=2 and bronze=1 doesn’t change the top 4.

table

The next country down apart from US that benefits from counting total regardless of colour of medals is Australia and look how they see themselves:

May be the Canadians have it right. Put the US at the top using total medal count, then add a column to show position. Smart and tactful.

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some thoughts on the olympics

We missed the closing ceremony — it had just begun when the plane landed and I was too intent on unpacking, showering and doing laundry to catch the end.

Although I missed the handball and water-polo, 2 sports I love watching but only get to see every 4 years; and I was on vacation, I thought I did well in terms of catching the important sports. Japanese tv repeated and repeated on their athletes’ wins, and why not? They showed a collage of their medal winners (and those who didn’t win), I couldn’t understand the commentary but I was still moved. It doesn’t matter which country, the joy when an athlete gets a medal has no boundaries.

There’s been so much said about China. The no-expenses-spared extravaganza. The haul of medals. The volunteers. The military precision organisation. The pride.

There is one group I was particularly interested in, the older-than-usual athletes. The New York Times summarised their amazing achievements. Notable:

  • Constantina Tomescu-Dita, 38, Romania, women’s marathon gold medal
  • Dara Torres, 41, US, oldest swimming medalist with 3 silvers
  • Hiroshi Hoketsu, 67, Japan, dressage, the oldest competitor

And so to the final medal count. I must admit the immediate reaction the first time I saw the final table wasn’t at the 51 golds that China won, I’d expected to see them at the top and wasn’t surprised. It was the UK at #4. I mean, wow. Ahead of Germany and Australia? That’s an achievement. I saw a Rebecca Adlington interview video on the Guardian and if she’s a typical Team GB athlete, then the UK must be doing something right.

I don’t want to be harsh but of course it matters whether it’s a gold, silver or bronze. The Americans are deluding themselves by counting the total number of medals rather than what the rest of the world uses, # of gold medals. More analysis next post.

handbag haka

This is funny, though I understand why the it’s upset the kiwis. Australia’s Channel Seven accessorised the All-Blacks doing the traditional haka before a rugby match with handbags. This was to promote the channel’s coverage of the upcoming Tri-Nations Test between the All-Blacks and the Wallabies in Christchurch. It refers to an incident when former captain Tana Umaga broke up a fight by hitting fellow All Black Chris Masoe over the head with a woman’s handbag.

world cup chill

I should be excited. I should be watching, following, reading. But not yet. The football doesn’t interest me yet. I read somewhere that the last time the 666 dates appeared, at 6.6.66, England won the World Cup, so they should win again this time, because it’s 6.6.06. Snerk. Judging from the first game, they need a bigger miracle than coincidental dates. This from the London metroblog.

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Fussball? Nein Danke!