Thursday, July 26, 2012

In pictures : the opening day of the 2012 Glasgow Olympics (which is apparently also being partly held in London)

A couple of months ago, I suggested that it would be "every Scot's patriotic duty to show an interest in an Under-23 match between Egypt and Belarus". Well, I'm not actually sure whether I'll be taking an interest in that particular game, but in a sense I did follow my own strictures, because I went along to Hampden for the opening day of the Olympic football competition. There were two games - USA v France, and North Korea v Colombia. I'm an American citizen, so I supported France in the first game, and I'm a fierce anti-communist, so it was North Korea all the way for me in the second game.

One or two people raised their eyebrows when I mentioned that I was paying good money to watch women's football. But I must say that as a non-expert, the skill level in the USA v France game seemed pretty high. It was certainly an exhilarating watch - France took an early 2-0 lead, only for the US to come back to win 4-2.

You may have heard that there was then a slight interruption before the second game. There was, of course, no official explanation - we were just told that "the delay is due to a behind the scenes issue, which we are working to resolve". One or two people next to me started muttering that it must have something to do with Kim Jong-Il, apparently unaware that the Dear Leader is no longer with us. Someone else suggested that we might be in for a repeat of the Scotland v Estonia scenario from 1996, with one team taking to the pitch, kicking the ball for three seconds, and then punching the air with the joy of victory.

The crowd (or at least the hardy minority who stuck around) amused themselves during the unexpected hiatus by booing, hissing, doing the conga, booing, hissing, doing a Mexican wave, booing, hissing, singing Flower of Scotland, booing and hissing. For my part, I passed some of the time by taking a couple of 'self-portraits'. I include one in the collection of photos below, mainly in fond tribute to my new cap, which is now very much my old cap, because I later contrived to lose it during the short walk back to Mount Florida railway station (God knows how).

There were two little clues as to what was really going on. The announcer read out the names of the North Korean team approximately seventeen thousand times for no apparent reason, and the big screen featured a fixed picture of the (real) North Korean flag for about half an hour - presumably the thinking was "OK, we'll keep it up there for the rest of the bloody night if you want, now will you play?". Once the game finally got under way, the neutrals seemed to take their revenge by getting firmly behind Colombia - there were plenty of Come On Colombias from just behind me. I was sorely tempted to scream Come On The Democratic People's Republic of Korea! at the top of my voice, but I thought better of it.

At the start of the session, there was a pre-recorded message from Alex Salmond. He received warm cheers from the American and French supporters after wishing them well, but I winced slightly when he declared himself delighted that an Olympic event was taking place in Scotland for the first time ever. I may be wrong, but I seem to recall looking at the Official Report from the 1908 London Olympics, and spotting that the sailing event took place on the Clyde.

Actually, when I first got broadband internet, just about the first thing I did was download some of the Olympic Reports from years gone by (dial-up could never handle the job). I've always had a fascination for the Games, and that brings me to what I was doing at Hampden. I yield to no-one in my cynicism towards LOCOG, Lord Coe and the Brit Nat zealots at the BOA, but the Olympic movement is bigger than all of them. And with a little slice of the Olympics taking place in Scotland for the first time in 104 years, I think I was probably always going to be tempted to buy a ticket - even if Egypt v Belarus U23s had been the only thing on offer.

(Click the photos to enlarge)


  1. Bravo for tackling the crowds and the Zil lanes and for not wearing a Pepsi t-shirt.

    Were you force fed McDonalds?

    I'm afraid that my cynicism for the games knows no ends.

    It's nothing to do with it being in London, although I do object to having to contribute so much money to it when the rest of the UK will contribute nothing to the Commonwealth Games, and I find all the union flag waving (together with the banning of our own flag) a tad irksome.

    My disdain for the games, however, is mainly connected with the commercialisation of the event.

    The fact that it doesn't really pretend any more to be about sport irks me beyond measure.

    Prince Sebastian keeps explaining the sponsors' privileges by telling us about how much they have contributed (although never putting a figure on it), but he seems to forget that every subject in these islands is a sponsor, having contributed by way of tax, loss of lottery income to their area, and in the case of London, Council Tax hikes.

    The smugness of "London is the capital of the world" and "these will be the best games ever" annoys me too. What they mean of course is that business will make more out of these games than any other.

    And finally their use of Atos (as in couldn't give one) as a sponsor for the paralympics is sickening, given the number of sick and disabled people whose lives they are making a living hell in their pursuit of a very great deal of taxpayers' money. (I feel, of course, exactly the same about Glasgow's Commonwealth Games using them).

    All that said, I'd like to thank you for your report on the matches, and the photographs of the erm...crowds.

    Commiserations on losing your cap, which was (or is) indeed, a fine one. Not entirely sure how you can lose something you are wearing!

  2. Nice to see how quickly the PB r*cists turned the mistake by L(ondon)OCOG over the flags into an attack on Alec Salmond, the SNP, Independence and Scotland as anything more than a region of england.
    Well done them.

  3. Sorry to see that you were in the "crowded" section of the ground. :lol:

    Enjoyed your report of the activities though. Wait shouldn't that be inactivities? :D

  4. Wonder what attendances for events like these, the torch hysteria and Jubilee ‘celebrations’ would be if they weren’t inflated by legions of unsuspecting schoolchildren press-ganged into attending?

  5. Thanks for the commiserations, Tris. The worst of it was having to sheepishly tell my mother, because she brought it back from holiday as a present!

    I totally agree with you about Atos, by the way - it's absolutely sickening.

    Anon I : Sorry your comment disappeared - it got caught by the spam trap. I hadn't even bothered to read the PB reaction - it must have taken some imagination to turn this one into "another disaster for the SNP". If there was the slightest doubt that the offending video was prepared by LOCOG rather than the Hampden authorities, the fact that one of the other videos featured clips of Ricky Gervais and Helen Mirren wittering on about "what it must be like" to be an Olympic athlete ought to remove them. Perfectly calibrated for a Scottish audience, that one.

    The Scottish announcer certainly can't be faulted - he correctly referred to North Korea as either the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or the DPR of Korea every single time.

    Anon II : Apparently 6,500 tickets were sold (as opposed to given away) for yesterday's session. I presume it might be a bit healthier for the men's games. My guess is that the stadium was about half-full during the USA v France game, but a lot of people arrived late, and the vast majority didn't stick around after the delay, so that's why some of the pictures give a different impression.

  6. Great stuff. Glad to see you're as into the Olympics as you are into Eurovision:-). Will look forward to your posts over the next couple of weeks.