Paralympics, a set on Flickr.When I wrote a previous post about the general atmosphere in England during the Summer 2012 Olympic Games, I had no idea that I would actually be able to experience a part of the games for myself! A few weeks ago, we had the privilege to attend a Christian Science lecture at the Reading Room setup outside the Olympic Park in London. Then a few nights ago, we got to go to the ExCel arena to watch some of the Paralympics!
Audrey had been trying for ages to get tickets just to get into the park, so we went to just have a look around and to stand in line with the HOPE of getting tickets to either wheelchair fencing, , or sitting volleyball. We went straight for the sitting volleyball because there was going to be a game with Team GB. After standing in a very long queue for about an hour, we got in! At first, there weren’t very many people in the stands, but as we got closer to game time, it really filled up as people who had already secured seats came in. The first game was a women’s match between the Netherlands and China. The Dutch crowd made a fantastic show of support for their team. A whole side of the stadium was a solid block of orange – orange shirts, hats, sunglasses, banners, you name it. And boy, were they loud. Whoever said the Dutch were a quiet people never saw them at the Olympics.
I’ll explain sitting volleyball for those who haven’t ever seen a match before. There are six players for each team on the court at a time, and they sit in the same formation as for traditional volleyball, three at the net and three behind. The players sit on the floor and use their arms to maneuver themselves around the court. At least one part of the body from the shoulders to the buttocks must be touching the floor when they hit the ball, or the shot will be invalid.
The women played a pretty good game, but the Dutch lost to the Chinese anyway. The China team had a really hard-core hitter on their team. But both sides were pretty evenly matched, alternating between who one each set of the match. The men’s game that followed was Britain against Iran. I believe this is the first time Britain has had a team in the Paralympics and they were up against the greatest team out there, The Republic of Iran. Let me tell you, those Iran boys have got some stank! They whooped us soundly. But is was fun to watch. The guys’ game was a bit more fast-paced than the women’s game, but both were really interesting to watch. We saw a lot of really great athletic talent out there on the court that evening.
I cannot imagine that the vibe at the Olympics was any more electric than that of the Paralympics. There has been just as much advertising as there was for the Olympics, as far as I could tell. And just as many people were fighting to get tickets and waiting in queues, etc. Volunteers dressed in pink were still dotted all over London, and their enthusiasm cannot be described. They lined our path from the central London train station all the way out to the venue. The kids I went with had spent most of the train journey into town smearing red, white, and blue makeup all over their faces. You never saw such a patriotic family! The volunteers cheered when they saw them and gave the high fives left and right. They had a great time.
After the two games we saw had finished, hundreds, if not thousands, of fans flooded out of the park onto the trains. The Iranians were cheering loudly and chanting in celebration of their win over GB. The Brits didn’t mind in the least, many joining into the chants with joy. There was a festive atmosphere on the trains, but by the time we got out of town, all three kids had completely passed out. Luckily, they were so excited to tell their school friends about the experience that we didn’t have much trouble getting them off to school the next day. Your truly, however, was very pleased to indulge in a mid-morning nap!