Enough of the screaming roars of London 2012 crowds. All is silent and reverential at the Copper Box in Stratford’s Olympic Park.
The venue for Olympic handball is now hosting goalball, played by blind Paralympians or those with partial sight.
Blindfolded to ensure all players have equal (dis)ability, the three players on each side defend a goal 1.3m high and 9m wide.
Goals are scored by rolling the ball at high speeds of up to 60kms an hour. Players defending their goals prostrate themselves across the court to prevent shots going into their net.
All of which requires silence from the crowd so that the players can hear the ball charging towards them. Read more >>
For all its foibles, shortcomings, and outright fails, the ticketing system of the London 2012 Olympic Games had us hooked. At its mercy, we were stuck refreshing the page again and again hoping to strike Olympic pay dirt.
Olympic Park in the distance. So close, yet so far… Read more >>
Cafu, Brazil’s former football captain, known in his playing days as “The Commuter Train” for his constant motion, is sitting on a sofa in a Knightsbridge hotel. Gone are the days when the full-back won two world cups. Now aged 42, he spends much of his time running his Fundacao Cafu, his foundation for social inclusion.
Cafu is in London to see Brazil’s men’s football team seek their first Olympic gold in the final against Mexico at Wembley (more of that later). But he also just wants to see an Olympics for the first time in his life, partly because Brazil’s turn at hosting is next: first the football world cup of 2014, then the Rio Olympics of 2016. Read more >>
It’s official. London has staged the most amazing, incredible and unbelievable summer Olympics of the century, writes Andrew Hill.
A quick trawl through Factiva’s database of new articles produces 10,314 instances of writers, athletes or spectators using the word “amazing” in an Olympic context since the Games opened on July 27. That is on top of 6,185 “incredibles” and 3,142 “unbelievables”. Read more >>
Heathrow’s luggage handlers are bracing themselves for a back-breaking day on Monday, when all of the Olympians who have trickled into London over the past few weeks head home in one fell swoop. Worse yet, the airport expects the average number of bags to rise from two pieces of luggage per athlete to three.
Which raises the question: how many London 2012 T-shirts, double-decker bus keychains and stuffed Paddington Bears does it take to fill a whole other suitcase?
Well, it turns out quite a bit of the space will be taken up by bedding, since it has become Olympic tradition for athletes to take home the duvets provided in their rooms. Read more >>
A story reaches me from the excellent Swedish journalist Mattias Göransson, editor of Filter magazine, about his feisty compatriot Pia Sundhage.
On Thursday Sundhage coached the US women’s soccer team to gold against Japan at a packed Wembley stadium. What’s interesting is what comes next.
After the US team won gold at the last Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, Sundhage refused to join her players in meeting President George Bush in the White House. At the time, the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reminded its readers of what Sundhage had said when she got the US job in 2007: “It’s a bit special for an old communist like me to go to the US.” Read more >>
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
During the past two weeks of Olympic mania, the UK media has been unashamedly blinded by gold.
Even the most cynical of British hacks were more interested in the country’s growing medal tally than the logistical arrangements which had occupied thousands of column inches in the months leading up to the games.
But as the closing ceremony approaches, perhaps it is time to take stock of the UK’s organisational performance – specifically on security. The plans laid by games organisers and the Home Office hit a last-minute setback when it emerged only days before the event that G4S, a private contractor, would not be able to provide the promised 10,400 venue guards and the army would have to step in to cover the shortfall. At the time, the company said that it would only be able to guarantee around 5,000 guards for the start of the games, so what have they actually delivered?
G4S was proudly tweeting earlier this week that 7,500 of its staff were working at games venues and that the additional 3,500 military drafted in to make up the numbers were being withdrawn.
Things have not gone entirely smoothly, however. Read more >>
A tented village designed to promote the culture of African countries taking part in the Olympics has been forced to close amid reports of financial difficulties.
A person familiar with the Africa Village project, which cost about €3m (£2.4m), said there had been problems paying suppliers of the exhibits, which in particular affected the contractors providing security. Read more >>
This man at the 2012 Olympic Games likes pin badges (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
The unofficial Olympic sport of pin-badge collecting and trading has taken off during the lulls between competition for the real bling on the water here in Weymouth.
One security guard around the Weymouth and Portland sailing regatta venue is sporting a chestful of team badge souvenirs on his chest accreditation lanyard but, rather unsportingly, he and his colleagues insisted on keeping tight-lipped about their pastime. When asked for an interview and a picture of the collection – Asian pins are the most sought after this games – they would only say they were under strict orders not to speak to anyone, and would not even say which company they were working for.
Perhaps they should lighten up, as the winds have done overnight, preventing the medal race for the men’s 470 dinghy race getting under way at the scheduled 1pm race-off for the medals.
British pairing Stuart Bithell and Luke Patience, guaranteed at least silver, are going head-to-head against Aussies Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page.
With just four points separating the two teams at the top of the leaderboard there was everything to play for in the double-points race, which is expected to turn into a match-racing duel. Read more >>
China's Xu Lijia celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial sailing class on August 6 (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/GettyImages)
Almost two weeks of dazzling action on the water in Weymouth have taken place amid mixed reports of business benefits for local tradespeople, prompting headlines in local newspapers such as: ‘So where is everybody?’.
But Simon Williams, head of Weymouth and Portland 2012 Operations, insists the authorities have delivered on their objectives to stage events that were a success for athletes and spectators, particularly on the Nothe area, the first such ticketed site for Olympic spectators.
“There may be a mixed picture, but overall we had 70,000 visitors in the town over the main [middle] weekend and you cannot rent a house or flat in Portland,” said Williams.
“We have done much to diversify the business market to a whole range of businesses and the TV coverage has been outstanding, showing the geography of the place and the quality of the environment. It’s the first international sailing event held at a world heritage site… There are real and tangible benefits for the long term.” Read more >>
Roger Blitz has written an interesting story here about how Usain Bolt’s megastardom obscures underlying weakness in track and field athletics.
Set aside its showpiece global events and what is left is a sport struggling for sponsors and broadcasters, participants and a grassroots structure.
The earning power of its elite performers, even Usain Bolt, is small compared with their equivalents in other sports.
This prompted us to check how Bolt’s earnings compare with other top global sports stars. The answer, based on Forbes magazine’s latest ranking of the world’s highest-paid athletes, helps illustrate how far behind track and field has fallen. The Jamaican sprint champion is the only runner in the top 100 at a lowly 63rd. Even among athletes competing in London he ranks just eighth: Read more >>
One of the pleasures of being a journalist writing for a newspaper based in the host country of the Olympics is that other journalists see you as a potential source.
About half a dozen have asked me for quotes or basic information about various aspects of the games, or indeed of British life, in the past 10 days. Questions have ranged from why Britain doesn’t always play football as a single nation (a very good question that all the domestic football associations would probably rather wasn’t repeated too often), to what do we call those funny little bread things with holes running through them (crumpets).
Most recently, I was asked by a US correspondent if I thought the UK was becoming Americanised in its coverage of sport, and whether the entertainments provided at different venues to fill the time between action might be a sign of that process. A few minutes later, another American journalist asked why Brits have such an avid sporting rivalry with Australia. The latter question was one I didn’t enjoy answering at all. Honest. Read more >>
Flagbearer Kirani James (C) leads his delegation during the opening ceremony on July 27 (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)
It’s been a historic few days at the games for Guatemala, Grenada and Cyprus, with each country winning its first Olympic medal, reports Darren Wee.
Erick Barrondo of Guatemala won silver in the 20km walk on Saturday, teenager Kirani James of Grenada won gold in the 400m dash on Monday and sailor Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus won silver in the laser class on the same day.
The three athletes became national heroes overnight. Thousands of revellers took to the streets for an impromptu carnival in James’ hometown of Gouyave, while Barrondo took the opportunity to call for “the kids at home to put down guns and knives and pick up a pair of trainers instead”. Read more >>
Schwazer celebrating his victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
“I wanted everything, but lost everything”.
Alex Schwazer, the Italian race walk champion expelled from the London Olympics for failing doping tests, confirmed his use of EPO and said he acted alone, at a press conference in northern Italy on Wednesday.
Sobbing, the young athlete confessed his sense of “shame”, along with his anxiety of not living up to expectations after winning a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“For these Games I wanted to be stronger and wasn’t able to say ‘no’ to doping”, he said.
The runner explained that he wanted to quit the sport more than once but felt the pressure of his family and peers to keep on going. “I was tired and fed up”, Mr Schwazer said.
The 27-year old racer said he bought the doping shots in Turkey, in September last year. For €1500, “the pharmacists gave me what I wanted”, he said. His last injection with the blood booster was the day before the test on July 30.
He said he agreed to the tests by the World Anti-Doping Agency in a “conscious suicide”, in order “to be freed from this burden”. Read more >>
Laura Robson (L) and Andy Murray at the end of the mixed doubles tennis (LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)
The sight of victorious Olympic athletes collecting a bunch of flowers along with the all important medal on the podium has caused many an observer to chuckle at the incongruity of that part of the ceremony.
Not so the floral industry, which is churning out 4,400 of these so-called victory bouquets during the main and Paralympic games. How it must pain them to see most of them getting tossed into the crowds by unappreciative Olympians.
We can reveal however that it is not just the florists that are benefiting from this ancient tradition, which dates back to the original Greek games when athletes were crowned with wreaths made of olive leaves. Read more >>
Alex Schwazer competing in Barcelona in July 2010 ( JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Clean–cut, young and promising. Alex Schwazer was supposed to be a great hope for the Italian Olympics team and fans, yet has become the biggest disappointment of these Games.
The race walk champion was expelled from the London Olympics after testing positive for doping on Monday.
“I was wrong. My career is finished,” said Mr Schwazer, gold medal winner in Beijing in 2008. “I wanted to be stronger for these Olympics,” added the 27-year-old athlete, who is due to give a press conference on Wednesday.
The Italian national Olympic committee removed him from the team and Gianni Petrucci, chairman, spoke of a “bitter day” for Italian sports. “This day has been now ruined by this terrible news that has shocked us. We cannot compromise: one medal down, yet greater cleanliness,” said Mr Petrucci.
Mr Schwazer was not in London, where he was due to defend his title in the 50km race on Sunday. He failed the test for EPO, a blood booster, conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“I acted alone and take responsibility”, said Mr Schwazer. Read more >>