Spectators

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

The US is witnessing a quadrennial surge of interest in the sport of complaining about NBC’s approach of saving the best Olympic action until primetime, writes Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

Figures from operators of virtual private networks suggest that viewers who cannot wait until 11pm to see Usain Bolt and do not have the pay-television subscription needed to see live footage on NBC’s web and mobile services have been looking elsewhere.

Expat Shield, a VPN that provides UK web addresses to overseas residents enabling them to view BBC broadcasts that would otherwise be blocked, reports that installations from the US shot up from an average of 250 a day before the Olympics began to 4,900 a day in the first week of the games. Read more

Walking along the South Bank I saw a surprising sight: a man and a woman daring to venture out in broad daylight clad head to toe in Spain’s garish Olympic kit, with not even a blush, writes Carola Long.

For anyone who missed the furore over Spain’s cut price garb here’s why one might have expected them to stuff their red and yellow tracksuits back in their lockers before leaving the Olympic village.

Bosco, the Russian sportswear brand, provided the kits, saving the Spanish government  €1.5m according to Alejandro Blanco, chairman of the Spanish Olympic Committee. Blanco claimed a fiscal victory — given Spain’s ailing economy — but the designs were widely deemed a style defeat. Read more

Emily Cadman

Whilst ancedotes about Olympic fever are two a penny at the moment, do we actually have any evidence about how interested people are? Well these power demand charts, courtesy of the National Grid, perhaps offer one rough and ready way of looking at how engaged the stay at home audience has been at key points.

Firstly, of all the highest TV audience to date – the opening ceremony. The annotations on the charts are from analysts at the National Grid.

The pink line shows electricity demand for the equivalent Friday a year ago, and the blue line the actual demand during the opening ceremony – which drew an average of 22.4m viewers, the highest since 1998, and a peak audience at 9.45pm of 26.9m.

On it you can clearly see the suppression of electricity demand for key parts of the ceremony, and then above trend (demand excess) usage as the evening wore on.

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A private jet, and a limo… Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

Ahead of the Olympics, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority was expecting upwards of 10,000 flights by general aviation aircraft – that is, anything from hang gliders to transatlantic private jets – during the busy games period.

The authorities prepared by asking ACL, the country’s co-ordinator of airport take-off and landing slots, to take management of 40 air fields in the south-east of England (some critics argued this was going overboard). And they demanded that people entering the games’ restricted airspace on private aircraft receive security clearance before take-off.

But the numbers so far suggest any influx of Olympic private flyers is merely making up for others avoiding London. ACL reports that 7,400 of the general aviation slots have been booked for the period between July 21st and August 15th – just a few hundred more movements than in a normal year.

“It’s looking busy but manageable,” says a spokesman for the CAA.

Darren Grover, chief operating officer at London City Airport, has seen the trend on the ground. The airport lies just four miles from the Olympic park and within a few javelin throws of the ExCel Centre, where, Mr Grover points out, Team GB has won many  of its medals. (ExCel hosts boxing, judo, wrestling, fencing, taekwondo, weightlifting and table tennis.) Read more

Gideon Rachman

The stands at Olympic events are dotted with small children. Their parents have usually kitted them out in expensive replica kits. It is clearly all meant to be a great family day out, a treasured memory and so on.  But, usually, it does not work out like that.

The problem is that the average five year-old has limited patience with watching the heats for the women’s shot put – even if the tickets were fiendishly expensive and hard to get hold of. Young children are also bad at dissembling. I was in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday morning, as Jessica Ennis closed in on gold in the heptathalon. The adults in the crowd were going crazy, as she prepared for the long-jump. But the child behind me, made it clear that he was much more interested in eating a Kit-Kat.  As the morning wore on, his hapless parents were ground down by their toddler’s repeated question – “Is that one Usain Bolt?” After a couple of hours, Bolt actually did appear to run his heat. But the kid had long since interest and was now campaigning to go for a wee. Read more

Top flight football teams have, increasingly, become international. Similarly, for the Olympic football, are the spectators, who are giving the terraces a League of Nations atmosphere.

Brazil’s game against New Zealand at St James’ Park in Newcastle yesterday even drew a group of visitors from Mongolia, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles, to cheer on Brazil, who won three-nil. Read more

Great Britain's Helen Glover (R) and Heather Stanning in the women's pair heat 1 of the rowing event at Eton Dorney on July 28 (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/GettyImages)

At Eton Dorney, the crowds lining the 2,000m course that is home to Eton College’s rowing teams are already enormous and it is only just past 9am. The system for getting people into the course is incredibly efficient and spectators have been restricted only by the speed with which they can walk.

Even the press have stopped moaning here at Eton Dorney, not least because they can get a hot bacon roll for breakfast.

The rowing competition is all over by 12.30, so it’s definitely a sport for early risers. Which is precisely the reason why I didn’t pursue it myself at university! Read more

At the Rome Games of 1960, the British runner Peter Radford won bronze in the 100m sprint. Radford, now 72, was one of the former British medallists honoured in London’s opening ceremony on Friday night.

Yet while banks of seats have remained empty at many Olympic events on the first weekend of competition, he will not be attending a single event at London 2012. The organisers have not given him a ticket. All he received for participating in the opening ceremony was a free one-day Oystercard to use public transport: while most of the sponsors arrived at the stadium in corporate buses, he came and went on London Underground.

Radford, a former chairman of UK Athletics and now professor of sport at Brunel University, says none of the other British medallists he has spoken to had been given free tickets to the games. “It’s a general policy, as far as I can see,” he says.

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Gideon Rachman

Unlike my more privileged colleagues, I do not have a press pass. I have been taking part in the spectator marathon – which had been advertised as a grim and gruelling event.

On Saturday I set myself a tough challenge – get to the Excel centre for the boxing. Unlike the main Olympic Park, which is served by several Underground lines, the Excel can only be reached by the Docklands Light Railway. I have always thought of the DLR as a toy-town system of the sort beloved by urban planners, but useless for actually getting around. In the event, however, we whizzed through Docklands and even got seats on the train.

Spectators are advised to get to events two hours early, to get through heavy security checks. But we actually breezed through in minutes. Even the emergency deployment of the military as security guards appears to have added a dimension to the experience. People were actually posing for photos with the soldiers – which I cannot imagine them doing with the average G4S security guard, whose uniforms are rather less fetching.  Read more