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.
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.
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.”
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:
Australian Tom Slingsby, a sailor first inspired by Britain’s Ben Ainslie, struck gold on Weymouth’s Nothe course on Monday in a race that saw the island of Cyprus win its first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the same Laser class.
Slingsby, 27, from New South Wales, who has said he is retiring after these games, could have been a professional tennis player but took up Laser single-handed dinghy sailing aged 15 after being inspired by Ainslie’s duelling with Brazilian Robert Scheidt.
And it was these aggressive match-racing skills that saw him through to a gold medal today in strong winds gusting to more than 22 knots. The pair separated from the fleet after a pre-race battle of nerves that became a one-on-one tussle at the back of the fleet, on the opposite side of the course, with Slingsby eventually stretching a gap from his opponent.
Slingsby had gone into Monday’s medal race as the gold favourite after consolidating his place at the top of the leaderboard by winning both races on Saturday.
The four-time world champion was able to put to rest his disappointing result at the 2008 Beijing games.
James Murdoch holds a UK and a US passport, but even dual nationality is not enough for his patriotic needs when watching cycling, a sport he has loved since his youth.
Murdoch, as chairman of British Sky Broadcastingin 2008, approved the creation of Team Sky, the professional cycling outfit run by Dave Brailsford whose members keep winning Olympic medals.
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.