Welcome to my blog detailing my groundhopping exploits. My aim is to visit all football grounds in England (Premier league to the 8th tier) Scotland (SPL to 3rd Division) and the Welsh premier league I may also add grounds from other sports or countries. I hope you enjoy reading.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Olympic Park - 8th August

Riverbank Arena - Hockey

9-10 Classification (Women) Japan 2-1 South Africa
7-8 Classification   (Women) S Korea 1-5 Germany

Basketball Arena - Handball

1/4 Final (Men) Croatia 25-23 Tunisia

With the football season just about to begin I am just starting to think about my groundhopping for the coming season but before all that starts there was another small sporting event taking place in London that warranted some interest, the London 2012 Olympic Games.

As the "biggest show on Earth" and with it being just up the road I couldn't not make the effort to get hold of tickets for this once in a lifetime experience.As a groundhopper I wanted to try and get to as many of the stadiums and arenas as possible especially those on the Olympic Park themselves. As with many people though I was unsuccessful in getting any tickets in the first round application process, but was lucky enough to get hold of tickets for a couple of sessions in the second round.

So there I was at 5am picking Will Harmer up from his house and on my way down the M11 to Epping Tube station to go and watch some Hockey and Handball, two sports that I have never watched previously and had very little or no knowledge of.

The journey to the park was very easy and on leaving Stratford station were greeting by a mass of the volunteer Games Makers who were directing everyone to the Olympic Park. Entering the Park was similar to going through border control at any major airport and the military personnel who were managing things made it very quick and easy and there were no issues.

We entered at the Stratford Gate and were immediately met by the impressive Aquatics Arena to our left with the Orbit and the Olympic Stadium in front.

I will have more photos of both the Aquatics Arena and the Olympic stadium in a later blog as I have tickets to both for the upcoming Paralympics.

As we had an early session at the Riverbank Arena the other end of the Park we made our way straight there to take our seats for the first of two matches that were included in the session, Japan vs S Africa in the 9-10 classification match for the Womens competition.

The Riverbank Arena is a temporary Arena and is made up of 4 scaffolding stands holding around 20,000 spectators and as such looked very basic. There is no covered seating apart from the very centre of the West Stand which is reserved for VIPs, so we were hoping that the dark clouds that were looming would not produce any rain.

The match was a very close game which was eventually won with a penalty stroke (not a Penalty Corner) by Japan in Golden goal extra time. The match finishing 2-1.

Japan score there first goal with a Penalty Corner (Not Penalty Stroke)
The second match was the 7-8 Classification match between S Korea and Germany, this match had much more action and Germany ran away with a comfortable 5-1 win that secured them 7th place in the competition.

S Korea and Germany line up for National Anthems
The atmosphere within the arena started off very subdued as it was only half full possibly due to the early start time with most people not arriving until at least half time of the Japan - S Africa match but this definitely brightened up during the second match along with the weather which became very warm and sunny in the early afternoon.  
Olympic Stadium and Orbit as seen from the river
that runs through the Park

The session finished around 1.30pm and we then had an 8 hour wait until our evening Handball 1/4 final match was due to get underway. During this time we had a walk around the rest of the park.


After having a walk round the Park we met up with my parents who had been to see some athletics that morning for a quick catch up, we then left the Park and hopped on the tube to Kings Cross and went for some lunch and a pint in the Euston Flyer along Euston Road, which was a lot cheaper than eating at the Park and watched some of the other Olympic action on the big screens that had been set-up.

Around 6pm we made our way back to the Olympic Park making use of the Javelin service that was running between St Pancreas Station and Stratford International.

We made our way to the Basketball Arena and sat watching the big screen that has been set-up in the centre of the Park to watch Usain Bolts 200m Semi Final before entering the Arena.

The Basketball Arena is also a temporary Arena which I believe is to be reused at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and possibly again at the next Olympics in Rio. The Arena was used originally for the Basketball Group matches, the games were then moved to the O2 (sorry North Greenwich Arena) once they reached the Knockout phase of the competition. The Handball was moved to the Arena for their Knockout Phase. The court was transformed from Basketball to Handball in under 24 hours.

Although it just looks like a big tent from the outside the Arena looks rather impressive on the inside.

I had never watched a Handball match before and had no idea what to expect. The sport is very minor in this country but in the rest of Europe it has a massive following and the supporters of both Croatia and Tunisia were very vocal and created a fantastic atmosphere within Stadium.

This sport may just be one of my new favourites. A cross between Football, Basketball and Rugby this is a full contact sport and both teams, especially Tunisia didn't hold back, with one of their players even being suspended from the rest of the game just before half time after kicking an opponent at least 3 foot in the air. The game was fast and action packed.

Croatia came in as favourites but found themselves behind at half time but in the end there ability shone through and they managed to make it through to the semi final winning by 25 (goals,points,runs I have know idea) to 23.

I have no photos of match action as flash photography during play is forbidden but trust me if you ever get a chance to go to a game do it you wont be disappointed.

Finally a massive thanks should go to all the Volunteers and Military personnel who have worked on the Olympic Park during the games they would not have happened without them.

I had a great time at the Olympic Park and can't wait to go back for the Paralympics where I will be blogging on the Opening Ceremony,Athletics and Swimming as well as Goalball.

After that I will be back to the usual football grounds for the 2012/13 season.


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