I have Olympic Fever. As the weeks start getting closer, the anticipation always builds for sports overload. Plus the Summer Olympics help to nicely break up the dog days of the Sports season. I’m firmly in the camp of having all the professional athletes compete in their respective sports for the Olympics. Why? Because aren’t the games suppose to represent the best of the best? Shouldn’t this be the (or one of the) ultimate prizes in your sport. The only one I understand is men’s soccer as they make that an under-23 tournament so as not to take away from the every four years World Cup. But I think Basketball and Tennis are that much better with the pros playing. Are you listening Gary Bettman? You better not screw with hockey in the winter. Both USA-Canada games two years ago were some of the best hockey I have EVER seen. Anyway back to Summer, I’m of course looking forward to the usuals: Swimming, Gymnastics (the women’s team competition is pretty darn good drama), Basketball and Volleyball….but here are a few that I really enjoy every four years that you should give a try. Thanks to NBC for making every single competition from every single sport now viewable online and many available on TV. Amazing how far we have come.
- Handball: I think this doesn’t catch on in the States because we have too many sports, but just watch this and most will love it. It’s a crazy combination of basketball and soccer. Fast-paced and a ton of action…definitely fun to watch
- Table Tennis: I’m biased because I played a ton of ping pong in my high school and college days. Somehow I always end up rooting for the Euros in the matches because it seems they’re the underdogs
- Archery: Not sure why, but this sport intrigues me. Maybe it’s the knockout, head-to-head style of competition, especially in the cool team format
- Water Polo: Because Doc Emrick is calling the action
The stadiums and venues of the London games have one common theme: temporary. Ignoring soccer, out of the 13 venues that can be classified into a typical arena/stadium category, four are temporary and will be taken down after the games. Then there is the Olympic Stadium itself, which was built to hold 80,000, but has a temporary upper-deck, thus reducing it to a 25,000 seat stadium following the Olympics (there’s an intriguing battle for use of the stadium after the games by some of the top London football clubs and it’s still undecided who will play there). Along with some very green methods of construction and design, which is great, another main theme with these 2012 Olympic venues is conversion. Several places are being converted to house sports, which will make for some interesting backdrops and seating arrangements. Earls Court, an exhibition venue will host volleyball. Meanwhile, the conference and exhibition center, ExCel is going to house seven sports in it’s huge facility and the concert venue Wembley Arena features badminton and rhythmic gymnastics.
Great backdrops will also be seen at some makeshift venues like the beach volleyball arena at the Horse Guards and equestrian in Greenwich Park. Possibly the highlight of the stadiums and arenas in the London Games are where soccer and tennis is played. Tennis is of course played at the All England Club and it’s famed Centre Court. Soccer meanwhile will get to showcase just a few of the terrific venues that are used for club football in the region. Stadiums used are:
- Wembley Stadium – Home of the England National team
- Old Trafford – Home of Manchester United
- St James’ Park – Home of Newcastle United
- City of Coventry Stadium – Home of Coventry City FC
- Millennium Stadium – Home of the Wales National team
- Hampden Park – Home of the Scottish National team
One note is the name changing that the IOC always does. The O2 Arena (basketball and gymnastics) will be known as the North Greenwich Arena (Also, the City of Coventry Stadium is officially Ricoh Arena). The funny thing is, The O2 isn’t even a corporation in the traditional sense of the word. It’s an entertainment district and the arena is in the district. They really had to rename it? I’m curious if it was one of their “Corporate Sponsors” who had the name on it, if it would be changed. Lastly and probably most importantly for London, the hope is that all of the construction and regeneration in the East side of the city where many of the venues and Olympic Village is, will lead to a revitalization of what has historically been a depressed section.
So definitely a wide variety of sports venues used for these Olympics with some stadiums and arenas that feature many different types of designs. Enjoy the competition!