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Posts tagged ‘London 2012’

Licence to thrill 2: The Paralympic Closing Ceremony

To say that the London 2012 Paralympic Games went out with a bang is something of an understatement. Headlined by Coldplay, and featuring Rihanna and Jay Z, the Closing Ceremony, entitled “Festival of the Flame” was a spectacular technological feat of such artistic genius that no single superlative will do. I’ve watched all three previous Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies on television, but nothing can ever prepare you for how different, how utterly awe-inspiring these ceremonies are when you’re sat in that magnificent stadium.

In front of me the incredibly well-designed LED lighting affixed to each seat glowed with such vibrant multi-pictorial technologically unfathomable brilliance when lit as a whole (all 800,000 odd lights are controlled by a single computer, which uses the lights like pixels to create huge moving images around the stadium) that my brain could barely keep up with the sensation offered up to it for interpretation by my wide incredulous eyes. Underneath, the music vibrated with such depth of base, and the crowd cheered with such a resounding harmony that I became utterly immersed in this spectacle, at one with its brilliance.

The innovation of the lighting, the use of the audience as part of an every changing theatre set, of eccentrically designed mechanical creatures, of fantastical costumes, of feathered characters falling from the air bringing with them candelabras dazzling above the stadium like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles – everything tantalized the senses in its originality, wonder and vibrancy. I left utterly stunned, in awe of London, of spectacle, of theatre and again of the superiority of British culture and design which worked in perfect union with our heroic athletes to present to the world the best Olympics and Paralympics ever.

I can say no more. Take a look at my photos. Sadly I was not well equipped with a powerful zoom or a camera well suited to nighttime and plenty of activity in low light. But hopefully these photos will go some way in demonstrating just how dazzling a show this was.

The Daily Sketch: Paralympic Norms at London 2012

After 7 years of preparation and even more before that of imagination, London 2012 will officially reach its grand finale tonight as the petal cauldron is extinguished for the final time, and fireworks fill the skies in celebration of what has surely been the most spectacular Olympic and Paralympic games known to man.

In the parallel olympiad celebrated in Norm world, the Norm Paralympic Games have been a roaring success. Here we see the paralympic stars of the wheelchair 1500km. It’s the final lap, and crowd favourite, Normi the Brit, is on the outside lap, neck and neck for second place but doing everything in his Norm power to overtake Normski, the Russian paralympian currently taking the lead. Will the crowd spur Normi on to victory?

Meanwhile in the background, another paralympian Norm takes their turn in the wheelchair discus. These sporting achievements are a fantastic accomplishment for the paralympian Norms who, by reason of their bodies’ lost ability to bounce properly, have been rendered disabled and reliant upon a wheelchair for their transportation. Yet despite this obvious disadvantage in life, they have proved that any obstacle, no matter how severe, can be overcome with perseverance and strength of will. In this respect the Paralympic games have been a lesson for us as, and their legacy, rising from the ashes of the extinguished flame tonight, will surely live on for generations to come.

Paralympian Norms in the Wheelchair 1500km (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Licence to thrill: The London 2012 Paralympic Experience

We are all now used to the sight of London’s Olympic stadium, blazing brightly in an otherwise subdued East London skyline, the diamond in the rough, with its triangular light stations looking like the pointed pinnacles of a medieval crown. When you see it on television, the stadium is both a giant-sized modern multi-coloured spectacle, but equally a giver of intimate human stories – the athletes crying, their families hugging, supporters bedecked in countless variations of red, white and blue. Through the aid of high-zoomed television cameras, you get to catch every detail of the various spectators, the royals who are sitting on the show and giving out medals, and the super-strong athletes pulling superhero poses at the start line to the track events.

When you’re there in the stadium itself as one such spectator in a sea of thousands, it’s a whole different story. Everything is magnified, augmented, accelerated. The stadium loses all sense of the human story. It becomes superhuman, a thing of such magnificence, on such a brilliantly huge, exaggerated scale that you literally cannot believe you eyes. What is before you is not only a photogenic stadium worthy of star-studded superlatives and photographs in their thousands; it is history in the making, it is London’s definitive moment in the spotlight. It’s a magnificent mastery of social unity on an epic scale, as people come together in their tens of thousands to cheer, to wave flags, to take photos, to share in the glory. And so it was that the human became superhuman, where in a stadium so big, small people in a crowd of thousands became mere pixels in an ocean of humanity: when a mexican wave took hold amongst the crowd, it literally looked like a ripple pulsating around the stadium; when the crowd took photos, it was like the spectator area had become a diamond encrusted snake, sparkling to the movement of its slithing great body as the flash bulbs went off in their thousands around the racing track; and when a Brit was on course to win a medal, the joint roar of 80,000 spectators made a noise like nothing I have ever heard before – it was a noise enough to conquer nature – thunder itself could not have outdone it.

Yes, as the above probably makes clear, I have experienced the London 2012 Olympic park at last, as well as the Athletes stadium itself, doing so as part of the incredible Paralympics festival which is currently underway in London. Having not obtained tickets for the park itself during the Olympics, I was on the ball when the Paralympics tickets were released a few months later. This time I was lucky, receiving tickets for the Swimming, the Athletics, and, this coming Sunday, the Closing Ceremony. And needless to say, I am incredibly glad that I got to sample not just the Olympic park, but the wonder of the Paralympics as well – The Athletes involved are nothing short of incredible. Talking of superhuman, these guys take the word to a new level all on their own, overcoming debilitating injuries and conditions to excel in sports to levels which, if not equal, are a fine match to the standards set by the incredibly fit able bodied athletes of the Olympics two weeks before.

Last night I was lucky enough to see the UK’s David Weir win the T54 1500m race in super-strength style, pivoted to the finishing line by the sheer strength of his arms alone. And the night before, I was equally fortunate to see Brit favourite Ellie Simmonds win her second gold medal of the games and win in world record time for the second occasion too. Her victory was immense. She was in around 5th place when she turned to swim her final lap of the pool but then, again with superhuman almost mechanical genius, she managed to propel herself, not only ahead of her competitors, but leaving a huge margin trailing between her and the silver medallist. And who else was there? None other than the current Prime Minister (David Cameron), a past Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) and a potential future Prime Minister too boot (Boris Johnson) all getting in on the action (I think that’s known as jumping on the band wagon).

As for the Aquatics centre itself, designed by Zaha Hadid, what a feat of architectural genius, with its organic curvaceous wooden roof perfectly mirroring the muscular contours of a huge killer whale, and appearing to float, defying gravity, in mid air above a marine blue pool and some equally innovative diving boards. 

Well, after an Olympian effort to effectively describe the feeling and emotions of experiencing what is nothing short of a sensational Paralympics experience, I think it’s about time to show you some of my photos of the event – you’re not getting any athlete close-ups I’m afraid – these venues are huge and my seats were, as my budgetary constraints would predict, fairly high up in the gods, but for architectural appreciation, my photos are surely on form. Check out in addition Anish Kapoor’s wacky red Arcelormittal Orbit tower, now an insuperable icon of the Olympic park skyline, and, at the opposite end of the scale, the delicate beauty of the park’s many wildflowers and tranquil riverside walks. Amazing to think that only a few years ago, this was one great industrial wasteland. Oh and let us not forget that incredibly Olympic flame designed by Thomas Heatherwich.

The UK truly is at an all time creative and sporting high. Long may it continue.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

London 2012 – a city celebrates

Being a Londoner, in London, when the Olympics rocked up on our doorstep and the focus of the world followed suit, has been an incredible experience which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. London has changed. Yes, Big Ben still chimes where it always did, and the London Eye still turns steadily next to the mighty River Thames. But during the two weeks of the olympics, the spirit of London underwent a tangible transformation. It was like being at school when a special holiday was being celebrated – the school was the same, but being their felt different, exciting. Similarly, being in London during the games has felt incredibly exciting, thrilling and the source of utmost pride.

Of course if you were a “Games Maker” or attended the huge olympic park, the excitement would, undoubtedly, have been explosive, breathable, physically all-encompassing. But for those of us, like me, who had to work during the games, and who, like many others, were unable to get tickets to the grand olympic park over in Stratford, the changing mood of the city was still unmistakably discernible.  On the tube, people did not rush on with stern moody faces, pushing past each other, losing all semblance of civility. Rather, they would walk around with smiles, reading excitedly about the latest gold medal rush in the papers, and listening enthusiastically to the plethora of foreign languages which could be heard all around. On the streets, the feeling of British patriotism has reached an all time high, but mixes convivially with the respective national pride which is evident in those millions of foreign visitors who have descended upon our city from all over the world. Along the River Thames, the many bridges have been illuminated to spectacular effect, and all along the southbank, a brilliant cultural olympiad has celebrated the arts as well as sport. On TV and in the press, journalists have run out of superlatives to describe these games. Well organised, welcoming, record-breaking, fantastically attended. It’s been brilliant, amazing, a life-changing experience, a moment of insuperable national pride.

Huge rings welcome tourists from eurostar

A feeling of internationalism is everywhere

Like the end of any summer holiday, the climax of the Olympics tonight will be a sad moment for us all. Going back to work, as the olympic flags come down and the city returns to normal, will be tinged with an inexorable feeling of depression. But through it all, the memories live on, and London, as a city, will continue to thrive in the spirit of goodwill and international recognition. More than anything the olympics have made us Londoners proud of our city, which has so much to offer, so much going on, incredible sites and wonderful facilities. For these reasons, people will continue to visit us, long after the olympic spotlight has passed, and for those of us living here, a new inbuilt respect and admiration for our city has been created, an optimism for the future, and a celebration of the past.

The photos I enclose with this post are not really sports-related. Trying to get hold of tickets was like a search for the holy grail. Consequently my photos are confined to the small changes I have witnessed while carrying on my normal London life – rings on Tower Bridge, banners on the lamp posts, and those cute little mascots springing up all over the city. Enjoy!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch London 2012 – 100 metres at the Athletics Stadium

It’s the race that everyone wants to see. It’s over in less than 10 seconds, and yet it’s one of the most watched televised events when it occurs every 4 years in the Norm olympics. For the London games, there is no exception. As the huge multi-petal copper cauldron burns on, and the chants of the massive Norm crowd are roused to an almost deafening volume, the Norm athletes prepare themselves for the race of their life. There is no running in Norm-land, only bouncing, but boy do these Norms bounce fast. Blink twice and you’ll miss it. So hold tight and keep your eyes wide open. Get set, ready – it’s the Norm 100 metres – GO!

Norms in the Athletics stadium (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

London 2012: Infected by Olympic Fever – Tennis at Wimbledon

I’m not a big sports fan. I don’t really know the terminology, and my familiarity with the various sports stars extends as far as those faces who regularly hit the headlines and are splashed across perfume promotions and London buses. However there is something utterly contagious about the Olympic spirit which has swept throughout London and up and down the British isles which just cannot be resisted. The aim of London’s bid was to bring all Britons and people from throughout the world together under the olympic flag, to create a huge party of spectators enjoying the adrenaline rush engendered by sporting achievement and to inspire future generations to enjoy sport and aim for sporting brilliance. They’re all cliches, the stuff of marketing machines, but what the last week has proved to me, is that those objectives have really manifested – I feel inspired by sport, part of the global sporting party and loving every minute of London 2012.

Wimbledon green with the distinctive Olympics purple

The Wimbledon Wenlock

As with many Britons, I found it difficult to get any olympic tickets, despite applying for a good few (and yes, like everyone else, I am secretly seething inside at seeing so many empty seats at the events – a byproduct of the Olympics’ necessary reliance upon corporate sponsorship and IOC executives who then don’t bother to turn up, depriving so many future generations of the opportunity to be inspired). However the one set of tickets I did get was to see men’s semi-finals tennis at Wimbledon. This was a double whammy for me. Not only did it mean I would get to visit the British home of Tennis (tickets for the main Wimbledon tournament are as easy to get your hands on as the holy grail) but it also meant that I would be treated to not one, not two, but three matches played by undisputed tennis royalty.

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The Daily Sketch London 2012 – Norms at the Olympic Park

The London 2012 Olympic games are well under way, and seeing as the transport system seems comfortably empty (I actually managed to get a seat on the tube to work today – miracle) and the streets eerily clear, I’m assuming that the rest of the city must be hanging out in the stunning new Olympic park down at Stratford in the once dilapidated, now sparkling clean East London borough. The Olympic park is really a triumph. When you consider just how grotty that sight was a few years back, the park has surely reinvented this area for the future – let’s just hope it stays that way and, like the Athens park before it, doesn’t become a deserted shanty town, home to squatters and the homeless.

The Norms have no such worries. They are a highly civilised group of little blobs, who look forward to using their Olympic park for bouncing competitions, jelly wrestling, one armed swimming and all other manner of Normular sporting activities for the years to come. But for now it’s all about the excitement of the inauguration games ahead. Here are the Norms soaking up the park before them, complete with the huge athletics stadium, the aquatic centre, the pringle-shaped velodrome and the vast, spiralling Anish Kapoor Arcelor Mittal Orbit sculpture. And, perfectly offsetting the hard architectural edges, there’s even a bank of wild flowers for the Norms to enjoy. Who said the Olympics is all about the sport?

Norms at the Olympic Park (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch London 2012 – Final voyage of the Olympic Torch

It’s been 7 long years in the waiting. Yet as every year passed, some new development heralded the coming of the world’s biggest sporting event to London, home of the Norms. The final step of the preparations for the games was the long and winding 8000 mile trip of the olympic flame, straight from the rays of the sun captured by priestesses on Mount Olympus, to a 70-day adventure all the way across the UK, come rain and shine, and finally, on it’s last day, up the Thames, casting off on the gilded rowbarge, Gloriana, originally made for the Diamond Jubilee, and now taking the flame on the final leg of its journey from the palace of Henry VIII at Hampton Court, all the way along to the iconic Tower Bridge and its final journey to the Olympic stadium.

No one is more excited about the arrival of the Olympics in London than the Norms. They may be legless (in the non-alcoholic sense), and blobby and gelatinous, but they can play sport as well as the next Norm. Here they are on the morning of the great opening ceremony, taking the flame aboard the Gloriana upon its penultimate voyage towards its final Olympic games destination. Horray for the Olympics!

Norms at London 2012: The Torch’s final journey (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.