Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 Olympic Preview: Diving

Saturday morning, Josh and I took the train/Tube out to Stratford, grabbed a quick lunch at the Westfield Mall, and then entered the Olympic Park for the first time to attend the diving test event in the new Aquatics Centre.  When I bought the tickets, I was only able to select the date and time, so we had no idea what specific diving competition we were going to see.  We were mostly just excited to see the new facility.
Through the 'gates' to the Aquatics Centre
By the time we went through the security screening and found our way into the venue, it was about 45 minutes before the start of the event, and was already starting to fill up.  If we had been there to watch swimming, we would have had fantastic seats, but we still had a decent view of the diving pool.  (It was general admission)
View from our seats
Divers were warming up on all of the various diving platforms and springboards, so I had to look in the program to find out what event we would be watching:  Women's Synchronized 3m Springboard Diving Preliminaries.
Divers warming up
iPhone self-portrait
We were happy to see a team competing from the US.  Too bad we didn't think to bring our flag to show our support, but we did try to clap and cheer loudly for them without being too obnoxious about it.  The UK team got the loudest cheers, of course, but there was clearly a Canadian rooting section somewhere to the right of where we were sitting.
The American team
Nice job!
After the first round of dives, the US team was in third place, and the team from China was in the lead.
Standings after Round 1
The Chinese team dominated the competition.  Here is a series of photos I took of one of their dives with the rapid-fire feature on my camera.

At the end of Round 5, China was the clear winner, outscoring the second-place German team by more than 26 points.  Team USA ended up in 5th place -- and finished 4th in the finals the next day -- which means they will be competing here again during the Olympics this summer.  Way to go!
Final results
I kicked myself when I took a closer look at the photo above.  If I had just aimed a little to the right, I would have snapped a photo of myself taking this picture!  See the couple at the very bottom of the video screen?  I was sitting right next to the wife, and you can even see my hands holding the camera if you look closely.  Unfortunately, I was focused on the scoreboard at the time and didn't even notice that we were on the screen.  Bummer!

On the way out, we had a chance to get a better look at the exterior of the building
Exterior of Aquatics Centre, with Olympic Stadium in the background
We couldn't get far enough away to photograph the entire building, but I did manage to get a photo from the observation lounge in the John Lewis department store at the mall across the street.  (It's on the 3rd floor, where they sell all the London 2012 souvenirs, for any fellow Londoners reading this...)

The two "wings" on either side of the building are intended to be temporary, and will be removed after the Olympics, leaving a smaller-capacity facility for community groups and schools to use.
The Aquatics Centre from John Lewis
We went back to the mall afterwards and treated ourselves to a scoop of gelato before picking up some wine at the Waitrose and heading back to the Tube station.  But the day's events were far from over.  Instead of heading back home, we made our way to the Crystal Palace neighborhood to have dinner with our friends Bethie & Jason in their new flat.  It's a bit further away, but much bigger and nicer than the place they were renting in Clapham, with large rooms, lots of natural light, and no stairs to create a hazard for their adorable 14-month-old daughter Charlotte.

Crystal Palace is named after a glass and iron building that was initially constructed in Hyde Park for an extremely successful World's Fair-type exhibition in 1851.  After it ended, the building was relocated to a park in a posh residential area south of the Thames.  But don't bother adding it to your list of places to see in London -- it burned down in 1936.  How a building made of iron and glass could burn down is a bit of a mystery to me, but it likely would have been destroyed in the Blitz a few years later had it not been consumed by fire.  So, there's no longer a crystal palace in Crystal Palace, and it's not quite as posh as it once was, but it still seems like a nice place to live.

Bethie & Jason had invited their new upstairs neighbors as well, and we had a delicious dinner of homemade gnocchi and a scrummy chocolate almond cake for dessert -- marked with an 'N' in my honor.  Fortunately, they did not have any birthday candles, or we might have seen yet another building burn to the ground in Crystal Palace.  But I was treated to an impressive rendering of "Happy Birthday to You," since Bethie and one of her neighbors are both professional singers. 
My yummy chocolate-almond birthday cake
Look at that sweet face!
Charlotte wants to know what I'm taking a picture of on the table
It was a lovely evening, and a perfect way to cap off my 3-day birthday extravaganza. 

1 comment:

  1. Your diving photos are INCREDIBLE! I think the Olympics should hire you to document the actual events!! :-)


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