The Olympics Diary – Day Three – The Fast and The Furious

Fourteen years ago to the day I stood in front of my close friends and family and agreed to wed the Current Mrs Fuller. Despite her claims yesterday that going to watch the Tennis at Wimbledon was the “best day of her life”, it was a day full of fantastic memories for me and one I look back on every 1st August with fondness. Every year we try to celebrate it in a different location. In recent years we have had the excitement of a day on Barry Island, the canals of Birmingham and even a trip to see Cardiff City v Valencia. I know how to spoil a girl.

But this year what better way to celebrate our XIV Anniversary than a trip to the Olympic Park to get our daily fill of history. The ticket gods had been kind to us and we had manage to snaffle a couple of Water Polo tickets to go with our Handball ones (many thanks to the Daggers Diary team who had procured those for us last year).

Handball – now there is a game I would love to see more of in this country. I had been lucky enough during my time spent in Copenhagen to see the game played first hand in one of the best domestic leagues in the world and had loved watching the fast flowing game. I may have been slightly swayed in my admiration for the game by the fact the two teams I watched were young, female and blonde but even so it was a great event. Hopefully the packed arena in the Olympics will kick-start an increased interest for the sport in this country.

Water Polo on the other hand I had no idea what to expect, neither did any of the Fuller girls. I must have looked convincing when I told the Littlest Fuller’s that the game was basically Handball played on inflatables in the pool. They believed me and an idea for a new Olympic sport formulated in my head. Everyone I spoke to about the game told me it was “nasty”….The girls had seen a couple of games on Monday afternoon and confirmed that the female version was in no way ladylike.

An early start saw us drop the Littlest Fullers off at their child minders before we made the very easy journey to the OIympic Park via the DLR from Woolwich Arsenal. It seems this was the route into the park that the public ignored because every time we used it it was empty. Just over thirty minutes from leaving the house we were walking through security into the Park and heading for the Copperbox. Continue reading

Here comes the girls

Mike Miles brings us his adventures from the Olympics.

Like countless thousands of others I applied for Olympic tickets. The usual suspects: athletics, swimming, tennis, ladies beach volleyball. And what did I get…. Football at Old Trafford. This meant I didn’t get the chance to re-apply in subsequent ballots as I had got something. ….

But grumbles against LOGAC aside, the number of unsold football tickets across the country has been well documented, so for a football –fan at heart, here’s a chance to see some real football at a reasonable price.

There is a programme on Radio 4 called “I have never seen Star Wars.” The premise is that a “celebrity “is invited to see or do something that they have managed to avoid so far in life. Imagine Private Eye editor Ian Hislop buying a pair of jeans and you will get the flavour.

Well I have never been to a women’s football match, and this time around Team GB are fielding a women’s as well as a men’s team in the Olympic football tournament. They were down to play their second Group game against Cameroon at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And what made for a more enticing prospect was that the preceding match set Brazil ladies against their New Zealand counterparts. Continue reading

The biggest game ever in women’s football

Taking a break from our Olympic Adventures, The Daggers Diary head to Wembley for the most watch Women’s football match ever – The Olympic Final.

After all of the worries about tickets, security and what-not that accompanies the build up to a major sporting event like the Olympic Games, those events that I have been fortunate enough to attend seem to have gone quite well. Of course, we’ve had the moans about tickets, but for some that were able to mobilize their efforts early, they don’t seem to have done too badly, although obviously many still missed out. And even some of those that didn’t have stuff in advance have (with a huge amount of luck and persevering with the website) managed to get lucky. It’s just a shame that too many seem to have woken up too late to the fact that the Olympics were going to be an event not to miss. Having spoken to loads of people since the start of the games on July 27th, those that haven’t been to an event have said that they had wished that they had bothered to apply for tickets. Those that have been fortunate enough to get a ticket for an event in the Olympic park have all said that the atmosphere has been wonderful, and that they wished they had done something earlier. We can only hope that the Paralympic Games benefit as they deserve to. So far, it seems that they might, with record ticket sales already reported.

For me, the Handball has been brilliant to attend, and the noise inside the copper box, especially when team GB were being battered by Sweden was great. Despite the run away score, the support never wavered, which has been a feature of wherever and whenever a GB team or athlete has taken to their particular field of play. It’s arguable that Handball has been the discovery of the Games for the British public, with reports that the British federation website crashed several times over the last week with the amount of people trying to find out where their local team is and how to go about playing the game. As a new fan myself (since last December), I hope it takes off here.

My Olympic journey finishes tonight, here at Wembley, and the women’s gold medal match between Japan and the U.S.A. It’s arguable that in the women’s game, this is second only to the World Cup, and we have a repeat of last year’s final here tonight. Last Tuesday, Dagenham Dan and I were amongst over 70,000 to watch team GB beat Brazil 1-0, and hopes were high following that of a semi final spot. Defeat at Coventry to Canada last Friday put paid to that. Continue reading

The Olympic Diary – Day Two – New balls please

I hate tennis.  I must be one of the few people in this country who will not watch one single minute of the Wimbledon championships.  On the day when Andy Murray took on Federer I went to cricket.  I hate the plastic fans who are Murray/Henman/Rudeski’s biggest fans today, yet pay no interest in the sport for the other 50 weeks of the year.  Attendances at Davis Cup matches when held in the UK bear this out.

So I wasn’t really interested in the whole Tennis competition in the Olympics.  In some respects I do not see why it should be included (similar reasons to Football), but then again the Olympics is designed to celebrate the best sportsmen and women in their respective events.  What I do not understand though is why Tennis and Badminton are in the Olympics, yet Squash doesn’t.

I am married to a wonderful women.  We are compatible in so many ways, but in some aspects we are poles apart.  She is a Northern lass and so has some strange ways which over time I have managed to cleanse her of, and fortunately neither of my children have picked up words like booook, say phrases like “now then” instead of “hello” and avoid chips with gravy on.  She also loves watching tennis.  Every year she pleads with me to try to get Wimbledon tickets.  And every year I tell her that I tried but they were simply sold out to those “bloody corporate suits”.

With our 14 year wedding anniversary approaching I was stuck for a suitably lavish display of my ongoing affection. That was before a knight in shining armour appeared.  “Would I know anyone who was interested in a £30 ticket for Wimbledon Centre Court?” popped the message up on my PC.  Bingo – that was the answer to all my prayers.  I could send the Current Mrs Fuller down to SW19, fulfilling her fantasies of drinking Pimms from the naked belly button of John McEnroe whilst I look like the best husband in the world.  Everyone’s a winner.

She was delighted and showered me with affection as any good wife should.  She then told me who she would be seeing.  Venus Williams (lots of grunting), Andy Murray (lots of sweating), Djokovic (no idea) and Maria Sharapova…..Woooah…back up there.  Hang on a minute – now that wasn’t playing fair. Continue reading

The Olympic Diary – Day one..It wasn’t about the football

I have to admit.  I was an Olympic skeptic.  In the run up to the start of the games I doubted our transport system could cope (especially after the disastrous attempts to handle crowds over the Jubilee Weekend in London, and of course any game at Wembley Stadium), I was certainly firmly in the “very disappointed” camp with my meagre allocation of tickets and had experienced first hand the shocking tactics of certain hotels in hiking their prices to obscene levels.

When major sporting events take place overseas, we (and by we I mean the Daily Mail) try to suggest that they are representing the nation in their disgust at the way we are being “ripped off”, yet when it is on our own front door it is seen as something we should get behind.  But more of that later.

One month before the games we had manage to have tickets for just the football in Hampden Park.  Then, as slowly but surely, ticket were released to the general public I was determined to attend as many events as possible.  This in itself was (and still is) one of the most frustrating processes known to man.  I think it is fair to say that anyone who buys tickets on a regular basis in this country does not have a good word to say about Ticketmaster, and for the Games it was (and still is) no different.

But as I made the long long walk across Windsor Racecourse on my way with the Fuller clan towards Eton Dornay, I was about to take my Olympic Games viewing to eleven different events.

All of these tickets had been acquired by daily (hourly in some cases) searching on the official website over the past few weeks, overcoming the frustrations of the crappy website saying there are tickets, when clearly there isn’t.  Tickets were acquired for the Athletics at 2.30am for that morning, a ticket for the first ever British female Olympic boxing match popped up on my screen at breakfast time after dozens of searches for the event had been fruitless, thanks to the power of the F5 button and finally, thanks to a Spurs fan who decided to head over to the US for their summer tour, the Current Mrs Fuller had the “best anniversary present ever” with a day on Centre Court watching Venus, Murray, Djokovic and Sharapova for less than the price of a burger and Coke at the Emirates. Continue reading

The Boys from Brazil – part 2

After the edge-of-your-seat excitement of the Blue Brazil yesterday in Scotland it was time for the second part of our Boys from Brazil weekend bonanza. A late night flight to Gatwick, followed by a crack-of-dawn flight back up the country to Manchester (I have planted a tree in my garden to make up for such air mile fuelled extravagance) was the plan of action.

The main event was obviously Brazil v Belarus at 2.45pm, the odds on favourites to take the Mens Gold Medal after the elimination of the Spanish  but before that we had a packed agenda. A trip to the National Football Museum at Urbis in the city centre was the first port of call, taking in the new permenant home of the history of our beautiful game. You could spend hours wandering around the (free) museum with its interactive displays, brilliant pictures and all sorts of momentos from around the world. Photos, did I mention photos? Well now you come to ask, yes I had a personal interest in them because a couple (well, OK 5) had been included in a section called “Fields of Dreams”. Those little snippets of life at Crawley Down (now with a Gatwick at the end), Hucknall Town, Ilkston, Beckenham Town and Chipstead all bring back memories for me and will hopefully evoke a tear or two in other peoples eyes. Alas, I am no Stuart Roy Clarke, the Daddy of football photography, and it is only good and proper that the exhibition features a collection of his work, but I can say to a small extent I have made it as a football photographer. Continue reading

Early doors

And so 7 years and 3 weeks since we were awarded the games, the London Olympics is upon us. How could anyone in Great Britain not be excited by the next 18 days featuring the world’s greatest athletes? And here we were, ready to experience the opening events. Whisper it quietly, but the London Olympics didn’t start with the multi-million pound opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, but actually started on Wednesday in Cardiff when Team GB ladies took on New Zealand. Even the official Olympic website suggests the games start on the 27th July – as if someone is embarrassed by the fact that football even exists in the games.

It has hardly been a surprise that virtually every game outside of London or not featuring Team GB has struggled to sell tickets. I have argued on these very pages about the logic in using such big stadiums in the far flung areas of the United Kingdom. Those romantic few told me that the residents of Glasgow and Cardiff would flock to watch the likes of Honduras, Morocco, Belarus and Gabon because it was “the Olympics”. Last week, LOGOC took the decision to remove over 500,000 unsold tickets for the football tournament from sale and simply close down parts of the stadiums, obviously making sure that the TV facing seats were full.

It is too late to argue the merits of using smaller grounds closer to London for the football (Reading, Southampton, Brighton for instance), but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth that such a logical outcome was ignored. However, that hadn’t stopped me heading north of the border to notch up event one of ten I would be attending during the games. Hampden Park would be our destination for a double bill of Morocco v Honduras, and then a little throw-away tie between Spain and Japan. I mean, who would want to watch Spain these day? What have they ever won eh? Dull, negative football. Give me Allardyce route one anyday! Who wants to see the ball on the pitch. There is a million times more room to hoof it in the air….I’ll stop now.

Despite my frequent trips north of the border, Hampden Park has never featured on the TBIR radar for a game (great tour and even better museum) so when it was announced that games would be held in the Scottish National Stadium it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as tickets to any events in the proper Olympic venues were impossible to get last year. One thing you could not complaint about was value for money – £61 for four tickets for a double-header of international football. Of course a year on and tickets can be acquired for just about any game – the football was to be the first of TEN events that we would see in a 12 day period during the games (and we will bring you action from all 10 right here). But confusingly, wherever you went, all the signs/websites/newspaper articles said the Olympic games was due to start on Friday 27th July with the opening ceremony. The website told us Big Ben was to chime 40 times on the first day (i.e Friday 27th); the countdown clock was to the 27th July and all of the official records say the games run from Friday 27th July to Sunday 12th August. Continue reading