|Hugely spectacular lights at the Olympic Park|
The buildings on the Olympic Park are all up. The landscaping of the Park is done. The grass is planted, the rivers are flowing freely and the paths have been laid. The 2012 Games are just 8 months away.
|Zany path in the Olympic Park|
What happens between now and then, as the finishing touches to the Park are put in place, is that the test events are held. Every Olympic venue and every sport must have a dress rehearsal to make sure that everything is working as it should. One of the biggest advantages to living in one of the five Host Boroughs is that we get discounted tickets and priority booking for many of these test events.
This weekend we went to see the finals of the London Handball Cup, which was held at the square, copper-clad Handball Arena in the Olympic Park. I knew absolutely nothing about Handball before this weekend, but it is a very easy game to learn and a very exciting and dramatic sport to watch. As we arrived at the arena we were given brochures which explained the sport and listed all the teams and the players.
We saw two matches: the bronze medal play off between Angola and China, and the Gold/Silver medal match between Austria and Poland. Even watching the teams warm up for an hour before each match was great - they leaped about, threw handballs to each other with mind-blowing accuracy and speed, sprinted up and down the court and did stretches that any gymnast would be proud of.
|Angola and China warming up for their match|
|The Polish team practise their drills|
Handball is very physical and fast, and there are a great many goals scored in each match. If I had any kind of hand-eye coordination whatsoever I would love to give it a go. The atmosphere in the arena was excellent - there was a very good commentator who made sure we all knew what was going on, and by the last few minutes of the gold medal match we were hoarse with screaming, and I leaped out of my seat when Austria scored a game-winning penalty with 4 seconds to go.
You can see some properly excellent photos of the earlier games in the tournament, which give an idea of how physical and fast it is, here. My compact 8 year old camera just isn't up to live sporting action.
In February we are going back to the Olympic Park to see the finals of the Track Cycling and Diving test events. Tickets for these events are now sold out, but you can find out more about the other test events coming up at the London Prepares Series website. I want to try and get tickets for the Synchronised Swimming and the Athletics when they are released. Tickets are currently on sale (and going fast) for the Swimming test event at the Aquatics Centre (details here).
We walked home through the Park at sunset, and the sense of expectation all around us was palpable. Just eight more months to go.
|The Anish Kapoor spiral sculpture - one of my favourite structures in the Olympic Park|