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The Olympic Park – London

13 Aug

Iceland – 33

Hungary – 34

The Olympic Games, Handball Quarter-Finals – 8th August 2012

From the day that the Olympic Games was announced to be held in London, I knew I was going. Come hell or high water, I was going. Admittedly, I had visions of watching the Athletics, seeing Justin Gatlin defend his 100 meters title. Alas, I wasn’t the only one with this dream, and I didn’t get tickets. For a long time I thought I’d have to make do with my trip to Old Trafford, as that was the only ticket I got. However, luck would have it on the third round of announcements of tickets – I had a strategy, and I had a friend to go with, and I had the time and the money. After a quick search, I landed tickets to the handball quarter-finals.

In all honesty, at the start of the Olympics, I had no idea of the rules or anything else to do with handball. Sure, I swotted up on the Wikipedia article, but in the end it seemed a little dry. However, thanks to the obscene level of BBC Coverage of the Olympics, I managed to watch a few games before going. I was treated to a fast paced, enjoyable team sport. Sure there were a few nuances I hadn’t picked up before the match on Wednesday, but I’m sure I could still enjoy it.

Her off the telly!

We woke exceedingly early for a day slap bang in the middle of the holiday as we were told to arrive 2 hours before our event. We caught a train to Stratford, and entered the Olympic Park. Security was tight, but it was extremely quick getting people into the park – there were airport style bag scanners that weren’t present at the football at Old Trafford, and this made security rather quick.

Also it should be noted that the helpers were incredibly jovial, many of them occupying tennis-umpire-style chairs, geeing up the crowd over the megaphones. After a short wait, we were in the Olympic park, and was greeted by the large Olympic Stadium and the Orbit – a red structure that was a focal point of these games. After taking in a few photos, we headed to the TV gantries, where we saw our first celebrity of the day: Bill Turnbull. Bill bloody Turnbull! The early morning breakfast legend! We also saw two time Olympic gold medal winner Laura Trott being interviewed as well.

The Basketball Arena

After taking a small walk around the park, we headed to the Park Live area, which was all the action on the big screen. The first race was a canoe sprint (an event I’d be seeing the next day), which wasn’t won by a Brit (shock horror). At about 10 o’clock, we headed to the basketball arena, where we got an idea on how big the game of handball is.

You see, today was quarter final days, and on paper – a game between favourites Iceland and strugglers Hungary – may not set the world alight. Some unlucky fans of some of the other quarter finals (including Sweden vs Denmark and Spain vs France) ended up with these tickets, and were already looking to exchange their tickets for replacements.

They shouldn’t have bothered, as they were in for a treat.

We entered the basketball arena surprisingly late at around 10:15, and took our seats. The arena is one of the temporary structures in the park, and it showed. It was nice enough, but it did seem like it could be dismantled fairly easily. Nevertheless, we were treated to a warmup, as well as an explanation of the rules, and who to look out for. With 10 minutes to go, a lot of people filed into the crowd, and there were a fair number of Icelandic fans, but they were dwarfed in number by the Hungarian fans. The atmosphere was incredible, as the game went to the start. We were surrounded by Iceland fans and curious observers, so we adopted Iceland as the team for this game.

Iceland with a rare attack

The game began, and Hungary took an early lead. With so many goals and moments occurring, it’s difficult to explain what happened in this fast pace game, but scores remain fairly constant – particularly against strong teams and particularly in the quarter finals. Therefore, it was surprising that Hungary took a 5-1 lead early in the contest. Much of the game was Hungary leading, with Iceland trying to claw back the lead, but in the first half, Hungary were either leading or drawing, usually leading.

The atmosphere was electric in the Basketball arena, with Hungarians being louder than the Icelandic fans, and come half time the game was tightly poised. However come the second half Hungary ran again and pulled out another five goal lead of 17-12, and Iceland spent most of the second half fighting back. However, Iceland came back, and lead 27-26 with 10 seconds to go.

And then the most incredible passage of play to occur.

Iceland had a penalty, if they score they’d be 28-26 up with 10 seconds to go. However, it was saved, and the pass was made to Mate Lakai to score with 2 seconds to go, taking the game into overtime.


After the first overtime, the game was once again level, at 30-30, but Hungary scored a couple of goals in the early in the first half of second overtime, to take the game beyond Iceland, 34-33.

An amazing atmosphere, with an amazing game. I loved every minute, but the day was still young, so we checked out the rest of the Olympic Park.

My view for the afternoon. Much beer was had.

Overall, it was an incredible experience, a lot going on, with plenty of people around. Forget anything else, nothing was like my day in the Olympics. And it wasn’t quite over yet, with canoe sprint to go!