Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I never thought that I would ever go to the Olympic Games.

So today the Olympic Games tired of my laziness and came to me.

Specifically, the Women's Cycle Road Race passed very near indeed to my house. Hey, said house is in London, and it is the year 2012. With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee going down this summer too, it seems like a daft season to spend back in rainy old New Zealand. That whole Rugby World Cup thing is so last summer.

I should probably have pointed this out to Flatmate Dave back in Auckland as I enthusiastically Facebooked him during breakfast this morning.

July 28
"If you're watching the Women's Cycling Road Race at 11:30pm tonight (NZ time), you might recognise Richmond Bridge as they go over it!"
July 29
"And it's just started raining. All the Olympic news updates from the track here."
July 29
"thanks for that"

July 29
"And it's just stopped. All the Olympic news updates from the track here."
July 29
"I feel special having my people on the inside"

July 29
"I should probably finish my toast and go out then."
July 29
"then I'll have people on the outside"

I bathed, dressed in my dad's old World Cup '98 t-shirt, and headed out far later than I had intended. Yesterday I had scouted-out a stretch of the route looking for any info that might assist on the day, particularly with regards to finding a good vantage point from which to take a photo. The church was no good because they had cancelled their services that morning. I realised that a few friends lived right along the course, but was feeling too British and reserved to invite myself over.

At the foot of Richmond Bridge however, I realised that I could get a famous local landmark - namely my ex-employers Richmond Odeon - in the background. I'd also have the luxury of a good few seconds of the cyclists heading down the slope towards me. Also, that the bridge itself was not lined with houses on either side offered to dissipate any bottleneck on either bank. Yep, that had seemed like a good place.

So as I left my house this Sunday morning, there was no indication that anything out of the ordinary might be pending just a couple of blocks away. However as I turned the corner, I immediately saw four separate people all heading in the same direction as myself. Oohh, now this looked like it could bottleneck quite quickly.

As more and more like-minded people converged in the alley, I was pleasantly surprised to reunite with two fellow travellers from my mum and I's recent walking weekend in Cumbria, where many of us had witnessed the passing of the Olympic torch! However upon reaching the road lined with barriers, there were few enough other people around that we parted company once again to each select our vantage points of choice.

I got exactly the spot that I had chosen. Wishes that I had brought along my tripod were quickly dispelled when I realised that it wouldn't have enabled me to lean over the railings with my arms. Instead I decided that, come the magic moment, I would step up onto the lower railing to take maximum advantage of my height. I tested this. I figured that I would be able to keep my balance.

Somewhere among the cyclists would be British entrants Lizzie Armitstead, Nicole Cooke and Lucy Martin, not to mention the New Zealand rep Linda Villumsen. I didn't mind who won, but without even knowing their names, these were the four who I had a bit more of a cheer in me for.

And so we waited.

Despite being lunchtime, the weather was becoming dark, and broody. In fact so dim that my camera decided to automatically turn the flash on. If I were going to blind a cyclist and lose my balance at the same time on international TV, well, at least on the other side of the globe Flatmate Dave might be laughing at the ensuing crash. Time to text.

July 29
"FB not working. If you happen to be watching on TV, I'm at the exit foot of Richmond Bridge on the right in a UK cap with me camera."
July 29
"I've got it on, will try to keep an eye out for you. Still using your Nz number!"

I don't know what the collective word for a group of cops is, but presently, shall we say, a prison of cops came by on their motorbikes. There were probably more than a hundred of them, certainly several per contestant. Either they held a really low opinion of how we were all going to behave or, more likely, I had shown up to the Mets Motorcycle Race by accident. Since there was absolutely nothing for any of them do but sit there and get paid our taxes, they were high-fiving the crowds and the like. This was fun to behold, but I really couldn't encourage it. Such enormous police presence surely looked a much more inviting target to a suicide bomber than some cyclists.

And then suddenly, in the distance, the racers emerged from around the corner!

Where they turned left to face us, there was a small dip which momentarily took them down out of sight, before they then came up into view again over the apex of the bridge. I stepped up onto the lower railing. Having realised that my auto-focus was not to be relied upon at such a distance, I'd accordingly set my manual focus for the centre of the bridge. I had four shots left on the film, but in the event only two of them would get used.

I pressed the button!

Almost unexpectedly, a gaggle of international cyclists were hurtling downhill towards us at some speed. As planned, with no time to adjust the rapidly shortening manual focus, I hit the camera's overall reset button, flicked the lens onto its widest-angle, and quickly jabbed the aperture back onto 'sport' setting.

A sea of cyclists filled my viewfinder. I pressed the button again.

The camera jammed!

I held the button down and panned with them for as long as was necessary for the unnecesary flash to recharge, and got away with just the one further image…

… before losing my balance and toppling backwards onto the pavement just as they came past! Fortunately, all the BBC caught of this international incident was my flash going off:

Still, good job that I fell in the right direction!

And then they all flew past - an enormous number of them - and were gone towards Twickenham, just like that. I didn't want any shots of them heading past or away from me, and so that was that. The lady next to me said that she reckoned film was better than digital for such a fast event as this, because you don't get any delay when you press the button. Well, I didn't disagree. After all, it had been the digital technology driving my analogue camera that had stalled it.

Still, I had done it. I had been here. I had attended a real, genuine race at the Olympic Games, wearing my dad's official World Cup France 1998 t-shirt. I'd chatted to a few friends. I'd got a photo of it. And it hadn't cost me a penny. Come on camera, let's go home.

The road empty, I ran a bit. Enough to cover a good 100 metres.

Just so that I could tell people afterwards that I had run 100m at the Olympics.

July 29
"Its all over! I was standing leaning over the railings, bit lost me balance as they came by! 2 photos taken."
July 29
"Rewound the recording, but couldn't see you. :-("
July 29
"Oh well, thanks for sharing the moment in spirit!"

And the British / Kiwi entrants? Lizzie Armitstead (UK) won our first medal - silver!

(available here)

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3 comment(s):

At 2:51 am, Blogger Rhett said...

Your hair is ever changing. It's magical.

At 2:24 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

It's too magical. Some of it is having a go at changing colour.

At 6:57 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

You silver fox, you.


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