Tuesday, 21 August 2012

London 2012 Olympics - Basketball

8th August 2012

Russia 83-74 Lithuania
Spain 66-59 France
(Men’s Basketball quarter-finals)

Basketball and I have never really got along.

My school had a team, although I seem to recall it was instigated at the behest of a clutch of alpha males in my year, rather than by the school itself.  There were never enough boys interested in the sport to allow the team to have proper training sessions, so occasionally a clutch of us slightly less un-coordinated than the rest boys were rounded up and press-ganged into playing the role of cannon-fodder. 

Now, I think the plan was for us all to crowd around defending our basket, allowing the real players to indulge in some fish-in-a-barrel target practice. 
But not really knowing much about the sport, us novices would adopt a sort of pressing man-for-man marking approach.  This was relatively easy for the experts to deal with, as they just ran past us, but the fact we would start our defending up near their basket seemed to irk them inordinately.  “This is useless”, they would moan.  “That’s not how you defend in basketball!”  So we did it all the more just to annoy them.  From defeats are such tiny victories gleaned.

Anyway.  You can guess from the above that I didn’t care much for basketball and, if truth be told, only ended up buying a ticket for this session at London2012 ‘cause the only real alternatives were table tennis or an idle afternoon.  The session I was going to see consisted of two quarter-final ties: Russia v Lithuania, to be followed by Spain v France.

Russia v Lithuania, North Greenwich Arena, London2012

Russia v Lithuania, North Greenwich Arena, London2012 

Russia v Lithuania, North Greenwich Arena, London2012

The Spanish and French sides warm-up before their quarter-final tie.
Note the preponderance of empty seats - a recurring theme at London2012

Russia v Lithuania, North Greenwich Arena, London2012

Panorama of North Greenwich Arena - London Olympics 2012

Panorama of North Greenwich Arena - London Olympics 2012

Upon arrival, I discovered I had missed the first quarter of the opening match due to the extra-time at the Handball earlier in the day, so took up my seat in the North Greenwich Arena with the Ruskies ahead 17-10.

This was the first time I had ever attended a basketball match, and it quickly became apparent that Locog had made the decision to ensure the event resembled as much as possible an NBA-esque experience.  

For during any breaks in play we were either bombarded with snatches of clichéd rock music, or had to endure such lowest common denominator tripe as a Kiss-cam, or a Bongo-cam.  Mexican Waves were encouraged, and even during the time-outs (which lasted less than a minute), there were snatched interviews with grinning half-wits from the crowd.   

All of the above was compered by some loud, vacuous oaf, who was clearly of the opinion our experience at the event would somehow be incomplete without his incessant inane gabble.  It really was so dispiriting.  And, of course, my mood was hardly helped by being sat next to two excitable Americans who in three hours grazed their way through what looked like the weekly calorific intake of a medium sized family.

In the match itself, both sides appeared happy to trade points with almost profligate generosity, with the Lithuanians never quite succeeding in drawing level.  They did at one point manage to reduce the deficit to a single point, but it seemed to me that the Russians just stepped on the gas and effortlessly rebuilt their lead.  The outcome, from my novice perspective, never really looked in any doubt, and Russia finally ran out victors by 83-74. 

The second quarter-final of the session, France v Spain, thankfully got going pretty swiftly after the first finished, but I soon lost interest as basket after basket plop, plop, plopped in.  And I began to wonder: how can anyone find any sustained excitement in a sport which routinely has 80-100 scores?  It can surely only appeal to folks with the attention span of a goldfish.

As France and Spain battled things out down on the court, I briefly considered sneaking downstairs into one of the many vacant expensive seats, or even just catching up on some sleep, but eventually decided that by half-time I had reached my life-time’s saturation point with basketball, so left.  I was surprised, although upon reflection perhaps not, to note I was only one of a steady trickle of equally jaded looking individuals leaving the venue.

No.  Basketball and I just do not get along.

This is what the foot of those pylon thingies supporting
 the roof of the O2 Arena look like.

The North Greenwich aka The O2 Arena nee The Millenium Dome

This was perhaps the real reason I left the basketball early.
I wanted to miss the queues for the Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames.

The North Greenwich Arena taken from the Excel Arena,
showing the Emirates Air Line cable car.

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