Saturday morning we got up at an ungodly hour to drive to the nearest train station.* We were taking no chances; the media had warned us to expect “chaos”. Our destination: London. More specifically: the North Greenwich Arena. We were lucky enough to have Olympic tickets for the qualifying round of Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.
We arrived at Waterloo Station far too early, but the sun was smiling and so were we. Given the three months of rain we’ve endured and the three hours we had to spare, we decided to walk part of the way, along the South Bank, beside the Thames. London was quiet at that time of day; we saw few people – some joggers, two police women, a busker setting out his blanket. We stopped to admire landmarks like Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Borough Market, the Golden Hind and Tower Bridge with its Olympic Rings, before taking the Tube for the rest of the journey.
Gymnastics was not our first choice for tickets. Probably not even second. But we felt damned lucky to get any tickets. As we approached the arena there was a real buzz in the air. The volunteers were chatty and friendly and as excited as us.
Once inside, this was our view:
Unbeknownst to us, Team GB were competing which added to the excitement. But we hadn’t realized that the teams would rotate through six different pieces of equipment. I worried I’d be distracted and the children wouldn’t be able to concentrate. There was no need; we were all gripped. And because there was so much going on, it was an action packed two hours. We watched these amazing men – agile, strong, determined and focused.
I’d been worried we wouldn’t be able to concentrate. What about them? These guys had to block out all the background noise – the live commentary, the music, the crowds cheering. They had to ignore the camera crew, the judges and their rivals performing beside them, right there in their peripheral vision. They had to focus only on their performance, their moves, their art. We witnessed absolute grace under phenomenal pressure.
We left the arena on an incredible high. Team GB had placed first overall and would proceed to the finals.** As we walked to the Tube station, I was thinking I could learn something from those gymnasts with such incredible discipline – the ability to ignore all distractions and focus only on my work.
Yup, from now on it’s absolute grace under pressure. So, let’s see now. Pressure – do pressure sores on my ass count? But as far as grace goes… I haven’t got a prayer.