Olympics: Off the track - July 30

By Paul Harper

Sir Paul McCartney (or somebody who sounds a lot like him) has been heard as preparations for the Olympics opening ceremony continue, but will he be playing to empty seats? File photo / AP
Sir Paul McCartney (or somebody who sounds a lot like him) has been heard as preparations for the Olympics opening ceremony continue, but will he be playing to empty seats? File photo / AP

The London Olympics will be remembered as much for what happens off the track as on it. Herald.co.nz reporter - and one-time Mt Albert YMCA Indoor Football Championship winner - Paul Harper sums up the incidents and controversy surrounding the games.

Dude, where's my stadium keys?

We all have trouble finding our keys on occasions. But surely you've never lost the keys to two of the most iconic stadiums in the world. Police are investigating after the keys to Wimbledon - the venue for the Olympics' tennis tournaments - and Wembley, went missing last week. The Daily Mail reported it was not clear who was responsible as security firm G4S said it did not handle master keys. The keys are reported to be "hi-tech laser keys", which cannot be copied.

G4S would be keen to avoid further scandal, after the security admitted it could not provide the promised 10,000 staff for the London Games.

Troops invade stadiums

Fans who missed out on tickets during the ballots are enraged to find out that troops are being enlisted to fill empty seats at events. Prime seats at the swimming, gymnastics and basketball were left empty by the "Olympic family", the Guardian reports.

Staff Sergeant Marc Robson of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery told AP he was asked to send soldiers to the North Greenwich Arena for the qualifications rounds of the gymnastics. Troops are being rotated, with those outside performing security duties as planned.

"I was told to let the boys come in and enjoy the show," Robson said. "Look at them, they seem to be liking it just fine."

Other troops were given courtside seats to watch the USA play France at basketball.

"We're seat fillers," one of 15 soldiers told the Guardian. "They asked who likes basketball and we put our hands up."

And to further insult those Britons who dipped out, the Games organising committee has not ruled out offering seats to G4S security staff.

Media put in the boot

It hasn't taken long for sections of the media to slam athletes who haven't performed up to expectations. Across the ditch, the Sydney Morning Herald labelled the Aussie men's 4x100m freestyle relay team's effort in the final a "choke", after the "seemingly unbeatable" failed to place.

And in the UK, the tabloids took aim at cyclist Mark Cavendish, who came 29th in the road race despite being a hot favourite to take the gold.

The Daily Star went with the headline "From Brad to worse", writing "GREAT BRITAIN cyclist Mark Cavendish was a gold medal flop yesterday - in stark contrast to team-mate Bradley Wiggins's historic Tour de France triumph last Sunday".

The Sun joined in, dismissing the claim by Great Britain cycling boss Dave Brailsford that the GB team was "the greatest ever assembled in cycling history".

"What hubris. What a dramatic fall from grace. What a pricking of the balloon."

Meanwhile the New Zealand media have thankfully put off their "why have we not won any medals yet?" stories for another day.

Play delay causes dismay in USA

In New Zealand we have the #PrimeUnderclass, in the States it is #NBCfail.

The US network has been criticised at home for delaying the screening of major events until prime time, and for not streaming the opening ceremony live. NBC told AP it saves the big events for prime-time because more people are likely to tune in then, however viewers are scratching their heads as to why the rights holder can't show events live on TV, as well as delayed.

And across the Atlantic Brits are seething after NBC cut from what was apparently a sombre moment of reflection for the victims of the 2005 London Bombing, for a "bland" interview by Ryan Seacrest with swimmer Michael Phelps.

So Prime is in good company.

Records fall in fast pool

There have been a few world records broken in the pool, and we're only a couple of days in.

That may be because the London Aquatics Centre houses a "fast pool". The pool was specially designed for quick times, with the pool's gutters, lane markers and proportions designed to minimise turbulence in the water. The depth of the pool is adjustable, science website LiveScience reports, and is set at 3 metres to dissipate the downward waves created by the swimmers.

Forza Forciniti

Meanwhile, an unnamed nzherald.co.nz reporter is said to be obsessed with a member of the Italian judo team. Sporting dishevelled hair and a glint of insanity in her eyes, Rosalba Forciniti claimed the bronze in the women's 52kg category, beating Luxembourg's Marie Muller.

While her attacking attitude and her repeated kicks to her opponent's shins won the admiration of the entire nzherald.co.nz newsroom, one reporter is said to be particularly taken by her. "I have a history of dating crazy women," he told his colleagues. The reporter is considering learning Italian to better his chances with the 26-year-old, although he is slightly concerned about her occupation, which is listed on the London 2012 website as "police officer". She also likes "drawing and cooking".

UPDATE: Unfortunately, further research has uncovered that Forciniti has a boyfriend. Sources close to the reporter say he is "devastated".

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