Ray of sunshine
Jo Healy gets the chance to soak up some sunshine at the Riverbank Arena on the penultimate day of the 2012 Games
By Jo Healy. Last Updated: September 7, 2012 11:00pm
Riverbank Arena: venue for the 5-a-side and 7-a-side competitions during the Paralympics
The penultimate day of the Paralympics. It is weird to think that this remarkable event will be over in only a number of hours.
What a journey it has been for the Great Britain team. And even more so for the British public, who are finally taking notice of these great athletes and appreciating disability sport.
I overheard a conversation today between two men on the Javelin heading to Olympics Park. Both men were probably in their mid-forty's and obviously didn't know a huge amount about sport. One of them said he was pleased that the crowds were showing their support for ParalympicsGB, which of course is very positive.
The ignorance came when he said he was surprised that the crowds cheered for the other medallists that weren't British. Why wouldn't they, I thought.
Perhaps he is used to the booing that occurs at football matches. At least they were on their way to Olympic Park for the second time, so it must be catching on.
"The shaded stands were full, but there were a lot of seats empty in the sun. Obviously the spectators didn't have the same idea as me to embrace the rare sunshine and take in some vitamin D."
Jo Healy Quotes of the week
Speaking of football, today was my first visit to Riverbank Arena, where the 5-a-side and 7-a-side competitions are being held. The arena is open air, and what an amazing day to be sat outside, the sun beaming down and putting a spring in my step.
It was the men's 7-a-side semi-final between defending champions Ukraine and the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was late in the afternoon and the media seating was in the shade. I walked around to the spectator area and walked up into the stand. One of the marshals saw my media accreditation and asked if I had a ticket. I replied and said 'no, I don't'. At this point I thought he would send me back to the shaded stand. Instead, he quickly said to me, 'hide your accreditation and sit yourself down.' What a legend.
The match itself was entertaining, and Iran did a great job to keep Ukraine goalless in the first half. Ukraine had a lot of possession and a number of close shots on goal. The second half saw the finishes come to light, Ukraine ending up 2-1 winners and booking themselves a place in the final against Russia.
The rules of Paralympic 7-a-side football state that the players must be ambulant athletes with cerebral palsy. Some of the players appeared able bodied, others had one arm that was slightly less mobile than the other, but that didn't affect the level of their play. It was fast and skilful, far better than what I had imagined, and for that I am so glad that I had the chance to experience it.
The shaded stands were full, but there were a lot of seats empty in the sun. Obviously the spectators didn't have the same idea as me to embrace the rare sunshine and take in some vitamin D. Both teams were well supported and there were groups of people chanting 'Ukraine' and 'Iran' around the arena. There was a horn or vuvuzela type instrument that sent a piercing siren into the air every 30 seconds. As much as people complain about vuvuzelas, the lone siren was actually great and added to the atmosphere.
I also took a friend of mine to the ExCel to see the boccia. I have been based at the exhibition centre for much of the Pralympics, presenting at the sitting volleyball, but was yet to see the boccia competition. It is for athlete's with functional impairment in all four limbs, but despite the severity of their physical disabilities, you could really see them thinking and focusing on the tactics involved.
The crowds were fantastic and the arena was full to the brim with spectators. I got chatting to the woman sitting next to me about the rules of the game. She played bowls herself so understood it better than I did. I cherished the fact that she was able to explain the rules because it really helped me to get into it.
For anyone who hasn't seen it, Boccia is quite a slow game, so if you didn't understand it I imagine it would be frustrating to watch. But this wasn't at all, as Great Britain's David Smith was in action and the fans absolutely loved it.