Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Synchronized Swimming: A First-Hand Account From London

Readers, we have a special treat for you today.  I have a friend named Julia, who in turn has a friend named Julia.  Julia once removed is currently living in London and was lucky enough to score tickets to one of the synchronized swimming events.  She kindly agreed to share her first-hand account and pictures of the experience with all of you!

"Duet Synchronized Swimming is the event to see!"
Claire and I had the great fortune of being able to attend Synchronized Swimming at the Olympics this afternoon. We took the Javelin train (6 minutes) from St. Pancras to Stratford, and a much discussed ordeal about transport was in reality effortless. An abundance of chirpy and enthusiastic volunteers greeted us at every turn, as we followed the fuchsia signs to the Olympic park, and although warned for Airport security lines, we simply went through the metal detector without any waiting, and proceeded into the grand Olympic Park. Unfortunately we were visually accosted with the much contested Orbit sculpture by Anish Kappor, so we rapidly turned our focus on the beautifully landscaped wild flowers that lined the canals, that were once industrial wasteland's and industrial water ways. We were giddy by all the colourful flags that seemingly hundreds of people from all over the world were proud to carry. We saw several picnic tables monopolized by Olympic pin collectors displaying their collection- and perhaps even trading with other pin hoarders!
Some Olympic Park scenery.

Meet guest blogger Julia once removed!

Julia and Claire have their tickets! 
The hour was approaching, for us to attend our event, so we casually made our way over to the Aquatic center. We were constantly surprised by the ease to get everywhere and yet the tremendous amount of people who were around us- it was actually impressive that we never felt claustrophobic or overwhelmed, although it was probably we were amidst possibly a million people. We almost were short of breath when we reached out seats atop the Aquatic Center. But we still had fantastic views of the pool, and of another monitor that would show close ups. As this was not a medaling event, but simply a qualifier, we were informed before there would be 24 teams competing.
"Here is the Aquatic Center pool for the action."

"Here is the action from our seats."
The North Koreans were the first to perform....we had no idea what to expect, and although slightly taken aback by their techno rendition of classical music that accompanied their performance- we thought they did well. That impression soon dissolved- as the Spanish took the stage. With flamenco, salsa, and tango ( we were worried they had taken the Argentinian's music selection away) they double back flipped, swam so in unison and so close together, we could only imagine that with a slight mistake they would have knocked the other unconscious, as their legs moved so rapidly up and down and in and out of the water- it was really quite an exercise to watch.
We would then sit for next two hours to see the Russian's do a fabulous job, the Ukraine, Kazikstan, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Israel,  Switzerland, Austria, Australia, the Czech Republic, France, the USA, and South Korea do a decent job to similar music. In fact we found most of the music quite frightening, with lots of references to Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Carribean, Harry Potter, James Bond and other action film scores, there were lots of chimes and drums, and we could only presume that helped with the drama of the routine- but we found it slightly terrifying and disturbing. It turns out in their 3 minute routines, they spent half that time underwater, and there are speakers underwater so they can hear the music throughout the performance...
The UK team did not live up to the enthusiasm in the stadium, but the cheering for them did send shivers down my back. I emotionally soared with the crowd as they cheered the UK team on- it was really incredible, and I could only imagine what it must have felt like in the Athletic stadium when Jessica Ennis won because there would have been 10 times as many people there.....
Canada did a tremendous job, with a fun lighthearted circus act of sorts to slightly more avant guard music- we were enchanted and the judges too as they took 4th place. Then the Japanese came on and they were a powerhouse of singularity- every eye twitch seemed to be matched up. It was really incredible. The Chinese of course had a tactically more rigorous routine that must have impressed the judges, but I think it lacked the grace the Spanish and Russians had had. By the penultimate act, we were so fed up with the dramatic music (we were praying for some classic band stand or motown music- we did not get this) but we were amused with the Argentinean's doing a fun final performance to the soundtrack of Chorus Line. It was memorable, even if not as impressive as some of the other acts. 
After 150 minutes of synchronized swimming, we felt exhausted, entertained, informed, and had much more respect for the athletes- they are athletes! We also kept chuckling to ourselves as the whole affair seemed strange, bizarre, silly and completely ridiculous- to spend an afternoon watching water ballet- it was wonderful! 
We left the stadium only to run into my friend Nick and his girlfriend Charlotte [editor's note: Julia once removed and Nick are collaborative partners and make artwork together in funny places with visors while going by the name VoglJones]. We compared notes, had a beer and wandered around the rest of the park, hearing cheers as we went by different buildings- the velodrome, the main stadium, the water polo arena... I am excited to return one day when it is just a park and not an Olympic center- it really is a beautiful place. I am glad that I got to see it in full action! 
VoglJones reunites at the Olympics!

A historic day- to be part of the Olympics- and a fun one too!

So many events to see!

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