Here is 1 thing I adore about the Olympics: seeing those who are the very best on earth at a incredibly niche game, and seeing how amazing at said game it’s likely to be.
For Example. I went to find the guys’s second-round ping pong yesterday, in the Excel Centre, dropped in some of the bleaker wastelands of east London out from the Dome and the odd wild heaths and helpless docks. Ping pong (I heard from our small facts-about-your-chosen-sport booklet) is the largest participation sport in the world, apparently. I am able to believe that, because nearly everybody on the planet needs to have picked up a paddle at a certain point and patted a small plastic ball back and forth with a buddy. However, as a spectator sport, it’s cruelly neglected.
That’s really a shame, as it is the very best live game I’ve ever noticed. The absolute speed that the ball moves, the imperceptible instants where the players respond; the extraordinary twist on the shots, making the chunks swerve through pre-programmed angles. I moved to Wimbledon for the first time a month or so ago, and observed Federer and Djokovich drama (not each other) on Centre Court, and it was remarkable, but – if due to the space between me and the actions, or due to the game itself – it felt significantly less implausible than the ping pong. There’s a whole second or so from once the ball leaves Player A’s racquet and reaches on Player B’s: pock … pock … pock. In ping pong, it is a machine-gun rattle, pockpockpockpockpockpockpock; their hands go such as Agent Smith’s at The Matrix, a semi-visible blur, as well as rallies continue the players are pushed further and farther back, until they are standing 15 feet or longer from the desk, but aiming the ball straight back in bullet rates on to the modest desk-sized distance of the opponent’s court with unerring precision. It’s honestly jaw-dropping.
What was even better was that we watched a British participant triumph. Paul Drinkhall, a 22-year-old Middlesbrough lad having an ill-advised earring, defeated his better-fancied Singaporean opponent (53 places above him in the world rankings) 4-1, also proceeded to the final 32 of the contest. How often in a table-tennis participant’s career will a bunch of 6,000 chant their title? Six million people, the huge majority of whom I envision will probably not have seen reside ping pong earlier, bellowing like lifelong lovers for a guy they have never heard of; that is not how British men and women are expected to act. It is symptomatic of the epidemic of psychological openness that the funds is undergoing. There has been a surprising sense of togetherness; it is a vision of what Britain could be like when we fell the too-cool-to-emote irony.
Not everything is ideal, by any way. The District Light Railway broke yesterday, stranding countless Shadwell; it not just rained everywhere but really broke out from thunder and lightning, and they needed to block the east London cable-car item to protect against a kind of budget disaster movie. And there’s still a grimly corporate atmosphere in areas, together with all the “PROUD TO ONLY ACCEPT VISA” signals (proud? Really? Not, by way of instance, “humiliated”?) And the tens of thousands of empty chairs, left side by a few IOC fatcat or ungrateful host.
But unexpectedly the book and space and coolness towards the Olympics was dropped. You may view it in how we turned on Mitt Romney and Aidan Burley: we have spent the previous seven decades fretting that we are likely to embarrass ourselves in front of earth, but today that it is here and it appears to be working out OK, we won’t accept dull naysayers seeking to perform down it ping pong playing robot.
Incidentally Paul Drinkhall, my table-tennis enthusiast, was pumped out a couple of minutes back from the next round, from the German world No 12. But it does not matter; he has done his bit. As have Danny Boyle and Rebecca Adlington and everybody. During the Opening Ceremony (I eventually got around to seeing it on album last night), if the Queen jumped from a helicopter, David Beckham hurtled up the lake at a speedboat, along with countless individuals globally got an opinion of Britishness since the British sense it, I sensed an odd stressed feeling in my chest. I’ve since recognized it as civic pride and patriotism. This has to be how Americans feel all of the time.