Posted: 8/26/2008
Title: PING PONG'S COMING HOME

Blog:                                                                                                                         

      The Beijing Games are finally over. We have thrilled at the big time sports such as track&field, swimming, boxing, but also 'fringe' sports, cycling, rowing, taiquando, beach volleyball, table tennis, volleyball and more. No democracy could spend what the Chinese did and to follow would be foolish and be unacceptable to the public.

      At the hand-over ceremony in the Birds' Nest Stadium and the post ceremony London 2012 party London's Mayor Boris Johnson made a part funny, part bumbling, part politically incorrect speech which had its amusing moments. He mentioned that table tennis derived from a country estate weekend invention on the dinning tables of the English gentry, to the game that China claims it invented and reigns supreme, and said that 'Ping Pong is Coming Home'.  In 1996 the European Soccer Championships were held in England. I went to matches at Wembley, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham, with the streets, city centres and stadiums decorated with former English great players and the 'Football's Coming Home' banners and theme song. The goal by (Gazza) Paul Gascoine in the 2-0 defeat of Scotland at the old Wembley Stadium was one of the most memorable in my lifetime.

      Most of the British delegation arrives home in a chartered British Airways charter flight named PRIDE, and painted with a golden nose cone.  Twelve years ago at Atlanta 1996 ,Team GB won only one gold medal. Following the money pumped into British Olympic sport from the National Lottery, in Beijing the team won 19 gold, and 47 medals overall, fourth behind China, USA and Russia.

      East London is being transformed into an Olympic Park for the third Olympics to be held in the capital city. I have referred to the Austerity Olympics of 1948 a few days ago, but the first London Games were in 1908, and the first Games where teams were pre-selected, rather than anybody who could afford to show up taking part. 

      A huge stadium was built, The White City, with a cycle track, inside of which was a 3 lap to the mile running track, and on the infield was a swimming pool, diving pool and platform for wrestling, fencing and gymnastics. There were 22 sports including polo, rackets, rugby, wrestling, water motor sports, and 2,008 athletes including 37 women.

      It was part of a huge 140 acre site of the Anglo-French Exposition, who built the 60,000 capacity stadium in exchange for 75% of the receipts. Mayor Johnson also mentioned that the London Metropolitan Police won gold for the tug of war. There were only 5 teams. USA complained about the boots of their opponents, Liverpool Police and refused to continue after the first 'tug'. Liverpool beat K Divison police after Sweden had stormed off in the first round and London beat Liverpool for Gold.

      Only six teams entered the soccer tournament, including 2 from France. Denmark beat France 'B' 9-0 and then France 'A' 17-1. Great Britain beat Sweden 12-1. In the final Great Britain defeated Denmark 2-0 and despite a massive loss, The Swedes played Holland for the bronze medal after France 'A', were too shocked to turn up. It was poorly attended. 8,000 fans for the final, but only 1,000 - 2,000 for the earlier matches.

      The most memorable news was the Marathon, with Dorando Pietri, a 22 year old Italian leading into the stadium at the end the 26 mile 385 yard (42.195 km)race. He was exhausted and wobbled around on unsteady legs, and was held up by the race referee and bundled over the line. After a protest the American runner Johnny Hayes was given the gold. Queen Alexander presented Pietri win a silver cup and he went home to Naples and made lots of liras racing professionally.

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