The excitement of London’s Olympic Games has been palpable, thanks in no small part to the awesome efforts of British athletes, which has made us third on the medal table (at time of writing), which is pretty unheard-of. While the pomp and circumstance of the event, like the eclectically epic Opening Ceremony, has contributed to the thrill of having the Olympics in our beloved city, I think it’s also about the accessibility of witnessing these superhuman feats. Some people (like my friends Colemans and Deej) have got to see a huge array of big-ticket events – either through epic ticket-balloting, or PR schmoozing – but others have got to see the more niche events, like Greco-Roman wrestling, and their excitement has been just as great.
I managed to score a last-minute ticket for the Fencing (Women’s Epee semi-final) last week, and the thrill of seeing these athletes IRL managed to shake off all my hard-won London cynicism. Getting to see such an extraordinary sport live was quite a learning experience, and also kind of terrifying. Although i love the fierce beauty of fencing that I’ve seen in the fillums, the actual sport is something else. Still beautiful to watch, but also kind of baffling and even brutal. The bouts are highly technical, not just in the way they are played, but in the outfits too – all of the points are scored electronically, with helmets and swords wired up like a server. The piste (field of play) and the fencer’s helmet light up when a point is scored, or an advantage won, which lends the arena a rather futuristic air.
But more extraordinary was the sounds emanating from the fencers themselves, who let out a primal scream (not a Seles-style grunt) when they score. It seems to be both an expression of triumph and a release of the incredible tension and concentration needed for each 3-minute bout, but it was also pretty unnerving too. As a result, the juxtaposition of primal and futuristic lent the Fencing arena a rather Thunderdome atmosphere (as you can see from my barely-Instagrammed picture above). It’s an experience I could never have got from the telly and will probably never forget. And for that, the rush and the expense and the thrill of the Olympics in our fair city is worth every penny.