LONDON — The men’s gymnastics team final was about Team Great Britain winning its first team medal since 1912. It was about China taking gold, and about Japan successfully appealing Kohei Uchimura’s final pommel-horse performance to jump from fourth to second, pushing the Brits from silver to bronze and sending the crowd into a booing frenzy. It was about Ukraine celebrating its improbable bronze … and then having it taken away by the judges a few minutes later. (Asked how his athletes took the news, Ukraine coach Yuliy Kuksenkov deadpanned, “Probably, they are not happy.”)
What the men’s final was not about was the United States. The Americans, who finished first in qualification, stumbled early on the pommel horse and vault, and were never in real contention for a medal. They finished fifth. “I don’t know if you saw,” John Orozco, the U.S.’ 19-year-old, Bronx-born sensation, said of his vault, “but I fell straight on my butt.”
The shot above is Orozco’s crestfallen expression after receiving a miserable vault score of 14.600. Yet it is not the saddest photo in the blog’s tour of an afternoon at North Greenwich Arena. I saved that one for last.
The Gymnastics Tour
The first thing you encounter after emerging from the North Greenwich tube is the exterior of what’s normally called the O2 Bubble (at left), except its name had to be sanitized to “North Greenwich Arena” because O2 isn’t a corporate sponsor of the Olympics.
This, if you can believe it, is the first “Need Ticket” sign I’ve seen at the Games. He was not a scalper, or as they call them here, a tout — just a dude who was S.O.L. on a way into gymnastics.
The lobby of the arena is a veritable festival of orbs:
Gymnastics has no halftime, so they do the song-and-dance routine as a sort of crowd-warmup activity. This was Pixie Lott, whose bio of accomplishments includes being named “Hottest Female” by the Virgin Music Media Awards in 2011. (Ryan Seacrest was in the arena, doing some sort of intro of his own for NBC, but I could not bring myself to take a picture. Sorry.)
Before the actual gymnasts emerged, we were forced to watch a big spotlight-and-dramatic-music production titled “The Art of Gymnastics.” This is Mr. Dark Horse.
The athletes’ walk-in is not exactly grand, but it features country placards on sticks.
I bought a headset so I could listen to the house’s internal play-by-play feed, which included the line, “And he punches the air with delight!” no fewer than five times.
Another line overheard on my headset, about Britain’s Louis Smith (seen below) on pommel horse: “He is swinging with the poise, precision and expertise we have come to know from him.”
The Japanese section had the highest flag density — something that no doubt swayed the judges in their controversial adjustment of the final standings.
From the Team GB media guide, their 1904 (on the left) and 1908 gymnastic teams. The guy on the right, Walter Tysall, is wearing the original Bling Shirt. I assume he didn’t actually compete in it.
Continuing the blog’s quest to document British soldiers-as-seat-fillers, I bring you this section:
Team GB was downright stunned when they jumped into second place with a brilliant series of floor exercises in the final rotation. (They also did quite well on the high bar in the previous round, when the headphone play-by-play man described a Kristian Thomas release as “so high above the high bar he could have cleaned the ceiling.”)
… and the British fans reacted accordingly:
China, with a dominant, controversy-free performance, took gold …
… bringing us to the saddest photo of the day. The Ukrainian team, just after they learned Japan was stealing their medal:
“We think we deserved the medal,” their coach, Kuksenkov, said later. “But there is nothing we can do.”
He then attempted to put what happened in Olympic context by saying, “When you are in athletics, 100 meters is how well you run it. Sometimes in gymnastics, you run 95 meters, or 105 meters.”
The metaphor was mucked up through a translator, but I understand what Kuksenkov was trying to say. In gymnastics, you run it, and then the judges take over.