London beckons


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Focus sport: synchronised swimming

For the hard core, it has the ‘dodgy’ tag and there is no point in avoiding that. Variously described as water ballet or pool gymnastics, it falls under the umbrella of aquatics.

Nose clips, painted smiles and top-of-the-range water-proof make-up does little to harden up the image of synchronised swimming. Then again maybe what has been an Olympic sport since 1984 does not want to harden up.

What it has attracted recently is accusations of discrimination in that only women participate at the Games, although men practise and compete in the sport too. A lobby group of male synchronised swimmers wrote to the IOC and swimming’s governing body Fina in June to argue that men should no longer be excluded from this event at the Olympics.

The group, which includes the London swimming group Out To Swim, said this was gender discrimination despite the Olympic Charter condemning any discrimination. Let’s not get into all the events that exclude women.

Gender issues aside, athletes require strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance to perform the difficult routines. Swimmers perform twice for the judges, one technical and one free, as well as age-group routines and figures. Although it’s a relatively recent addition to the Olympics, synchronised swimming has been around for a bit.

In 1933-1934 Kathryn Curtis organised a show, “The Modern Mermaids”, for the World Exhibition in Chicago, which the announcer introduced as “synchronized swimming”. This was the first mentioning of the term synchronized swimming, although Curtis still used the term rhythmic swimming in her book, Rhythmic Swimming: A Source Book of Synchronized Swimming and Water Pageantry (Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co, 1936). Water Pageantry sounds good. Dodgy?

London Spectator – Hyde Park Marathon Swim August 9th-10th

As you may have gathered London is doing ‘iconic’ with their Olympic venues.

Another is Hyde Park, where 3,000 spectators will enjoy views of the marathon swimming event (and triathlon) in the park’s famous Serpentine Lake.

Having swum in the Serpentine we can vouch that it’s murky and there are birds everywhere.

Just what the nature lovers around South Kensington and Bayswater will do with all of the Shoveler, Pochard, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck and various warblers and waders that live on the lake, we don’t know.

The London 2012 organisers have said that they will make every effort to ensure that the park is returned to its usual condition once the Games have concluded.

The spectator grandstand next to the Serpentine Lake will be carefully dismantled and Hyde Park’s standard recreational and leisure activities will be relatively undisturbed.

Home to numerous amateur sports clubs, such as the Serpentine Swimming Club, the park has also frequently hosted large scale sports events – including the London edition of the annual ITU World Triathlon Series.

The open water marathon swimming 10km event will take place over two days on 9th and 10th of August, with the female swimmers on the first day and the male swimmers participating on the second.

The 10km swim was introduced to the Olympic schedule at the Beijing 2008 Games and the distance takes just under two hours to complete for the elite men and women participants.

Hyde Park has been open to the public since 1637 and is the most expansive of London’s Royal Parks.

On one side is the high end retail outfit Harrods, the other Park Lane and Marble Arch and towards Kensington High Street is Kensington Palace.

The Serpentine Gallery is another focal point as is the Lady Diana Memorial located just beside the lake and close to the Serpentine Swimming Club.

The park has become a traditional location for mass demonstrations.

The Chartists, the Reform League, the Suffragettes and the Stop The War Coalition have all held protests there.

Will we get another for the Olympics?

Odds on.

O'Neill leads charge but misses opening ceremony

Irish middleweight champion Darren O’Neill may feel that he is leading the charge in about three weeks time.

The Kilkenny boxer’s weight division is scheduled for the first day of action on the Saturday after Friday night’s opening ceremony on July 27th.

The captain of a team in which many people believe our best medal hopes rest, O’Neill qualified for London 2012 last year at the World Championships in Baku.

First day action also means that he won’t attend the opening ceremony at the stadium as they tend to run on late into the evening.

Most countries who have athletes performing the day after the ceremony will keep them away from the spectacle.

“Yeah. I won’t be going to the opening ceremony because I’m on the first day,” he says.

“Look, I’ll miss it but what about it? I’d prefer to be boxing than watch the opening ceremony.”

O’Neill, like Paddy Barnes, slipped down the rankings this week, although, not as dramatically as the Belfast light flyweight. He has fallen to seventh in the world, not at all a bad ranking to take into London.

“There should be four byes,” he says of the middleweight draw. “I was hoping to get one of those but strangely and bizarrely they changed the rankings and I’ve slipped down.

“We think it’s going to affect the seeding but as far as I know they’ve moved me down to seven but one ahead of me, a Russian, won’t be at the Olympics.

“So I’ll still be in the top six, I’ll still be seeded, so that should mean I won’t meet any of the other top six until the later stages.”

O’Neill knows better than anyone that different factors play their part. There is little between the boxers in Europe as the spread of recent medals suggests.

The judging can sometimes work against a fighter and the primary school teacher knows that luck can also play a part.

“Obviously the Ukrainian and the Japanese are the two top boys there but there’s very little between the middleweights.

“I’ve said it before, if you take 2010 and 2011, nobody managed to repeat a medal so that’s eight different medallists.

“Later in 2011 there was a chance for nine European boxers to qualify for the Olympics and out of the eight medallists, only two of us have qualified.

“So it shows you. That’s 15 boxers across Europe at that level, and that’s Europe alone.”

Next week the team is off to Italy for preparation and from there straight to London. It’s now the home stretch.

“Everyone’s in good shape at the minute,” he says. “We’re looking forward to getting to Assisi and driving it on from there.”

London's a-twitter

Alistair Cragg @alistaircragg

Proud to have been selected to the Irish Olympic team for London 2012. This is my 3rd olympics and looking to make it 3for3 in finals made

Paul Hession @phession

Getting there! Helsinki will have brought me on nicely. Should set me up really well for London.

Chloe Magee @chloenmagee

Not long till we hit London now! ?#excited

Jessie Barr @JessieBarr247

@olympiccouncil: Team Ireland London 2012 Qualifiers. First name on the list!! Woooo

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