Tag Archives: Russia

Our olympic experience (posted a bit late)

We were lucky enough to be allocated some tickets from the first round of ticket applications back in March 2011. Of the four sessions we went for, we were give tickets to one session of Basketball in the preliminary stage. Two games: Argentina against Tunisia and Brazil vs. Russia. So we organised a day trip to the Olympic park. Quite a wonderful experience. The volunteers were happy and helpful, the security was no bother to go through thanks to the Army. And the crowds and atmosphere in the Olympic park was fantastic. It was such an atmosphere of excitement, anticipation, and enjoyment.

I was really impressed with the venues as well. The organiser had done a good job making each venue feel like an Olympic venue with clear branding and colours (we felt the same about the venues outside the Olympic park too). The Basketball arena is a temporary structure built for the Olympics. Apparently they are going to take it down and ship it to Brazil for the next Olympics. But it was very well designed and had the feel of a great established sporting venue.

Tunisia vs Argentina

The first game (Arg vs. Tun) was quite one-sided. Argentina always had the upper hand and Tunisia always had the majority of the support of the mostly british crowd. We love an underdog. Brazil vs. Russia was much closer, with each team leading for parts of the game. The crowd was unapologetically behind Brazil. With six seconds left Brazil were up by two points while Russia had possession. A well used time-out saw them make a plan. It only took two of the six seconds for Russia to score a three pointer from the right edge of the D. In the final four seconds Brazil couldn’t strike again. What a close game!

Jessica Ennis (lane 8) breaking the British 100m hurdles record.

The night before our trip Sarah was give a ticket for the first morning session of the Athletics, by the friend we were visiting with. This was the first stage of heats and first two events of the heptathlon. Sarah was lucky enough to see Jessica Ennis break the british record in the 100m hurdles.

China vs Brazil women’s volleyball at Earls Court

I, unfortunately, didn’t find a ticket for that but did manage to get a seat at the women’s volleyball session at Earls Court the same morning. First game – Brazil vs. China. It was very close and went to the fifth set. Brazil won, and went on to win gold. The second game was more one-sided – Japan vs. Russia. Russia looked the better team, but they had to come back from one set down as Japan contained them in the first. Again, Earls Court had a great atmosphere, despite there being seats to spare.

Some excited Canadians who just won the bronze medal

A few days later we attended the Women’s football Bronze medal match at Coventry – France vs. Canada. I was impressed how they had transformed the City of Coventry Stadium (usually known as the Ricoh Arena and now home to  League One football) into something that definitely felt like an Olympic venue. We were supporting Canada, Sarah’s birthplace, as were most of the crowd. The game itself wasn’t the best, but had an exciting end. France had the most of the game, and in the second half hit the post and the bar. Canada always seemed like they took two too many touches before getting the ball into a dangerous area. The French goalkeeper didn’t really have a shot to save. But in the last five minutes the Canadians came alive and forced some chances. Extra time beckoned, but in injury time, after Canada once again looked like they had overplayed the ball, a shot deflected into the path of the Canadian striker who deftly dispatched it to send the Canadian girls, and the crowd, into delirium. They were over the moon with their bronze medals and we thoroughly enjoyed our three Olympic experience.

Can we host it every year?

The Olympic Flame

War and Peace

Having finished Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace about a week ago, here are some thoughts. I think it is almost impossible to fully review a book this big, but here are some of my reflections anyway.

1) Tolstoy has a funny relationship with history. Writing about 5 years after the events described in the book (Napoleons invasion into Russia in 1812), Tolstoy is aware of what the historians have written on the matter. He brings this into his descriptions of the course of the war but also a more down to earth approach based on his experiences serving in the Russian army. Historians like to explain things in terms of orders, plans and strategies of generals and admirals. His problem with that is that generals and admirals are often a long way from the battle lines, so when their strategies are not implemented, it is difficult to respond to the battle play-by-play. Tolstoy prefers to use other forces such as the spirit of the troops, the ideas of the day, the on the ground reactions of the individual army units. All of this combines to produce events of war that no-one is really directing. Tolstoy takes great pleasure in describing how Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, the commander in chief of the Russian Army, defied all the other general’s wishes by stepping back in retreat. This allowed the French army, which was a long way from home, had suffered heavy losses at the battle of Borodino, and crucially, did not know how to deal with the Russian cold, to effectively defeat themselves. This, Tolstoy thinks, was the work of a master who read all the signs and spirit of the war. Tolstoy seemed to think that the French were always going to defeat themselves in this war, and Kutuzov had the courage and the foresight to enable them to do it for him without risking more of his own soldiers than needed.

Tolstoy’s final chapter (Epilogue II!) is an essay on what are the forces that drive nations to war? What is power and how is it appropriated and allowed to flourish by the people. His conclusion is complex, but he remarks that nations do not go to war simply because of an Emperor’s will. He implies that the ancients might have got it right when they attributed this kind of thing to the outworking and sovereignty of God. It is only relatively recently that this has failed to be a good enough answer.

2) Tolstoy’s characters are complex, well rounded and deep. The central character, Pierre, is portrayed as a likeable buffoon who is lumbering through life trying to find truth and meaning and something he enjoys, and he always seems dissatified with the society of nobility that he is a part of. To him, it seems shallow (and is epitomised in his wife, Helene, who is only interested in social advancement). Pierre’s search for truth leads him to join the Freemasons, to get involved in social improvement for his peasant labourers, to try and make a mark on history buy coming up with a ridiculous plan to assassinate Napoleon. In the end he finds it is the simple things of like that make it worthwhile and fulfilling – having one’s personal needs met and being thankful to God for it, having a deep, true, and real relationships including a secure marriage relationship (in his second marriage after his first wife, Helene, dies), and in his family. For Tolstoy, meaning is as simple as this. (If Pierre had discovered this sooner, the book would be shorter)

3) The book is full of examples of how to and how not to do life. As in one of Tolstoy’s other books, Anna Karenina, it is stability, faithfulness and sense that are promoted. The continual lust for money, power, social advancement are all found to be empty, unfulfilling, and the path to destruction.

For the LORD gives wisdom, 
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just 
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, 
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths 
to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. (Prov 2:6-11)