On Sunday 29 July we got up very early to see our first Olympic event, archery at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Luckily we didn’t have very far to go, which was one of the reasons we applied for the tickets in the first place. When we got to Lord’s just after 8am, there were no queues at all and the very helpful army guys made sure we got quickly through the security checks. I had finished my first four days as a Games Maker the previous day but couldn’t help wearing my Games Maker watch and shoes on my day off.
The setting was absolutely beautiful with the morning sun shining down on the two temporary stands which had been erected on the outfield of the famous cricket ground. The Olympic capacity was only 4,000 compared to the usual 29,500 spectators for cricket games. It didn’t feel crowded at all although there was a bit of a queue for coffee this early in the morning. Many children had a go with bow and arrow at the shooting range outside the Lord’s museum before taking their seats in the stands.
Our tickets were for the women’s team event. According to our spectator guide, “the aim of archery is simple: to shoot arrows as close to the centre of a target as possible. The targets are 122 centimetres in diameter, with the gold ring at the centre measuring just 12.2cm and worth a maximum 10 points. Archers shoot at the target from a distance of 70m.” Each team consists of three competitors who compete in a best-of-24-arrows format. The team with the highest score wins and goes through to the next round. The guide also advised us to put our phones on silent, not to use flash photography and to be as quiet as possible when the archer pulls back the bow string.
We saw four matches in the first elimination round: India – Denmark, Japan – Ukraine, Russia – Great Britain and China – Italy. The winners of these four matches then went into the quarterfinals against four higher ranked teams. I didn’t really know how ‘watchable’ archery would be. It was almost impossible to see the arrows on their flight but with the help of the large screens we could see where the arrows hit the target. The matches were very tight with the targets routinely being filled with scores of nines and 10s and both Denmark and China winning their matches with the last shot.
The Union Jacks came out when the British team walked into the arena for the third game. The team, led by Alison Williamson competing in her sixth Olympic Games, did really well and led Russia at the halfway stage. Unfortunately the Russians came back strongly and eventually won the match 215-208. Seeing the British team in action really got the crowd going. Until then people were appreciative rather than enthusiastic, possibly because it was very early on a Sunday morning or because of the advice to be quiet.
Our session finished just after 11am. The teams contested the quarterfinals and medal rounds in another session later that day. In the end the favourites from Korea, who had a bye in the first round, won the gold medal match against China by one point with Japan taking the bronze.
It was an interesting atmosphere with many families in the crowd, often with small children who struggled with the idea of being very quiet. Given that most people were there just to see any Olympic action, it felt a bit like a large picnic crowd. Most people, including us, didn’t know much about the sport on show, although there were some supporters from the other competing nations including a large contingent from Denmark scattered across our stand. A the start of the day some cricket fans were clearly most excited about the prospect of walking onto the Lord’s pitch. We left Lord’s and walked home along the Grand Union Canal positively surprised of how much we had enjoyed our first taste of Olympic action.