When people talked about the 2012 Olympics, it was often referred to as the LONDON Olympics but what a lot of people didn’t realise, was that the whole of England was used for competing events. E.g.Weymouth and Portland were used for sailing events, locations in Essex and Surrey were used for cycling and mountain biking events and St James Stadium in Newcastle, 3 hours north of London, was used for the Quarter Final Men’s Football match.
The Newcastle and Gateshead Initiative, the official tourism centre for Newcastle, Gateshead and the surrounding areas, offered me two free tickets to the game and I gladly accepted. I am not even a football fan but the desire to share in the spirit of the Olympics was too strong. I decided to take my best friend who, incidentally, is also not a football fan but who was equally keen to share in the spirit of the Olympics. Seems there was a lot of it going around.
We didn’t know who we were going to watch until the last minute. The game was going to be played between the winners of Category C and the runners up of Category B. A few days before the game, we had the results – it was going to be Brazil vs Honduras. How exciting! Even without being a football fan, I knew that Brazil were an amazing team.
Walking through Newcastle that Saturday was like walking through a huge sunflower field – EVERYONE was wearing yellow – Brazil’s colour. Honduras’s blue flag wasn’t easily spotted but there were a few brave fans waving their flags. The roads around the stadium were blocked off and special pedestrian ways created. Olympic staff wearing the Game’s official colour of pink, were scattered throughout the city with maps, friendly smiles and knowledgable information about the upcoming event. The feeling was almost festive but that could have been the number of ‘carnival-type’ parades and groups of Brazil fans meeting on every street corner.
I wondered how the Honduras team must be feeling as they were about to take on a team of Football Giants. I didn’t envy their manager or coach – they must have needed to give the team the motivational talk of a lifetime.
On entering the stadium, the buzz was almost tangible. We climbed what seemed to be at least 5 flights of stairs, all the time laughing at the fact that we never would have thought we’d be going to a football match together and certainly not an OLYMPIC football match. Higher and higher we climbed. Eventually, we found our seats and I’m not joking when I say they were the last row right at the back. But actually, they were amazing seats. We could see the whole field, the whole stadium and a lot of the city beyond. Just perfect!
It’s hard to see from the photo above or below, but yellow was definitely the colour of the day.
After each national anthem was played and everyone on each team had shaken hands with each other, the match began.
Just then, a solitary Honduras fan made his way up the stairs towards us. He sat a few seats to our left in amongst the sea of yellow, wearing his pale blue Honduras football shirt. Here was a loyal fan and he actually proved to be very entertaining that afternoon!
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this game. I am not a football fan, as I previously mentioned but I do understand the rules…a bit. I guess I thought I would just sit there and watch while absorbing the energy of the Olympics. But the strangest thing happened….and it happened to both me and my best friend. We got completely swept away by the game and the atmosphere!
Before we realised what was happening, we were both supporting the boys in yellow. Shouting, ooh’ing and aah’ing and clapping – it was like I had been taken over by some strange football-supporter spirit. Strangely enough, even though I thought Brazil would monopolise the game, Honduras gave Brazil a complete run-around for the first half. Our friend in blue, the only Honduras fan in this whole section was completely uninhibited and shouted his encouragement to his team, swore (probably) at Brazil in his own language and jumped up and down with enthusiasm like I’ve never seen.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any stranger, we found ourselves sympathising with the Honduras fan and we were certainly not alone. The crazy looks that this loyal man had been getting from everyone around us at the start of the game, changed to sympathy and then respect and before I and many of the others realised what was happening, we were all shouting for Honduras.
This fan’s face was a picture as he realised he was getting more support and together we all did our best to urge the boys in blue on.
Astonishingly, up until almost half way through the second half, Honduras were leading but then some sloppy footwork and a couple of seemingly unfair decisions courtesy of the ref, saw Brazil edge forward and score the equalising goal and ultimately win the game.
I was gutted. The underdogs had played their hearts out and had lost the game, albeit only in the final half which in itself, was quite an achievement. I felt exhilarated and tingly from the excitement. It was more than I could say for the poor Honduras fan. However he left his seat and had his hand shaken by more than just a few people. A touching moment…
I left that day not sure what had happened to me. I had thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of a football match and had experienced a healthy dose of the Olympic spirit. I felt honoured, proud, excited and was left wondering if I’d now start spending my Saturday afternoons watching premier league football.
Did you have a chance to see any of the Olympics? How did you find the spirit? Did you find yourself getting caught up in the atmosphere?
Tell me everything…