Everybody likes diving at the Olympics. It takes next to nothing in terms of understanding its rules – learn ‘tuck’ and ‘pike’ and all of a sudden you’re an expert.
It’s inoffensive. You usually know who’s going to win. It doesn’t take very long. And there’s nothing wrong with a sport that lets you jump into a hot tub every ten minutes, now is there?
Paul and I got tickets to the diving relatively late. It was on the top of plenty of people’s lists, like the cycling and the swimming, and we managed to come across them through a friend of Paul’s. They just so happened to be for my birthday, and for my first ever gold medal event, the 3m synchronised springboard. What a birthday present.
I’d never been in an Olympic aquatic centre before, either after a Games or during one. They’ve seemed somewhat forbidden, only for those with money or a swing tag around their neck for FINA or some type of sponsor. Finally I was going inside, and I was mighty excited.
So I was pretty let down when I took my seat in London’s Aquatic Centre. To put it blunty, it was of a terrible design, created by someone who wanted to show off the external aesthetics but forgot about the crowd inside. It does look impressive from the outside, I’ll give it that. The two grandstands are temporary, and they look like giant dove’s wings on the exterior.
Once you’re seated, though, you realise that something is missing. It’s atmosphere. If you look directly ahead, at eye level, all you can see is roof. You can’t see the crowd on the other side – you can hardly even hear them.
Why is this so important? Because that’s why you’re there, and not just watching at home on the television. You want to be spurred on by those witnessing the same thing as you are, sharing the moment with them. You want to see others react at the same time as you. You want to point out the Ukranian cheersquad and the group of Mexicans going nuts, marvelling at their reactions and unique way of celebrating the achievements of one of their countrymen. For the locals, they want to be part of the en masse, the famed Team GB.
But no, we could view a roof, and if we looked directly down, past the steepest stand I’ve ever perched upon, you could see two Olympians fling themselves into the water.
Which, of course, was pretty damn impressive. Not only were they performing particular little routines in mid-air, they were doing in in sync. Nobody ever confesses to being a fan of synchronised swimming, but synchronised diving? Everybody loves a bit of that.
For the uninitiated, the synchronised diving doesn’t have a qualifying round – if you make it to the Olympics, you’re already in the final. Preliminaries were held weeks in advance, so pairs had five dives to claim the gold. The first two are strictly simple dives, no more than a 2.2 degree of difficulty, but there’s no limits to the following three. Somersalts, twists and those good old pikes and tucks were all on show.
The whole thing went very quickly, and in the end there were no surprises – the Chinese pair won by a mile. Being the professional diving judge that I am, they were brilliant. Hardly a splash.