independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

The secret Olympian: Positives and negatives send jolt to system

Although I didn't bother going out, stories abounded this morning of the gold medal celebrations last night. Seemingly the Irish House was absolutely packed out, with punters queueing halfway down the street in the hope that Katie Taylor might show up and give them a glimpse of her gold medal.

As it turned out, she did arrive with her dad Pete and went into the house to deafening cheers and applause. Katie is not one for fussing over herself though and she just stayed long enough to flash her medal, sign her picture on the wall and have a few photos taken before vanishing into the London evening.

Although she will be coming home with the rest of us on Monday, as far as I know, Katie has actually left the village now and is going to spend the last day or two with her family, which is fair enough.

It's amazing how sporting triumphs and disasters can affect your mood in here, even if they're not your own. Boxer Paddy Barnes put up a great effort today against the defending Olympic champion. Although he was behind going into it, he had a cracker of a third round and when we heard it was going to countback we all thought he was going to win. But somehow they gave it to the other guy.

Being on the Olympic squad and being around these guys and everyone else day after day for the past couple of weeks, eating with them, meeting them in the village, watching them train the odd day, having a chat or a joke -- it's a bit like having sporting bipolar disorder.

When someone wins a medal there is a sense of euphoria around the camp but equally the sense of despair when someone loses is crushing.

Heads dropped and silence descended everywhere when Paddy Barnes lost today, even though he has done fantastically well to earn a second Olympic bronze. We knew he wanted gold, so we all wanted it for him. Of course he is very disappointed, but he did all he could.

Half an hour later though, we were jumping around the place again after John Joe Nevin's semi-final victory. John Joe is a lovely guy but has that bit of a cheeky streak, as anyone who saw him do the Mullingar shuffle in the ring will attest to. He was absolutely brilliant today and if he can keep that up in the final then I think he can get gold. Whether he wins or not though, these guys have been trying their heart out, which is all anyone can ask for. You can't do any more than your best.

With just a couple of days left now some people are beginning to really let their hair down. Even though the village is completely alcohol free and the legendary US swimmers' parties haven't materialised yet, dangling a gold medal around your neck can open doors for you in London and there were plenty of drunk American and Australian athletes falling around the village last night after being wined and dined in some VIP club.

The ticket situation hasn't got any better and I've had to settle for watching everything on TV so far, but I've heard of a nice scam that could change all that in the next couple of days.

Security is pretty tight everywhere in the Olympic stadiums and all over the village and unless you have the correct symbol on your accreditation, everywhere is off limits. You can't even eat in the food hall unless you have the knife and fork symbol on your accreditation.

But there's a rumour going around that athletes from various countries have bypassed the entry requirements to some events by simply changing their accreditation to carry whatever symbol they need to get in. Seemingly, it's pretty easy to do and groups of athletes have been hunched around the computers, throwing an eye up every so often, like guilty school kids copying someone else's homework.

Seeing as it's getting near the end of proceedings now, I think I'll chance my arm and try to blag my way in somewhere over the weekend.

If you hear of an Irish athlete being arrested before the closing ceremony, we may have to change the name of this column!

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