Not gonna lie, when we first won the Olympic bid I wasn’t massively fussed. I hadn’t really followed the Olympics before and didn’t quite see what the big deal was them now coming to London. However, this week I found myself in the possession of tickets to Greco-Roman Wrestling and thought why not give it a go and rate my experience in the process!
Getting to the Excel building was a piece of p*ss so congratulations to Transport for London for signposting everything nicely. The tube was a bit hot for my liking though so minus one point.
Once I was in the Excel, first port of call was the lavatory. There weren’t many of these about and when I eventually found one the queue was bloody massive! Poor planning here from Coe & Co, though I guess this was kind of to be expected so I might let it slide... Post-toilet I had about 45 mins to kill before the wrestling started and my brain was telling me I needed ice cream. It was all I could think about. While the guides were all very friendly, they weren’t the most helpful in directing me to the ice cream I craved. Most pointed in a vague direction, while one flat out denied they even sold any. I offered her some constructive criticism that if they did sell them they’d make a killing, but she didn’t really want to talk about it. When I eventually found an ice cream lady she was lovely, and presented a small but high-quality selection of a 99 Flake, Dairy Milk (basically a Magnum), and Orange & Lemon Ice Squirt. Controversially I went for the Ice Squirt. Not what I was originally after, and at £3 pretty pricey, but totally delicious and refreshing.
With a bit of time still to go until the Wrestling started, I tried sneaking into the Weightlifting with a cheeky flash of my ticket and confident-looking walk. They weren’t having any of it though so fair play. With the Wrestling now about to start I headed into the main arena. The crowds clapped along to the music in between bouts, and an American commentator encouraged us to choose and support a fighter whether we knew him or not. This was a great shout to be fair, as while there were a few nationalities supporting their country’s representative, most people were just there for the crack so it gave us something to do. The commentator was pretty decent, explaining all the rules as the fights went on and geeing everyone up by occasionally reminding people it was ‘London 2012’, which sent us wild as if we’d somehow forgotten.
One thing I did find quite weird was how every single wrestler walked on to The White Stripes’ 'Seven Nation Army'. Great song, but after about 10 entrances it definitely got annoying. WWE style theatricality it wasn’t. Not only did we miss out on a personalised theme song from each wrestler, there was no crowd jeering or anything from them. They literally got in the ring and started grappling before they’d even had their names read out. Also, because Greco-Roman wrestlers can only use their upper bodies and arms there weren’t any sweet finishing moves. Not a Stone Cold Stunner in sight. It’s no messing around, real scrappy fighting plus a load of technical holds that you can’t always make out (so kind of looks like they’re just getting a little too intimate). If they did manage to pull off a suplex though it was proper satisfying as you knew their opponent really didn’t want it to happen, rather than faking and going along with it.
The real highlight of each match was the end where the winner was awarded his victory. This is where we got a bit of showmanship, the winner normally doing a load of back flips and everyone going mental for it. This is the bit that doesn’t quite translate on TV, seeing all the emotion and happiness pour out of someone who has just achieved what they’ve been working towards for the last few years. It was also really interesting watching the loser’s reactions after it’s just dawned on them what’s happened. Again this is something you don’t see properly on TV as they usually just focus on the winners. Seeing the losers just sit there, head in their hands, then having to pretty much walk the whole length of the arena in tears to get back to their changing rooms, you really feel for their loss! Seeing in person and up close how much it means to all the competitors massively makes the occasion, and for me what I’ll take away from my day at the Olympics!
Don Broco's debut album Priorities is released today. Check back all week for more exclusives from the band.