Did you know table tennis was originally called whiff-whaff? Neither did we but it’s one of the things we learned when we went to see the table tennis at the Olympics on Monday.
It was an early start as we had to be at the venue – the ExCeL centre – for 8am, in order to get through the security and be at our seats by 9.30am. As it happened, the journey was smooth (it’s just over an hour from where we live) and because we were one of the first there, we got through security quickly. We had plenty of time for breakfast and a look around the spectator area before we had to take our seats. This is where we learned about whiff-whaff, at an exhibition about the history of table tennis.
The ExCeL centre (photo by David Walkley)
We also had the opportunity to have our photo taken with an Olympic torch!
With the Olympic Torch
Given all the recent controversy over empty seats we had wondered how busy it would be but the arena soon started to fill up and there was barely an empty seat by the time the match kicked off. We were watching the women’s team event semi-final, between current champions China and South Korea.
South Korea’s and China’s women’s teams come onto court (photo by David Walkley)
Hubby David plays table tennis in a couple of local leagues, so he knows a thing or two about the sport and was filling me in on the rules before the match started. It’s similar to tennis but the winner of a game is the first to 11 points. The team event consists of singles and doubles matches; the matches are the best of five games and the team event is the best of five matches.
David had warned me that it would all be very fast – this is Olympic standard, after all! And he was right. The speed with which each team returned the balls was phenomenal – blink and you missed it! There were some good rallies, particularly in the second of the three matches we saw, but mostly the points were won really quickly. China dominated throughout, winning each match 3-0 and the overall event also 3-0.
One of the singles matches (photo by David Walkley)
This meant that the whole thing was over in little more than 90 minutes, which was slightly disappointing as we then had to leave the arena. It would have been nice to see a few more matches. Some of the GB spectators had been cheering on South Korea in the hope they might claw a game or two back to lengthen our time in the arena!
After leaving ExCeL we decided to make the most of our free one-day travelcards that had come with our tickets and headed over to the Olympic Park in Stratford. We knew we wouldn’t be able to get into the Park as we didn’t already have an event ticket or day pass (I’d tried several times but none were available for the that day) but we could still look round the area and soak up the atmosphere. The new Westfield shopping centre, built especially for the Olympics, was heaving with people but David managed to get some nice shots of the stadium from the viewing gallery within the centre.
View of the Olympic Stadium from Westfield (photo by David Walkley)
After having a coffee within Westfield, we decided to head into central London to soak up more of the atmosphere there. We sat in Trafalgar Square for a while and saw some of my fellow Ambassadors there, before having a quick look around the National Portrait Gallery‘s current Olympic exhibition.
We then headed the short distance to Leicester Square and spotted the new M&M’s World store. I’d heard about it as part of my Ambassador training but hadn’t seen it yet. I was expecting a sweet shop with lots of M&M’s on sale but hadn’t imagined a megastore over four floors of total madness! Any type of branded goods you could possibly imagine – and many you won’t even have thought of – are on sale in the shop. From sweet dispensers to kitchen equipment, they’ve thought of everything. You can even have your very own colour mixed!
A rainbow of M&M’s!
If you love M&M’s, it’s definitely worth a visit. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth experiencing this crazy sweetshop!
So that was one crazy day of whiff-whaff, Westfield and M&M’s! I’m looking forward to starting my Ambassador shifts tomorrow.