Olympic Dispatch: What is handball, anyway?
I was lucky enough to score a ticket to an Olympic event last night. After days spent frantically hitting refresh and timing out of the London2012 ticketing site, my Olympic moment came in the shape of a front-row seat to see the hotly contested quarter final between, wait for it, France and Montenegro in the women’s Handball. So I’d missed the boat on the hot tickets: Usain has already bolted in the 100 meter final, the GB cycling team has cleaned up at the velodrome and Michael Phelps added to the US goldrush of medals in the Zaha Hadid-designed aquatics center last week, but I was desperate to get into the Olympic Park, to experience the buzz of excitement and sporting euphoria that has swept the nation.
Walking past the athletics stadium to the roar of the 80,000-strong crowd cheering on last night’s high jumpers and hurdlers, I was struck down by Olympic fever. Streams of giant foam hand waving, flag bearing supporters dressed in national colors crisscrossed the concourse to a soundtrack of epic Brit tunes by the likes of The Clash, Bowie and The Beatles. Armed with snaps of Anish Kapoor’s mangled steel Orbit sculpture and fueled by an overpriced beer and some fish and chips, I took my seat in the 7,000-capacity Copper Box.
Having never watched a handball match before, the rules were easy to pick up. A cross between basketball, netball and soccer, the aim of the game is to score goals against the opposition by throwing or bouncing the ball into a soccer-style net. It’s fast-paced and action packed, played to a thumping playlist of dance tracks. As I sat down, the Montenegrin family next to me offered me candy so it was an obvious choice as to who I’d be supporting (I know, I’m a cheap date). The 60-minute match was a tense affair, spiked with dramatic time-outs and close calls. It went down to the very last second of the game as Montenegro scored a make-or-break penalty to win the match to a crescendo of cheers from the pumped up crowd.
So it may have been pouring down as I left (hello British summer), I may have queued for an hour to get the tube home, I may have spent an obscene amount of money to see a sport I’d barely heard of before, but I was there and I was part of it. I walked around the Olympic Park in a haze of proud-to-be-Britishness and left with an even greater love for this city I call home and a new favorite sport: Handball.
— Rachel Beard