Adham Sharara with Bill Gates (right) in the ExCeL Arena on the second evening of play
Photo By: Mariann Domonkos
2012 Olympic Games (Click here to access this section)
A fantastic atmosphere in the ExCeL Arena for the table tennis events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the venue full to capacity on the first two days has underlined the special status of the quadrennial event.
The event brings the nations of the world together; it attracts the world’s best, an Olympic medal is prized beyond all others and just being an Olympian is a prize in itself. Equally, the event attracts those who are celebrated in other walks of life; those who are household names.
One such personality was welcomed to the ExCeL Arena on the evening of Sunday 28th July by Adham Sharara, the ITTF President, to watch Ariel Hsing rise to a new level as she extended China’s Li Xiaoxia, the no.2 seed to six games in the third round of the Women’s Singles event.
Changed the World
The personality was Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft; he watched intently as Ariel Hsing gave her all for the United States of America.
He was all smiles, thoroughly enjoying the fare on offer.
Bill Gates changed the world, was there life before Microsoft Windows? How did live without computers?
Changed Face of Sport
Changing the world and is the Olympic Games not the meeting where the face of sport changed.
In 1968 in Mexico the American, Dick Fosbury, revolutionized high jumping. Four years later at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Olga Korbut, representing the U.S.S.R. stole our hearts and gave gymnastics a totally new face. Both became household names and transgressed sporting boundaries.
More recently at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Usain Bolt ran faster than any other man has every run and Michael Phelps set new records in by collecting eight gold medals in the aquatics water cube. There are more.
Known Outside Discipline
All are known, well known outside their sporting disciplines; just as is Bill Gates outside the world of micro technology.
It is the Olympic Games that brings them together.
At breakfast on the morning of Monday 30th July I enter the restaurant; I am staying at a hotel in Blackheath, some 40 minutes distant by bus, underground and the Docklands Light Railway.
I know the area well, I lived in nearby Eltham and Bexley for six years; it seems strange returning to the area for the Olympic Games. Memories of younger days, no computers, no mobile phones flood back.
Share a Table
The waiter asks if I will share a table with a couple who are clearly from the United States; they introduce themselves as being from Phoenix.
They have just arrived, tired, an eight hour time difference; very friendly, very welcoming.
Ask for Directions
They ask me my role in the Olympic Games; I proudly explain that I’m the BBC television commentator for table tennis in the ExCeL Arena whilst also writing works of fiction for the website of the International Table Tennis Federation.
I tell them they should be proud of Ariel Hsing, their compatriot.
The very quietly spoken gentleman explains that he is nothing whatsoever to do with the Olympic Games; he’s accompanying his partner who has to go the O2 Arena for the gymnastics; she has to meet with a television company.
We talk and I explain that I’m really delighted with the fantastic atmosphere and how the Olympic Games brings people together from different races and political ideologies.
I explain that it follows the same principles as the Peace and Sport Cup which the International Table Tennis Federation staged in Doha last November.
My breakfast colleagues advised that they had heard about the event and would have liked to have been in Doha.
Munich and Montreal
The lady explained that she had been in Munich in 1972, where there had been a tremendous atmosphere in the Olympic Village and four years later in 1976 Montreal it had not been quite so harmonious, owing to growing political tensions.
Petite, slim, it was possible that the lady could have been a gymnast but in 1972 I cannot recall the name of an American gymnast.
Breakfast ending, the lady explained that she was originally from Minsk in Belarus and 20 years ago had moved to the United States.
See tonight and if not same time for breakfast was the theme of the farewell; they asked me my name. I explained.
“I’m Dennis”, said the man who then looked towards the lady. “This is Olga Korbut”.
It could only happen at the Olympic Games.