Alex Chick

Drinking to British boxing success

Alex Chick

View gallery


Anthony Joshua celebrates his semi-final victory

The crammed pub between the DLR and ExCel said it all - this was not a normal Olympic crowd.

With the notable exception of the beach volleyball, alcohol has not featured heavily at London 2012.

Drinking at sporting events is a strong British tradition. For many, pre-match preparation for the football or rugby involves several pints and no food; no day at the Test match or Wimbledon is complete without quaffing overpriced plonk out of plastic cups.

It seems we cannot view athletes at the peak of their physical powers without seriously impairing ours.

The Olympics have been different. While there are plenty of people selling alcohol, consumption has been moderate and - outside the madness of Horse Guards Parade - I have hardly seen anyone drunk.

There are a number of reasons for this:

The cost: £4.30 for a 330ml bottle of Heineken makes it a prohibitively expensive 'session' beer.

The audience: Lots of families, lots of women, lots of kids. Pretty far removed from the male-dominated crowds you get at most sports. The strong international presence has probably helped, too.

The timing: All-day events mean you may just as easily attend an event at 9am as 9pm. And you're not going to be hitting the booze first thing in the morning. It's not an airport.

The spectacle: Even if fans have cheered British competitors to the rafters, it is not quite the same as supporting 'your team' at football. The unfamiliar sports have also had an effect. Nobody gets tanked up to go and watch Tom Daley.

The Olympic Park: Most visitors to the park would naturally want to make a day of it, have a walk around and soak up atmosphere rather than lager.

Not so at the boxing, which ticked all the booze boxes - Friday night event, blokey crowd, regulation venue, familiar sport and an obvious main event (two actually - Brits Freddie Evans and Anthony Joshua).

Only the two marquee fights truly held the crowd's attention.

Yes, there was good-natured support for a Mongolian boxer, and an inexplicable chant of 'Kazakhstan, my lord' to the tune of 'Kum Ba Yah' - but these were just warm-up acts. Many preferred to visit the bar instead.

When the British boxers entered the arena, the ambiance transformed from boisterous to delirious.

ExCel's 10,000-capacity boxing arena has apparently registered the loudest noise at the Olympics - 113db during a Katie Taylor fight.

It deals in short peaks of sound rather than the sustained din at the Velodrome - the greatest when the scores came up.

Olympic boxing is a strange beast. Having done away with the unreliable 'live' system, scores are only updated at the end of each round.

View gallery


Freddie Evans goes toe-to-toe with Taras Shelestyuk

The roar when the scoreboard showed Evans 4-1 ahead after his first round was far greater than for any of the blows that helped him build that lead.

Evans went through by a point, leaving the super-heavyweight Joshua in the final bout of the night, which started just after 11.

A compelling fight against giant Ukrainian Ivan Dychko was level after two rounds, but the Londoner produced a late flurry to win the fight and provoke one final, deafening, beer-fuelled ovation.

And then, because it was late and ExCel is miles from anywhere, everyone bolted for the exit.


ACCESSIBILITY/FACILITIES: 7/10 - See previous ExCel reviews - a long way from most places, but a good, modern venue.

VIEW: 8/10 - Unlike some ExCel events, the boxing is surrounded by spectators on all four sides. The ring is some way from the crowd, however.

FANS: 8/10 - Among the loudest at the Olympics - but they did struggle to concentrate on the fights without British boxers.

SPECTACLE: 8/10 - For a convention centre, ExCel's boxing arena makes a very atmospheric venue. And they rattle through the action - 10 fights in a little under three hours is pretty good going.

X-FACTOR: 8/10 - It may not be at the heart of the Olympics, but during the key bouts you certainly feel like you are witnessing something special.


- - -

Alex Chick will be writing from London 2012 throughout the Olympic Games.

Follow @alexchick81

View comments (4)