Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Synchronised Swimming at the Olympic Park

I was invited by BT Storytellers to watch the Synchronised Swimming Qualification at the Aquatics Centre on Sat 21 April. This five day event was the final opportunity for synchronised swimmers to qualify for the London 2012 Games.

It felt exciting to be walking into the Olympic Park. It’s completely transformed since I last visited in August 2010 when it was still a building site. We got through the airport style security quite quickly and stopped to take a few photos of the Olympic Stadium before we entered the Aquatics Centre with its iconic wave shaped roof. Inside there was a great atmosphere and it was very warm. We sat high up in one of the stands and we had a good view looking down on the pool.

Synchronised Swimming is one of two women-only disciplines in the Olympic Games (the other is Rhythmic Gymnastics). We watched 10 countries competing in the Teams free routine. Teams of eight athletes perform a four minute routine to music which is designed to show off their strengths and creativity.

The athletes need to be incredibly agile and strong to be able to perform in synch with each other and the music while holding their breath under water for a lot of the time. The fast pace of the routines and the variety of positions, movements and lifts make it really watchable and popular with spectators.

Judges mark a variety of components during a routine, including choreography, difficulty, synchronisation and execution. The routines varied quite a lot in terms of music and theme. The theme for Great Britain’s routine was inspired by Peter Pan and Neverland. I particularly enjoyed Mexico’s routine inspired by karate and martial arts.

The Russian team won gold in the competition. They are the current Olympic and world champions. Spain won silver and Japan won bronze.

They join five teams that had already qualified including Team GB as the host nation and the European representative. You can see the full list of results on the London Prepares website
It was fantastic to see world-class athletes in action inside the Olympic Park. Synchronised Swimming is a great event to watch and I’m looking forward to following the competition during the Games.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Olympic inspired resource for primary schools launched

Last week we launched ‘Our Games, Our Values’ which is a free resource for primary schools in South West England, inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic Values.

I've worked with five Bath Spa Uiversity History students to develop the resource over the last 18 months. It contains ten activities that celebrate local, ‘South West’ links with the Games. It creates opportunities for children to learn about elite athletes who train here, local artists who have been inspired by the Games and important local people, such as Hodgson Pratt, who have played key roles in the modern Olympic Games.

It's been quite a complicated project. The students did a lot of research before they came up with the activities, which we decided should be practical, creative and adaptable. They sought advice from education professionals and piloted the activities in four local primary schools. We worked with a designer to produce the pack. The students also created PowerPoint presentations to accompany the activities which involved sourcing images and content and obtaining the appropriate permissions.

The launch event was hosted by the Vice-Chancellor at Bath Spa University and Rt. Hon. Don Foster MP, who both made lovely speeches about the project.

I've enjoyed working with the same group of students for 18 months. They had just begun their 2nd year when I met them and they're now very close to graduating. I've got to know them individually and it's been lovely to see them grow in confidence. Taking part has inspired several of them to become teachers once they graduate which is a fantastic legacy.

The resource is available online on the RELAYS website.