After poor attendances and empty seats at some of the early events, how reassuring for the Olympic organisers to see a nearly full house at one of Olympic Park's open-air venues - the River Bank arena - for a preliminary stage Men's Hockey match between Great Britain and Argentina.
Barry Middleton twice hit the onion bag
Perhaps it was the tumultuous political relationship between the two nations, which has appeared sporadically on the front pages over the past year that inspired such a large number to turn out. Or maybe it was the event’s ticket price, ranging from a modest £20 to a still rather reasonable £65. Whatever the reason, the stadium was bursting with atmosphere before either side took to the field.
Team GB started aggressively, with an early goal being ruled out following an Argentine referral. Still, GB continued to dominate possession, circling on their opponent’s penalty area for long spells.
After the GB team’s captain (and serious contender for world’s most absurdly named man) Barry Middleton put the home side ahead, a small brass band struck up a rousing rendition of ‘Rule Britannia’. Whether this was to wind up the Argentine fans in attendance remains unknown.
Tensions spilled over just before the end of the first half after GB’s Matt Daly left Argentina’s Pedro Ibarra in a heap on the floor with the type of tackle that could very well lead to a job on the defensive staff at Stoke City.
Early in the second half Middleton hit the net again to double the British score, which was nearly extended further when James Tindall masterfully turned past two defenders before screwing the ball inches wide.
Soon after Dan Fox put GB three ahead, allowing the largely British crowd to relax and enjoy the remainder of the match.
Richard Smith put in a fourth, yet the crowd wanted more, braying in unison: “We want five”. The brass band piped up once more, this time with a triumphant ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.
Argentina clawed a goal back in the closing minutes, but the game was already won, leaving the clock to run down and the crowd to concentrate on several Mexican Waves… alongside some friendly taunting of the visitors.