by STACEY HEANEY
TEAM GB's success in the hockey arena during London 2012 reignited
Lisburn's own Olympic gold medallist Jimmy Kirkwood's memories of
competing in the greatest spotting event in the world.
As Team GB's ladies claimed a bronze - their first Olympic hockey medal for 20 years - and the men narrowly missed out on a medal, with Northern Ireland player Iain Lewers scoring a goal in the defeat against Australia in the bronze medal match, Jimmy's time at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 were at the forefront of his mind.
Attending his first Olympics since he competed himself back in 1988, Jimmy found the experience quite emotional.
'All of the previous Olympic medallists were invited to the opening ceremony, which was wonderful. After the ceremony I felt a little bit depressed when I realised that for all the athletes this was the start, they were about to begin a great journey, but that was the highlight for me.
It brought back tremendous memories, feelings and emotions. I haven't been to an Olympics since Seoul. Because London was so close you were in the midst of it, it was literally tangible."
Jimmy was able to enjoy a wide spectrum of events at the Games, and as well as plenty of hockey matches, he was delighted to see Coleraine brothers Richard and Peter Chambers win silver in the lightweight men's fours, with British rowing once again proving to be the world's best.
'I got invitations to some matches and managed to make it to a few. I saw the GB men play Pakistan where they won comfortably 4-1, I also saw Germany, the Dutch and Australia. There was a good atmosphere and it was as if the crowds all fed off each other. From the Olympic Park you could hear noise from all of tie other venues and the people at the TV screens. Everybody seemed to be up for it and went the extra mile with face painting and dressing up?
He added; "I felt a little bit envious of the athletes all going through it. At the Olympics you're mixing with the world's greatest athletes, people you never thought you'd see, never mind sitting having breakfast together.
"I think the London Olympics certainly stood up to the mark. I watched
the rowing at Hyde Park Corner and saw the Chambers brothers win silver
so I was cheering them
on, even the winners were being clapped on the big screen, there was a great atmosphere," said Jimmy.
"London is a big place and it's not as if the Olympics were everywhere you turned but if you found yourself not sure of where you were going and took a map out straight away somebody came over, a volunteer saying, 'Can I help you?'. The volunteers worked very hard but even they say that they loved it.
"I also love the stories behind the athletes, the people who make real sacrifices," Jimmy added. "Obviously you have the big millionaires and the superstars but it's the people going back to a day job in a day or two, who have sacrificed so much and balanced work and their family life, you can see that in how they participate."
As well as the Games themselves, Jimmy also enjoyed the build up to the Olympics, including the visit of the Olympic Flame to Lisburn.
I enjoyed the two to three months beforehand," he said. "I would be invited to go to schools and enjoyed getting my medal out to show the children, it made me feel very enthusiastic, and it was quite nice to be reminded of it."