International Paralympic Day

Yesterday, as part of the run up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, London hosted International Paralympic Day to showcase some Paralympic sports.

Myself and a couple of friends headed down to Trafalgar Square in the afternoon to see who could get the best picture of whatever we found happening. Unfortunately it was a bit of a grey day.

Trafalgar Square

The first thing we came across was, well, um…

Simply put, the Mayor of London was playing tennis against the Prime Minister. They were each doubling up with a Paralympian (who rarely had a chance to hit the ball, but still), and they looked… well, like politicians playing sports, who at the best of times look awkward and uncomfortable, and even more so if they’re playing in the same suits they use to run the country.

And of course, our own Mayor Boris Johnson is not exactly renowned for his dignity.

Usually when a politician makes that face they've been caught doing something.

As bad as Boris looks, Mr Cameron (I’ll reserve political comments for the appropriate place) has managed to look even more uncertain of sporting activity as he wields a tennis racquet like it’s a live grenade:

We all knew a kid at school who did sports like this.

Unfortunately, I also discovered the problem of the bright red playing surface which lit up their faces and shirts like nobody’s business. In that last shot it’s pretty bad, in others it was less of a problem.

The PM looks like he's settling in to the game. Rather this than running the country.

With Boris it’s hard to tell as he always looks pretty drunk and red faced whatever he’s doing.

Like an uncle at a wedding.

Now, those of you familiar with tennis will be able to spot the errors in Boris’ serving technique.

That's a serve?

I’m also sure this is a non-standard posture for tennis:

This is not what we envision when we think of our politicians being on guard.

The PM by this point had settled into the game, and was looking a little more confident. His serve was still lacking, but at least he looks the part in this image:

That man has a firm grip on his balls.

You could almost believe this was a real tennis game. Played by some mid-management IT types.

Boris against the background of the Trafalgar Square lions.
Shouldn't they be playing squash?

I decided whilst shooting this little sparring match to use my 70-300mm lens. Ultimately I think I would have been better off with my wider angle lens, because from my vantage point 70mm wasn’t usually wide enough, and 300mm could get a little close at times. In fact, you might want to brace yourself for this next image.

Most people wake up looking terrible then smarten themselves up a bit. Boris wakes up and it's all downhill from there.

This next shot I’ve included as it features the ball in motion with David Cameron looking right at it. However, from the angle I’ve taken it it does look a little like he’s soiled himself.

The unmistakable uncomfortableness of someone with a turd in their trousers. Maybe.

Unfortunately, for an event that was supposed to be about the Paralympics, the two politicians did spend most of the time on the ball and didn’t let their two disabled doubles partners have much of a look in. Sorry, that’s bordering on political discussion – quick, here’s a picture of Boris Johnson looking about as much like an idiot as usual:

Still lacking the correct technique for tennis, but looking far more determined than Tim Henman ever did.

Here’s Boris trying another serve. If this was a more politically-minded blog there would be a comment about underhand tactics or some such thing.

Underhanded. Geddit? What?

That’s the last of the tennis match photos, which to be honest took up the majority of the good images I took at the event. There was however still plenty more going on.

The 2012 Paralympic Games are due to start in a little under a year. Like for the Olympics, there is a clock in Trafalgar Square counting down to the opening ceremony.

Any time you want to see how long it is until the Paralympics, just come back here and refresh this page.

The next sport we found being demonstrated was something called ‘Sitting Volleyball’. I’m not sure what sort of disability you can have to play this one, but looking at the apparently able-bodied people playing it I assume its for people who suffer from multiple sclerosis.

Whoever it’s aimed at, the participants were obviously taking it seriously.

This is my game face. Fear me.

From the angle we had and the way the action panned out, ultimately most of the shots I got looked like ones I could sell for a ‘find-the-ball’ competition.

The trick is to follow their eyes.

I did however manage to get some interesting action shots, although annoyingly the frame is often quite cluttered.

It's not good for goalkeepers to play volleyball as the old reflexes kick in too easily.
That said, sometimes those goalkeeping reflexes can come in very handy.

The hardest part sometimes was keeping the ball in frame.

That man seems to have forgotten his trainers.

Other demonstrations going on through the day included rowing (which I failed to photograph in any interesting way), wheelchair rugby (which we didn’t stick around for because it started raining) and weightlifting (which happened whilst we weren’t looking).

After photographing the sports for a while, we then turned to trying out our paparazzi skills at photographing some of the famous people floating around at the event (metaphorically, I mean, they weren’t unconscious in the fountains).

Boris, talking to a tripod. And the international media.

There was also the opportunity to photograph some of the sights of Trafalgar Square.

These statues and their dolphins seem interested in how long it is until the Olympics start.

Currently occupying the fourth plinth is a four-ton ship in a bottle.

The trick is to melt the glass first, then put the ship in.
The artist must've been waiting for ages before his gran drank her way through all that rum.

I tried also to get some images of the rest of the crowd, in order to get some of that atmosphere stuff. I used my trusty f/1.8 lens, as I find that its shallow depth of field can create an interesting photo where there might not have been one otherwise. Yeah, I said it.

Another day where there's as many people with camera phones as there are with SLRs, and the former still seem to expect to get the better photos.

This final guy looks a bit sad.

I don't know if there's something in his eye or if there is something in his book that has moved him.

And that’s it. After the epic length of my last post this one must seem a little short.

If you want to see more of this event, myself and the two friends I went with will shortly be launching our own photo blog where all of our attempts at photographing this event will end up in the near future. I’ll post a link when it’s live and kicking.

2 thoughts on “International Paralympic Day

  1. Hilarious. Wait, I was the uncle at the last wedding.


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