Olympics 2012: An emotional wreck at the ExCeL bear pit

 

On Saturday, I cried. Because a Finnish weightlifter whose name I knew briefly but have since forgotten successfully hoisted 140kg above his head. Blame the lack of sleep. Blame the lack of food. Blame the ExCeL bear pit.

Under one roof, for the past week (and a bit - that's another excuse) I have watched men and women punch, throw, trip, stab, heave and hoist their way into hearts and minds that, prior to witnessing the athletes' feats, did not even know they existed.

4ft 11in Yun Chol Om lifts three times his weight

Look into the eyes of Scottish lifter Peter Kirkbride, writ large across the giant screen above the platform, and you see the hopes of a community, the small Ayrshire village of Hurlford. "People have been asking for my autograph in the street," said the Scot. "I thought they were joking."

The 24-year-old launches the bar above his head, staggers forwards like an overladen crab, before dropping the colossal weight behind him. Backstage, an ice-pack is administered to his injured arm. Will he be back for the clean and jerk? This is the London Olympics, of course he will…

Down the concourse in the boxing arena, two Iranian journalists throw hooks and crosses as they watch their light-welterweight representative, Mehdi Toloutibandpi, go down to Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan.

I don't understand what they say but they look miserable as hell. Athletes don't end hardship, politicians do. But a little fella weighing 10st beating up another little fella he doesn't even know can make everything seem better. For a while.

Fencer Shin A Lam stages sit-in

Sandra, who owns the deli next to Blackheath station, says things are tough for her, too. The Olympic movement is not an oppressive regime in the league of the Iranian government, but at the moment it seems that way, with takings down and her business struggling. But even she had to admit she enjoyed the fencing.

Aaah, the fencing. A blend of ancient and futuristic, it's like an offshoot of Tron.  And for agony, witness the sit-in of South Korea's Shin A Lam, who felt she had been robbed in her semi-final against Germany's Britta Heidemann.

The International Fencing Federation offered her a 'special' medal, which is the same as saying it felt she had been robbed too. An Olympic dream up in smoke, all because of an anonymous timekeeper with a twitchy finger. Angry? I almost put my fist through the screen of my laptop.

To the judo arena, where Gemma Gibbons is involved in a match of epic proportions against reigning world champion Audrey Tcheumeo. Take away the judogis and to the uninitiated it is two very drunk women having a fight in a storm on the deck of a ferry. But most sports seem a bit daft when you don't know the rules. To Gibbons, judo is everything.

Britain's Gemma Gibbons wins silver

Following her victory over Tcheumeo, a tearful Gibbons falls to her knees, points to the sky and mouths "I love you, Mum". A Disney director would cross out the scene on account of it being too corny. But, for all the sponsor bombardment, all the hooky judges' decisions, all the cheating, for the most part the Olympics are a cynicism-free zone. Even Hitler was a fan.

The wrestling kicked off on Sunday and gave those Iranian journalists something nice to write about, Hamid Mohammad Soryan Reihanpour claiming his country's first ever gold in Greco-Roman wrestling.

At the time of writing, Great Britain has 16 Olympic champions to share between a population of 62 million. The 72 million people of Iran have one. The reward? The incontinent adulation of a nation. And an audience with president Ahmadinejad.

A Norman chronicler once wrote that "London neither fears enemies or dreads being taken by storm". And so it is back at the boxing: Anthony Ogogo, his mum stricken in a hospital bed, collapses to his knees having beaten the world number one by judges' verdict, the scorecards unable to separate them.

But the more notable reaction comes from Ievgen Khytrov: hopes mangled in such a cruel manner, he has the wherewithal to clap his conqueror, shake hands with his trainers and commend him on his victory.

Read more from Ben Dirs

"I don't know if Nicola Adams, Natasha Jonas and Savannah Marshall consider themselves beautiful. But I do know they could smash my face in."

Some people equate the Olympics with glory but take a trip into the bowels of the ExCeL - the beaten athletes, the frustrated coaches, the empathetic team-mates - and you will conclude that the Games reek of failure.

Back at the weightlifting and guess what? Peter Kirkbride has been patched up and he's back on the platform. Not only is he back on the platform, he's setting a new personal best in the clean and jerk. Seriously, you couldn't make this up.

Kirkbride roars and pogos his way towards the exit. And once again I'm close to tears. So much passion invested in people I have never met and will never know. Emotionally stunted no longer, I wish it could be the Olympics every day.