Selected from over 200 applications to become the Boxing Field of Play Manager for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Paul Porter, Bradford Boxing Development Officer was seconded to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) from Bradford College to deliver a truly outstanding Olympic Boxing experience.
Reflecting on his once in a lifetime Olympic opportunity, Paul Porter, Bradford Boxing Development Officer reveals what really goes on behind the scenes of the Olympic Village and what has made London 2012, the greatest Olympics ever…
Paul Porter was paying a visit to the Eden Project in Cornwall in August 2011 when he received the call from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) that was to signal the start of a one-year build-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Elaborating further, Paul smiled and said: “I felt like jumping up and down with excitement, but decided not to, surrounded as I was with families checking out the wonders of Venus fly traps and other tropical plants.” Adding modestly: “I was never a good enough boxer to compete at the Olympics, but here was my chance to take part in the Games in my hometown. It was a dream come true.”
Despite working full-time at Bradford College, hardworking Paul travelled to London for training days and weekends in the interim period to his LOCOG secondment. Finally in the heartland of boxing, London’s East End, Paul Porter’s secondment to LOCOG officially began on 6th June 2012.
Elaborating further Paul explained: “My main focus was the field of play, which consisted of just about everything that was seen on TV, from the boxers’ entrance through the tunnel of flashing red and blue lights onto the floor of the arena and into the ring (the ring, my most important piece of kit!). Then from the ring to the ‘mixed zone’ where the athletes met the media after their bouts.”
Pre training acted as a precursor to the gruelling 14 to 16 hour days Paul worked to ensure the field of play was set up correctly for each session - and to a standard befitting the biggest boxing event in British sports history.
Working with Boxing Competition Manager Matt Archibald, Paul also ensured that relationships between LOCOG, AIBA and the print and broadcast media ran smoothly.
As a man know for his dedication and passion for the sport, Paul explained: “After quite a few late nights ensuring that workmen in boots didn’t ruin the canvas, and that lighting engineers on cherry pickers didn’t destroy the carpet, we were nearly ready.
“I was kindly offered a ticket to the Olympic Opening Ceremony by AIBA, but had to give it a miss as I was working right up to the final hour the night before the competition. It was all worth it though, as the field of play, and the boxing ring in particular, looked perfect ready for the start of competition at 1.30pm on Saturday 28th July 2012!”
The boxing tournament was sold out with more than a quarter of a million visits recorded during the event. The boxing was the only sport that took place on all 16 days of the Games, with 28 sessions in total.
Paul continued: “My main task during the Games was to manage a team of field of play volunteers made up of Young Games Makers from Repton ABC, West Ham ABC, London ABA and the Frank Bruno Boxing Academy in Kent. These young people acted as flag bearers walking the boxers and coaches to and from the ring to keep them in line and calm before they walked out into the wall of noise.
“I also managed more than 30 adult Games Makers, an incredibly diverse bunch of people that all shared a passion for Olympic boxing. Volunteering to work as corner attendants, access control, and everything else that it took to keep things running smoothly, from topping up the water containers and emptying the spit buckets to vacuuming the ring. Not very glamorous, but they did get the best seats in the house during the action. They did a magnificent job from start to finish, and without such volunteers the Games wouldn’t have been the success it was!”
Reflecting on the historic event, Paul said: “What also made it an incredible competition from the Bradford College point of view was Kevin Smith, our AASE Coach, was chosen by Nigeria as their national coach. I managed to organise it so that I could carry the Nigerian flag to the ring in front of Kevin and his boxer, and revelation of the women’s tournament, Edith Ogoke.
Kevin and I were both very proud of this, but also had a good laugh about how weird it was to be meeting up under such circumstances!”
Nigeria’s Edith Ogoke caused a shock in the women's Olympic middleweight tournament with a two-point victory over Azerbaijan's Elena Vystropova. Pre-Games training camps for the Nigerian, Tanzanian, Chinese and Indian boxing teams were all hosted at Bradford College’s new state of the art £300,000 Boxing Centre in the heart of the Trinity Green Campus.
After receiving training and support from Bradford College’s Head Coach Mally MacIver and AASE Coach Kevin Smith, Zou Shiming of China, went on to win the gold in the men's light flyweight division at London 2012 and his team-mate Ren Cancan won silver when she lost to former Bradford College student Nicola Adams in the women's flyweight final.
Commenting on the highs that defined his Olympic boxing experience, Paul said: “There were many great highs for me during the 16 days of London 2012, including the gold medal-winning performance of former Bradford College student Nicola Adams.” 29 year old Nicola Adams beat Chinese double world champion Ren Cancan to be awarded the first ever Olympic gold medal for female boxing in the women's flyweight division at London 2012.
According to GB Coaches Nigel Davies and Bob Dillon, Nicola Adam’s sparring partner Bradford College student Jack Bateson, can be credited for her improved performance. Prior to the London Summer Olympic Games, Nicola Adams was rated World Number Two in the Flyweight (51kg) division, behind Chinese world champion Ren Cancan.
Jack sparred with Nicola from early 2012 until the start of the Olympic tournament having become the first ever AASE Programme Boxer in the country to make it into the Great Britain Development Squad.
Paul added:“Other highs that go a long way to summing up my experience of the Games include the incredible atmosphere generated by British and Irish fans for the quarter final bout between Katie Taylor (Ire) and Natasha Jonas (GB). The noise level throughout the four rounds was painful at ring level, and was apparently the loudest sustained crowd noise of the Olympics. Although Katie went on to win the gold medal, Natasha deserves great credit for giving the performance of her life and stretching her legendary opponent all the way to the final stages of the contest, only a day after beating tough American Queenie Underwood. This bout cemented women’s boxing in the Olympic Games.
“Being at ringside to see Vasyl Lomachenko, eventual gold medallist at London 2012, in his first bout of the tournament was also another highlight. In the first round he slipped and slid round his opponent’s attacks for the first 50 seconds without throwing a punch, just working out where his foe’s weaknesses were before going to work and winning easily. The Ukrainian was the real class act of 2008 and 2012.”
Paul concluded: “The London 2012 Olympic boxing competition will go down in history as the best presented and loudest boxing tournament ever. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Bradford College for supporting my secondment and allowing me to play my part in the event, as well as those who worked so hard to ensure the success of pre-Games training camps at college, especially Head Coach Mally MacIver and AASE Coach Kevin Smith.