Essays, reflections and more

Behind the scenes at Lord's

As an ordinary person you don't get to see the workings of the home of cricket. Not unless you sign up as an archery volunteer for the Olympics

Liam Herringshaw

February 26, 2012

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An archery event at Lord's ahead of the London Olympics, October 8, 2011
Archers practising at Lord's © Getty Images
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Grounds: Lord's

Like many people, I regard Lord's with ambivalence. It may be the home of cricket, but home doesn't mean you'll be invited round for tea, met cheerfully at the door and told to come on in and take the comfy seat by the fire.

Yet my unease at its aloofness is always tempered by its wonder. Such ghosts, such grandeur, such history and heritage. A place where a cowherd from the Cape can meet a Demeraran demi-god, and where a lorry driver's son can end up with one of the stands named after him. Perhaps all things are possible there.

For both these reasons, then - the secrecy and the superheroes - I am extremely curious to know what goes on behind the scenes. Lacking nobility and cricketing ability, I won't get in through the regular channels, so must find other means of peeking behind the curtains. My only previous attempt, as a press man's schoolboy baggage handler wasn't wholly successful. It has taken me more than a quarter of a century to come up with a Plan B.

My second bite of the cherry is thanks to another venerable and polarising institution: the Olympic Games. Cricket and the Olympics have a bit of history, most of it long past, but some of it ongoing. However, although the sport won't be played in London, the 2012 Olympics will come to Lord's, as the venue for the archery.

Eager to help out, and to sample the Olympic experience, I had already signed up to be a volunteer, but with no particular preference of venue. Then Lord's was named, and my interest suddenly changed from very general to very specific.

Along with a quarter of a million others, I submitted a Games-maker application, and was lucky enough to get called up for an interview. This took me to Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, where I tried to justify how setting up a cricket association in Newfoundland made me qualified for a role as an archery volunteer. I really didn't think I'd convinced them.

 
 
I hurriedly began reading up on archery. The target is the width of an extra-large cricket shirt and you have to hit it from a distance of three-and-a-half pitches. The diameter of the bull's-eye is less than half a bail's length. Accuracy of the Glenn McGrath variety is required
 

An arrow ignorance can't have helped, nor my tendency to ramble when asked straightforward questions. At the end of the meeting I thought the best I could hope for was a job in a football ground car park.

Some months later, though, I got a congratulatory email. I was in! Even more excitingly, I was in Lord's! Quite what I'd be doing there wasn't stated, but I hardly cared.

I hurriedly began reading up on archery. The target is the width of an extra-large cricket shirt, I learnt, and you have to hit it from a distance of three-and-a-half pitches. The diameter of the bull's-eye is less than half a bail's length. Accuracy of the Glenn McGrath variety is required.

Since the sport was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1972, South Korea has claimed more than twice as many archery gold medals as any other nation. In the men's events, the nation holds most of the records; in the women's it holds all of them.

So what will the Korean team make of cricket? The sport is growing in the region but is hardly a familiar sight on the parks of Seoul or Busan.

The archers seem at home already, though. Lord's hosted the London Archery Classic recently and South Korean star man Im Dong-Hyun - who, extraordinarily, is legally blind - claimed victory. Not just victory either, as he also broke the world record for a 72-arrow total, scoring 693 out of a possible 720. With an innings like that, his name is hopefully now top of the visitors' honours board.

My own warm-up event was at Wembley. Not an obviously cricketing location, but 1896 - the year of the first modern Olympiad - was also the year of the only first-class cricket match there, so I'm sure it was a deliberate choice.

Role-specific training takes place across the spring and summer, and hopefully by the end of July I'll know what my volunteering job entails. Hopefully I'll also have a taste of what it's like to be at Lord's for a major sporting event. There are all sorts of things I want to know, not least what happens when the first day of the archery finals just happens to be the first day of England's second Test with South Africa, at Headingley.

And with the British Olympic team likely to be jostling for supremacy with those medalling Australians, it'll surely be an atmosphere to match any Ashes series.

Liam Herringshaw is a medium-paced palaeontologist who moved to Newfoundland from the UK to improve his chances of opening the bowling

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Posted by Mariaj-irdahseS on (February 27, 2012, 1:05 GMT)

Question: Will the world's archers be in on the know that the Lords ground is slighlty aslant? Or is it one way to deprive the monopoly of the South Korean stranglehold on their dominance over the sport? Wouldn't put it past the officials at Lords!

Sorry.

Posted by   on (February 26, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

I'm glad you noticed it too, but even his match figures of 11-100 couldn't help Wembley to victory!

Posted by 4test90 on (February 26, 2012, 11:04 GMT)

Looking at that Wembley Park match score - surely to goodness that is not FR Spofforth the Demon batting for Wembley against Australia ? Impossible, unbelievable, yet - TRUE !!

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