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Ashes Diary: A little bit of London 2012 comes to Chester-le-Street
WHAT did the London Olympics do for the North-East? Well, in a roundabout way, the Games helped the region stage its first Ashes Test.
Having had to shelve a planned hotel development because of the economic downturn, Durham officials were left needing to construct some new permanent seating ahead of this week's match.
With time running out, a construction project from scratch was not really an option, so attention was switched elsewhere.
Where was there some large-scale temporary seating that was no longer required? By the end of last August, London had plenty of it.
So if the new North-East Stand at Durham Emirates ICG looked vaguely familiar yesterday, it's because it was previously used for the beach volleyball tournament at London 2012.
Durham bought it lock, stock and barrel, and shipped it up to the North-East to help swell the capacity at Chester-le-Street to around 17,500.
Last summer, the stands were situated in front of Horse Guard's Parade, arguably the most picturesque of the London 2012 venues. A decent backdrop, but not a patch on Lumley Castle.
GRAHAM ONIONS might not have made England's starting line-up, but there was still a North-East link to the cast members at Chester-le-Street yesterday.
Hartlepool's Michael Gough, a former Durham batsman, is the fourth umpire for all five days of the Test, providing support to third official Marias Erasmus.
Gough has come a long way in his relatively brief umpiring career – as underlined by his answers to a question-and-answer session with all the officials in the match programme.
When asked to recall his umpiring debut, Gough said: “It was at Bishop Auckland Cricket Club on a Sunday in 2005, a third XI game against Sedgefield. It was a case of testing the water to see if I'd like the job.”
Just a bit different to the first day of an Ashes Test!
THE traditional Test-match fancy dress was in evidence on the opening day, with a weird and wonderful array of outfits on display in the stands.
Superheroes seemed to be a popular theme, with a Superman, Batman and Spiderman all in evidence, and cartoon characters were well represented with a couple of Smurfs and a Fred Flintstone.
The stand out was probably the three burly blokes dressed as Freddie Mercury from the “I Want to Break Free” video though. They looked very fetching.
THERE were three sizeable pockets of Australian supporters in the ground, and they were easy to pick out thanks to the green and gold that dominated their attire.
The 'Fanatics' are the Australian equivalent of the Barmy Army, and there were about 150-or-so of them crammed into the County Durham Stand, proudly wearing their yellow caps.
Former Australian pace bowler Terry Alderman is also heading up a separate group of Aussie fans, who are travelling up and down the country in support of their team.
More than 100 of them were situated in the South West Terrace, although their “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” chants became harder and harder to detect as the day wore on.
IT'S not just about cricket this week, with Durham inviting an artist and writer to Chester-le-Street in an attempt to ensure there is a cultural angle to proceedings.
Artist in residence David Downes is no stranger to sporting events, having previously been commissioned to record the architectural achievements of London 2012.
He is at Durham Emirates ICG this week to create a new piece of art showcasing the atmosphere of the North-East's first Ashes Test.
American-born writer Benjamin Markovits is also on site to produce a new piece of prose showcasing his impressions of the Ashes, and what it means to Durham.
His finished work will be presented and discussed at the Durham Book Festival in October.
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