Fencing has captured fresh imaginations in London.

Whether it is the heavier thrusting epee sword, the light, whippy foil or the slashing saber, it appears to have intrigued the locals here in the same way it might have attracted attention in Athens at the first Olympiad.

Fencing has been at every Summer Olympics since the birth of the modern games in 1896.

In London, spectators some just knee-high spent the intervals between bouts on the final day of competition thrusting, slashing and stabbing at similarly amateurish opponents with bendy blue plastic swords just outside the arena.

"Allez!" came the calls from instructors or parents to start them off.

There were lines of beginners old and young learning the basic forward lunge attack in formation ahead of the men's team foil finals. Back foot stable, forward with the front foot and thrust out the sword. That's fencing 101.

Once you got inside, the top-level bouts on the pistes long, thin mats 14 meters (yards) long and 1.5 to 2 meters wide were a mind-boggling flurry of lightning-fast strokes and swipes. At times, it was exquisite skill.

Attack, block and counter: lunge, parry and riposte.