London 2012 Olympics
Having tried and failed to purchase tickets on a number of occasions for London 2012, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have to enjoy the Olympics via TV and internet coverage only. However, last Saturday afternoon I received a telephone call from Megan's grandma, Helen, who's friend, Vic, was willing to give up his ticket for the morning athletics session on Tuesday 7th August (he didn't mind as he had already attended several sessions and had 2 more tickets for sessions later on in the week).
Gratefully (and excitedly) I accepted his offer, and hastily organised my train tickets. Monday afternoon couldn't come soon enough, and after lunch I set off for York station. I boarded my train and found that, due to an air conditioning failure, I had a table all to myself in an almost empty carriage - which, in my opinion, was worth the excessive temperature.
With no delays, and London's tube network seemingly withstanding the crowds, I crossed the city to Waterloo and boarded my final train to Salisbury (to stay with Helen).
Tuesday morning soon arrived, and, having woken at 5am, I was given a lift to Richmond, where I boarded the London Overground Service for Stratford, the location of the Olympic Park.
Upon arrival I passed through security, but was stopped when my ticket was flagged as a child's/OAP's - of which I am neither. Obviously an oversight on my/Vic's part, I returned to the ticket office to pay the difference and once again attempted to enter the Olympic Park. This time, the ticket checking personnel managed to scan my ticket 3 times without noticing, which then caused their scanning machine to suggest that I'd already entered the Park and should be refused access. Fortunately one of the supervisors thought to check the system and soon I was walking with the crowds towards the Olympic Stadium.
Not being a football/rugby fan and not having attended an athletics event in the past, I'd never been inside such a large stadium (other than the old Wembley, for the FA Vase final in which Whitby lost, but that doesn't really count as the stadium was 90% empty). My seat was right up high, just under the line of national flags which encircle the stadium, and in line with the finish line of the track.
The session included Women's Javelin, Men's Triple Jump, Men's 200m, Men's 110m Hurdles and Women's 5000m, all of which were heats or qualifying, but it was nonetheless exciting to witness some of the fastest athletes on the planet, including Usain Bolt in the 200m and Tirunesh Dibaba in the 5000m. Sadly Phillips Idowu and Goldy Sayers didn't managed to qualify in the Triple Jump and the Javelin.
The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic, the noise unlike anything I've experienced and it was great to see so many people enjoying themselves at this once in a lifetime event.
Getting something to eat at lunch time was always going to be an effort with so many people in the Park, and, having take a wrong turn when leaving the Stadium, I eventually forced my way back through the crowds and obtained an well-portioned, but unsurprisingly overpriced curry.
A couple of nights ago, I saw one of the TeamGB cycling coaches being interviewed by Gary Lineker. He said he felt like he was part of a huge sports theme park, which seemed to be a positive comment about the way the crowds were enjoying the event. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, I felt the same way, and I hate theme parks. It is of course inevitable that an event like this would be required to attempt to pay for itself (however unlikely that is given the near £10bn price tag). However, I have to say I felt like the constant commercialisation of what should be a celebration of sport was a disappointment.
Making my way to the Park Live area (with the big screen), the scale of the Olympic Park development became obvious. Covering 2.5km2 the Olympic Park stands on what was previously industrial wasteland. The Stadium, Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and various other venues, the waterways, ponds, planting and paths will no doubt make for a wonderfully relaxing location when it opens as 'Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park' in July 2013.
Through the afternoon I enjoyed watching various events on the big screen, including Victoria Pendleton narrowly missing out to Anna Mears in the sprint, and Chris Hoy winning his historic 6th gold medal in the Men's Keirin.
At 6pm the Park began to empty and those with tickets for the athletics evening session made their way to the Stadium and found their seats. Being unsure of how long it would take me to find my way back to King's Cross via the special Olympic 'Javelin Service' to St. Pancras I set off back across the park shortly after 8pm and found myself in St. Pancras at 9.10pm. At 10:50pm my train pulled out of King's Cross and I made it home by 2.30am.
TeamGB has achieved better than expected and I'm certain that the Games' aim to 'inspire a generation' will be seen to be a success. With so many young athletes achieving across such a wide range of sports, how can it not? Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but I hope not.
I ran the Great North Run two years in a row in my late-teens. Next year I intend to run it again, in aid of Cancer Research and in memory of my Dad, without who I would have not achieved my personal sporting 'success' and who would have loved the opportunity to attend the Olympics himself. There's much talk about the Olympic 'legacy' - the 'what's left over when this is finished' stuff. Having filled Whitby's Spa Pavilion last week, it is clear what Dad's legacy is: a generation of enthused, engaged local children and young adults, making their mark in all kinds of fields. Let's hope the Olympic legacy achieves the same.