by John Kirk
The Olympic Games is something that happens overseas, in another time zone, in another language. The strange and wonderful thing is that this time it is happening just 100 miles away from our house, broadcast by the BBC.
We wanted to go to the Games, a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in the UK, so like millions of others we got on line on the big day, handed over our credit card details and waited… Two weeks.
We got nothing, despite having said that we would accept a range of sports, dates and ticket prices. News started to trickle through on Twitter and Facebook of friends and colleagues who had been successful, some of them very successful. It all seemed very random, and I began to resent the Games. There I was, a taxpayer and self-confessed sports addict, and I couldn’t even get a ticket to the archery never mind the rowing, cycling or athletics which were what I really wanted to see.
Then, about two months before the Games, I got a Twitter messages from my colleague Vanessa which offered me two tickets for the opening day of athletics in the main Olympic stadium in London. £150 each was more than I had really wanted to pay, but I accepted with gratitude. We were going to the Games!
The big day came round and I had planned our journey to London with what I has thought was military precision. We were staying with friends of Junying’s in Bexleyheath, about ten miles South East of the stadium in Stratford. How to get from there to the Games without getting caught in traffic, or worse, not making it in time for the first event at 10 am? There had been lots of scare stories in the media about the time it was going to take to get through the airport style security. In the event we got a lift from our hostess Na to the Woolwich Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station and were whisked to the stadium by 7-30 am.
On the way we saw some of the sights of redevelopment in East London, the Thames Barrier, the new Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup factories, Canary Wharf, the new shopping centre at Stratford.
Thousands of people were flowing in human rivers towards the Olympic Park. People smiling and waving flags at 7am. Was this really London on a Friday morning? The scale of the Olympic Park and the Orbit were breathtaking. Everything went smoothly, as we passed though the security checks in just a few minutes. The British Army were running security with a smile. We could have stayed in bed for another hour at least.
The whole thing was so well designed and organised that it made me feel very proud to be British. The flowers that were planted everywhere were all in full bloom. What timing! The young people in high chairs offered directions and good cheer. The sun was shining. There was NOTHING to complain about.
We even met my former colleague George Caird and his family. The last time we had seen them was in Trieste Airport the week before the Icelandic ash cloud, a race back to the UK on train and in hire car. What an amazing coincidence.
Entering the stadium we were greeted by the Olympic flame, assembled from all the copper kettles carried by each of the 204 countries parading at the opening ceremony the previous week. The flames burned lustily. Fellow spectators were decked out in Union Jack flags and all wanted their pictures taken with the flames.
One of the first events featured Jessica Ennis from Sheffield, very near my home town. She stormed home in 12.54 seconds, a world record in the 100 meters hurdles as her first step to a gold medal in the women’s heptathlon. The hugely partisan crowd cheered to the echo, and kept on cheering as she scored even more points in the high jump. I checked Twitter between events and found out that another colleague and fellow sports nut, Dave Harte, was also in the stadium in the tier above us. The World was coming to the Olympics, but especially the British who had paid for it.
As we lay on the grass afterwards in the Olympic Park, and Junying snoozed in the afternoon sunshine, I reflected on the different emotions the Games had brought. It was being very well done. I was proud of the people who had made it all happen. It had taken vision and a massive amount of hard work. Above all I realised that only London could have staged the Olympics. Other cities in the UK have been in the bidding in the past, but they were wasting their time. The scale and expense of the event is such that it takes a very big city to cope with it.
London 2012. A job very well done.
Junying: Excellent job and amazing achievement! Many Congrats to Team GB (top performances), and China (proudly on the top of the table). This is the highlight of a wonderful year for me, and I was deeply touched by the brilliance of our athletes from all over the world. These precious moments when tears of joy fell with thunderous shouts from my fellow spectators will stay with me forever. Inspire a Generation! and many more generations!
Now join us by clicking on the video below. Enjoy the Event!
Our London Olympics 2012