Like most people, I was glued to the Olympics. I love how so many people, who aren’t normally into sport, got sucked in. I don’t know if it was the same in other countries but here in the UK that happened to so many people! It also helped that Team GB had our most successful Olympics for 100 years and that we were hosting!
As I’ve posted before, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to 5 sessions. These were 2 men’s handball quarter finals, both women’s basketball semi finals and the bronze medal match.
We went to London last Tuesday evening and stayed until Sunday morning (thanks to my brother for the hospitality!)
On Wednesday, we had the handball events in the Olympic Park. We decided to go to West Ham station rather than Stratford, reasoning that though it was a longer walk, the queues would be shorter. As soon as I got off the train there were signs pointing the way and outside the station were several volunteers to direct people. All the volunteers throughout the week were excellent. They were unfailingly friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.
On arrival at the Olympic Park, we were straight through security without having to wait at all – very smooth! The Park was impressive but was swarming with people. We had a wander around before making our way over to the Basketball Arena (where, confusingly, the handball was being held).
Handball is enormous fun and we should really play it in this country. I’d love to play. It’s energetic, frenetic, high-scoring and a little bit violent! We cheered for Spain against France in the first match, but in an very dramatic ending, France scored the winning goal in literally the last second of the game.
The atmosphere was fun – with both teams being from western Europe they had plenty of fans in the crowd so there were chants of “Allez les blues” and “Espana!” The organisers made good use of music, playing “I get knocked down, and I get up again” when a player is injured, and “Sit down next to me” when someone got a two minute suspension, as well as upbeat music to keep the energy up during breaks.
After that we had a good few hours to kill before the next game so we wandered around the Park some more, went to one of the shops, got some food and parked ourselves by the big screen to watch the action from other events. While we were there they brought some of the Team GB swimmers to be interviewed, including Liam Tancock who came 5th in thee 100m backstroke. They all signed autographs and took pictures with people which was nice to see and the crowd gave them a round of applause.
Then we headed to the next match; this time it was Tunisia vs Croatia. We supported Croatia and they won!
The following day we headed to the O2 (renamed The North Greenwich Arena due to sponsorship restrictions) for the basketball. As it was a bigger venue we were much further away, but it was still a good time. The first match was Australia vs USA. Australia did very well to keep the scores close but as predicted, the USA won to advance to the gold medal match.
There was a little break before our next match so we stopped for a drink in Jamaica House terrace, which was supposed to be a bit of a home away from home for the Jamaican team and their supporters. Then we found our way to the inside section of the bar which had two big screens showing footage from the athletics. The Jamaican fans went crazy cheering on their women’s 4×100 relay team in their semi final. The atmosphere was incredible! I dearly wish we could have stayed to watch the 200m final (which ended as a Jamaican 1 2 3) but it was at 8.55 and our next match was at 9. I can’t even imagine how loud they would have been for that!
The next day we didn’t have any tickets, so my brother and I decided to go to Hyde Park and try to catch some of the men’s open water 10km marathon swim. We happened to be walking past the very end of the course right as they came past us and the crowds weren’t as thick there, so we stayed there for a few minutes as the swimmers passed.
In the afternoon the friend I went with and I met up for a tour of the Houses of Parliament. I’d never heard of these but saw an advert at a station and thought it might be worth doing. The tour was £15 and we got to see the Queen’s Robing Room, the main lobby, the House of Lords, House of Commons and other rooms. Not bad! Then we had a very enjoyable evening in the pub!
The following morning we went to Richmond Park for a quick look around before heading to our final event, the Bronze Medal basketball match. I continued cheering for Australia and they won, after both teams settled down from a nervy start.
That was the end of our Olympic experience and I was sad it was all over! We had a great time and it was wonderful seeing foreign tourists and even athletes (I saw Chinese, German and Polish athletes) all enjoying the city and the Games.
Roll on the Paralympics and roll on Rio 2016!