What a ride!
The XXX Olympiad officially close today and it was every bit as exciting and inspiring as promised by all the hype leading up to that incredible Opening Ceremony only 17 thrilling days ago.
This was the very first Olympic Games I have ever attended, so I really didn’t know what to expect. In the months leading up to the Games, the national media was awash with stories of impending doom. The crowds would be crippling, the weather would be horrible, the traffic would be glacial, the threat of terrorism was like a scythe hanging over London’s head… In a nutshell, this was as close to Judgement Day as we could get.
But they were ALL wrong.
Joining in the spirit of the Olympic Games was literally easier than going to watch the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise on a typical Friday night in Central London.
I was so amazingly fortunate to go to 4 events over the 2012 Olympic Games and these will truly be experiences that I will never forget. In the end, I got to see 12 national teams playing 6 matches, including Men’s Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Beach Volleyball, and Men’s Handball. And before you think I’m rich or something, I spent a sum total of £160 (event and local travel included) in tickets! That’s it? Now, considering that one of the events was a quarter-final (Men’s Handball – £50/ticket) and the other a semi-final (Women’s Beach Volleyball – £70/ticket) that is some serious value for money!
I had such a great time, at the games at the venues, that I’ve wanted to share my own Olympic golden moments with you in pictures and video – just to give you a feeling of what things looked like from a local spectator’s perspective. So, enough with my intro, here are the shots!
Men’s Football @ Wembley
As it happened, we took the Underground to Wembley Park Station and arrived about an hour early. Even though the crowds in this picture look humongous, it was really only a 20 minute leisurely stroll from the Underground Station to the Stadium. Everybody was in such good spirits along the way, it really helped to set the mood for what would turn out to be a great event!
In spite of heightened security, entering the stadium was a breeze. And, it was a then when I realised how much things had really changed in London. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and happy! And not just the volunteers (who I should say were trained amazingly well) but the crowds, the cops, the armed forces security and the venue games makers as well.
This was not only my first Olympic Event, but also the first live football match that I’ve attended in football mad England. And, I’ve got to say, I wasn’t really ready for the waves of support that I was about to behold for two teams that I would assume would have very small local followings: South Korea and Gabon.
Yet, everyone just seemed to choose a side to really make a game of it. In the end, the game finished with your typically uneventful 0-0 draw, with South Korea proceeding through the groups to enter the quarterfinal round. But in spite of the game not being one for the archives, it was truly a memorable moment just being there to soak it all in. Above is a short video I filmed with my iPhone to give you a feel of what it felt like to be inside with me and about 75,000 of my closest friends.
The Olympic Park
Next up was Men’s Basketball @ the Basketball Arena which was in the Olympic Park itself (I’ll share a bit more about that in a later post).
As you can see from the map above, the Olympic Park is made up of a vast array venues of which I was only able to visit one inside. First you needed an event ticket to get into the Park, and then you could only enter the venue for which your event ticket was for. One really cool aspect of the park was Park Live, where the organisers had erected massive screens showing the events inside the various venues.
Again, security was quicker than what you’d expect in a local airport, the queues were minimal and volunteers and organisers were brilliantly friendly and organised. Even the weather cooperated with the sunny atmosphere, by rewarding us with this gorgeous rainbow.
Well, I’m sure that’s plenty to take in for now. If you can manage to stomach more of my snaps, I’ll share a few more pictures and videos in my next post where I visit the Basketball, Beach Volleyball and Handball events. But before I do, here’s one more picture, this one is of the Athlete’s Village at the edge of the Park: