On Saturday 5 April 2014 the South half of the Olympic Park (now renamed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) will open and the whole Park will be open to the public. So, in preparation, I thought I’d share my London 2012 Olympic Games experience.
If you ask me about the Olympics you’ll get a response so enthusiastic that you might think that I actually had a role to play in it, sadly I was just a spectator of the whole thing. I basically sat on my arse for two weeks solid and watched others perform seemingly superhuman acts of athleticism.
From the moment that it was announced that London’s bid had been successful I knew I had to be there. At the time I had just graduated and started my first proper job in my hometown, but I was hopeful that by 2012 that I would be in London, living my dream. So I was determined to go to the Olympic Games.
Once the ticket ballot was announced I had the tough job of trying to select which events I wanted to put in for. I can’t remember what I selected but probably the equestrian events, diving and athletics at least. I do know that I applied for around £1,000 of tickets, reasoning that I could afford that if I got everything that I wanted. I was very hopeful, but the demand was so massive that I ended up with nothing. I was so disappointed to know I’d have to wait and see if I could get tickets that were being resold or which were released once venues knew their proper capacity.
In around January/February 2012 they opened up a ticket resale forum, demand was huge and the site crashed, but before it did I managed to snag two cheap diving tickets. I was going to the Olympic Games! I was going to see something!
Later on in the year they opened up ticket sales to those who hadn’t managed to get anything in the initial ticket ballot and so at 11am every day for about three days I logged into the system at work and desperately tried to buy tickets for the events I wanted. On the third day I managed to get some trampolining tickets and later on I got park tickets which would allow us into the park to experience the site and watch the events from a big screen in the Park.
I love the Olympic Games (wherever they are) and in 2008 I found myself waking up early so that I could catch some of the Beijing Olympic Games live each day before I had to go to work. However, my expectations for London were somewhat dampened when I saw the UK’s contribution to the Beijing Closing Ceremony – anyone remember Leona Lewis, some dancers and David Beckham kicking a football off the roof of a bus? After the phenomenal spectacle put on by the Chinese, it looked shambolic.
I sat down to the Opening Ceremony with a certain level of trepidation, but Danny Boyle did an amazing job, within ten minutes I had my hopes for the Olympic Games lifted and once I saw the Heatherwick cauldron lit and its petals rise up together, I knew that it was all going to be ok and that we weren’t going to embarrass ourselves on the world stage.
I’d taken two weeks off work for the Olympics period and basically spent two whole weeks in front of the TV watching any and every sport, live as it happened. I was really excited to actually get into the Park though, especially as it’s only three tube stops away from me. Our first trip was on our Park day tickets.
The thing that first hit me was all of the colour from wildflowers which had been planted all around the Park, everywhere you went there was a riot of colour – blues, whites and yellows all mixing together.
It brought the whole park to live and made it look like the whole place had a natural element to it rather than being a recently completed major construction project and site.
Unfortunately the first day we went it was a bit overcast and it spent the day threatening rain.
But I was fully prepared with my umbrella and Hunter wellies.
I even got a gold medal of my own. The best thing? It was chocolate. We settled down for a while in the drizzle to watch some of the sporting action on the big screen at Park Live.
My second visit to the Olympic Park was with my mum and sister, we had tickets for the Trampoling at the North Greenwich Arena (more commonly known as the O2) but I really wanted them to get some of the experience of being in the Park itself. I was lucky in that the week before we went I’d managed to get hold of some cheap handball tickets for the evening that allowed us into the Park during the day (as the athletics had started there were no Park tickets sold for that day).
Thankfully the weather was much better this time round, the sun was shining and summer had finally arrived.
The Park was beautiful bathed in sunlight and everyone was enjoying the atmosphere. We wandered around, bought more chocolate medals, watched Jess Ennis win the hurdles part of the Heptathlon at Park Live and had a McFlurry in the world’s largest McDonalds. All before heading to the North Greenwich Arena.
The best thing was that we saw the whole event, the preliminary rounds, the final and the medal ceremony (not something you get to do with things like the athletics).
The third time I went, we were going to see the Women’s 10m Platform Diving preliminaries on those diving tickets I snagged early on. I was probably most sceptical about how good this would be as my tickets were about the cheapest there were, and, worse, a few weeks before the Olympics started, I was sent an email which warned me that due to the curvature of the roof of the Aquatics Centre that my view may be partially blocked, brilliant.
We turned up and they scanned our tickets and a big red cross flashed up on the screen. I was just about to start protesting that I had bought them on the official site when the Games Maker scanning the tickets directed us to a booth where they exchanged our tickets for better ones which placed us on a super high tier but the seats were parallel to the diving boards. I couldn’t have been more pleased.
The thing I couldn’t quite get over is how wonderful London became for a summer, for one summer it easily took the title of Happiest Place on Earth from Disneyland. Everyone went about with a smile on their faces even if they were just going about their daily London life, the predicted travel congestion never materialised and apart from about the first day or so, even the weather was perfect.
I now spend every summer wishing that we could do it all over again. I was so lucky to be in London to experience it all.
Although I went back to the Park briefly in 2013 for the National Lottery Anniversary Run, I’m excited about getting to see the changes that have taken place there. In a few weeks’ time I’ll be going back to the Park and Aquatics Centre for the FINA World Diving Series. So watch this space for photos on the Park’s transformation soon!
Did you watch the Olympics? Did you go? Did you love it? And will those of you in London be visiting the Park once it’s open again?