Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

My visit to the London 2012 Olympic Games

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My wife and I went to the Olympic Games yesterday in London. It was a lovely day out in the buzz of our capital city. We had tickets for the Mens Trampoline at the North Greenwich Arena, which is a very LOCOG name as it is in fact the O2 Arena, also known as the Millennium Dome. As O2 are not sponsoring the Olympics their name has been told to take a long walk off a short pier until after the Games are finished.

Me at the London 2012 Olympic Games (rare event: I’m smiling at a sporting event!)

Now I wouldn’t have chosen the Mens Trampoline (Women’s Beach Volleyball was top of my list but that didn’t even make the short list my wife drew up!) but like all Olympics ticket-holders we had to enter a ballot to have a right to buy tickets. We entered a ballot which contained a mixture of sports, including the rowing at Eton Dorney, which my wife desperately wanted to see, so if we “won” it really was pot luck which sport we were allocated in order to buy tickets. 

As I’ve said previously, I am not a sports fan but attending a world-class event at an Olympic Games is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity and it didn’t disappoint. From the moment we arrived in London at Stratford station the city was on her best behaviour and was highly organised. At the station there were transport officials and Games volunteers every few metres explaining which way to go – even though we weren’t going  to the Olympic Stadium, being so close to its entrance was quite exhilarating. 
Once we got to the “North Greenwich Arena” the atmosphere got better. Security was a breeze – it was just a strong as at UK airports but there was no attitude from the security staff (this venue was staffed by G4S) that you get at the airport, which is more akin to checking into Belmarsh than shelling out thousands of pounds to fly off on holiday for a week. Like I said, everyone was on their best behaviour. There is no way the UK Government is going to allow anyone connected to the Games to embarrass London or upset visitors and everyone involved in organising, running and supporting London 2012 knows not to step out of line. 
It was first time I had been to the Millennium Dome and it lived up to its publicised size. It is like a town all under one roof: restaurants, bars, offices, cinema, shops etc and of course the actual Arena itself. We had good tickets for the Mens Trampoline so we entered the Arena on Level 1 and stepping through the tunnel walkway into the Arena itself was quite something: the size of the venue really hits you as if you are stepping on to the side of a mountain. Great stuff.
The sporting event itself is not like watching it on the TV. It is an entertainment event first and foremost. There is live commentary specifically for the crowd (separate from the TV commentary), dancers at the beginning before the athletes come on, music even during the trampolinist’s performance (lift music you could say to take the edge off the silence). I have to say it was quite entertaining. I wouldn’t say I “enjoyed” the sport bit (I certainly appreciated the athletes’ skill) but I liked being part of the event.
One thing noticeable is the passion people have for their teams. It’s quite disturbing in a way how people get so worked up about what are, at the end of the day, games. It makes you think how easily they would be whipped up into a frenzy about something else: like killing a certain segment of the community perhaps? It didn’t take much for Hitler to whip up ordinary Germans…
Russia’s Dmitry Ushakov competing in the Final where he won Silver
Unfortunately, no British people were in the competition, so I decided to support the Russians. Happily, Dmitry Ushakov won Silver with Dong Dong of China taking the Gold. Chunlong Lu, also from China, took the Bronze. The qualifiers and the Final were all done and dusted in two hours. Considering the athletes had been training for four years, it was all over for them very fast indeed.
Victory Ceremony at Mens Trampoline event (the Chinese just win everything don’t they?)
After our sporting event had finished we took advantage of being in the capital and visited the nearby National Maritime Museum, primarily to see Caneletto’s masterpiece ‘The Thames on Lord Mayor’s Day, looking towards the City and St Paul’s Cathedral’, which was the inspiration for the organisers of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant back in June. It was during this part of the day, it was clear LOCOG could have done better on the transport organisation. Certain Dockland Light Railway (DLR) stations such as ‘Cutty Sark’ near the North Greenwich Arena have been closed or bus routes have been diverted because of the Games. The fact this has happened is very clear but information or signs on how to workaround this are not clear. My wife and I ended up getting lost for a few minutes trying to find Greenwich DLR station. The only sign was at Cutty Sark DLR station saying the station was closed and one arrow pointing us away. Luckily, both local Londoners we spoke with for directions were very helpful.
On the way home later we saw the Olympic Stadium lit up, which looked magnificent. The Olympic Cauldron is made up of 204 copper petals, each representing a country competing, and has been moved to the side of the athletics track after being lit in the centre of the stadium during the Opening Ceremony. The disadvantage of this is it can’t be seen outside of the stadium, unlike in previous Games, so in this digital era we now inhabit the flaming cauldron is actually broadcast live to the outside world through two giant video screens erected either side of the top of the stadium. So we may not have seen the Olympic Cauldron in the “flesh” but we saw a TV image of it as we travelled past on the train! I’m not sure this will be repeated in Rio…
A day like yesterday was certainly one to tell the grandchildren about. You never know – if London was to win the games again, I might get a chance to drive my mobility scooter into the stadium next time. It is more likely the Olympic Games will not come back to the UK in my lifetime.
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Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

2 thoughts on “My visit to the London 2012 Olympic Games

  1. Great blog Gavin. Glad to see you got into the spirit.

  2. Very glad to see you entering into the spirit of things Gavin! However I do wonder if sometimes the sports could be made more exciting. Listening to the BBC inform us that Ben Ainslie won his sailing Gold Medal after a great battle with a Great Dane, I allowed my mind to wander to the genesis of the Olympic Stadium, the Flavian Amphiteatre (Colosseum) in Rome, wondering if the introduction of ravenous lions would make the Mens 5000 Metre Final even more interesting…

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