Before I start with my day at the Olympic Park, I thought I'd share these photos of the Olympic Torch relay that took place in Doncaster earlier in the year. Local legend and war hero, Ben Parkinson walked with the flame on his two prosthetic legs and then Sky Sports' Chris Kamara took the flame onwards. The close up photo of Ben was used for the logo of a beer brewed in his name, 'Ben Parkinson's Gold Medale'.
As a northerner, it takes a big occasion for me to make the journey down south. I think the London 2012 Olympics fulfils that criteria. Being one of the lucky few to actually get their hands some tickets was quite exciting. My and my brother had managed to get tickets to the women's handball semi-final between Spain and Montenegro. Alright, not the most popular event, but a ticket into that event is also a ticket into the Olympic Park for the day.
Thursday night was when the game was to be played, so we set off wednesday lunchtime and set the sat nav for Stevenage, no way we were going to pay London city centre prices for a hotel. Thursday morning, bright and early we got the train to Kings Cross then made the transfer to St Pancreas. There were signs everywhere directing people heading to the Olympic Park and as you got closer to the station there were people directing you and even people giving out water for free. Yes, you did read that right, people giving out something for free in London. Inside the station all was smooth and orderly and we hopped on the train to Stratford International. This part of the journey was covered by our 'Games Travel Card' which gives you free trasport in London zones 1 to 9. Yes, again, free.
Continue down Stratford Walk and you are greeted by the Olympic Stadium and the Orbit. The picture above describes it much better than I can. This was early in the day so there wasn't that many people about just yet. We had heard rumours at the entrance that there were tickets still available to go up in the Orbit. So we asked about but nobody was 100% certain. We had a slight issue with our tickets as it said that we weren't seated together and had to go to one of the ticket resolution centres, so we did and they said that we had to go to the one near the Basketball Arena, which we couldn't access until nearer the start time of the event. While we were there we asked about Orbit tickets and they sent us to the ticket office next to the structure. This was more like what I was expecting. A very long queue. We had plenty of time to kill so we joined it. About 2 minutes later it was announced that there are only tickets available to go in the Orbit from 7 o'clock, which was too late for us as we had to go to the venue early to sort out our tickets.
We then went for some lunch from what we heard a man claim was 'the largest McDonald's in the world'. As expected, it was overpriced. The sun was beaming down on us so we went to check out Park Live. A big screen showing coverage of the games pointed at a large open space full of people soaking up the sunshine, the atmosphere and of course, the beer. Well, not so much of the beer at £4.30 a pint. Walking through the park, trying to find a space to sit, a bunch of security guards rushed past us clearing the walkways to make way for Sir Chris Hoy, who had just been interviewed on the big screen.
There's a path that leads from the Olympic Stadium to the other venues such as the Velodrome, Basketball Arena etc, that quickly became very crowded. This is the area next to the BBC studio. Walking around the park throughout the day there were people with signs asking to swap tickets for different events, a few people were wanting the tickets that we had.
To summarise, I'd say that it was extremely well organised, with very friendly and helpful staff. The little things like making jokes on the megaphones really helped lift the mood when everybody had had a long day and just wanted to get home. One thing to note, throughout the day, I didn't hear one single person moan or complain, everybody seemed to be in a good mood and in the spirit of the games. Even the staff and volunteers who had been working all day.
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