Tag Archives: Olympics

A day at the Olympics

It was an early start for all of us this morning as we got up to make use of the only Olympic tickets we had managed to secure

In the original lottery we had managed to get some swimming tickets and since Team GB had done so well in Beijing 4 years ago, we were quite excited about the prospect of seeing some good action in the heats for our morning session

Having been warned for the last 3 of those 4 years that travelling would be a nightmare and that the security checks would take a couple of hours themselves, we got the children up at the unheard of 6:15 and were out the door and just made it onto the 6:53am train into Waterloo.

The strangely familiar journey continued with a trip on the Waterloo and City line (one stop) after picking up some breakfast at Waterloo, a one stop on the Central line to Bank and then overland from Liverpool Street to Stratford – also one stop! We were lucky with the trains and were there in plenty of time after a quick walk to the Olympic site, with the children getting more and more excited all the time.

Despite what anyone says, the Olympic site, the travel arrangements, the security and the whole package have been very well done. There were thousands of volunteers sheparding people in the right direction, in addition to the well signposted routes. The volunteers added a bit of excitement to the journey though, encouraging people, hi-fiving the children and generally making the journey a lot more pleasant than it might have been with the crowds. Later on it may have been a different matter, but we had planned our trip to perfection and arrived relaxed and in plenty of time to grab a coffee and muffin and take our seats.
We had, through necessity, applied for family tickets for the swimming and after all the problems with the lottery had just been glad we had got any tickets at all, so had not actually checked where they were. No that it would have made any difference, but when we were directed up our third set of stairs we were slightly concerned, although as it turns out not half as concerned as when we reached the top back row and turned round to see the view! Not for those of a nervous disposition.

Even the children were a little concerned, but soon settled down and watched as best the could from their seats. They enjoyed being able to make as much noise as possible during the races we saw, and the 50m heats were quite exciting as there was a lot of action to keep them occupied. The 30 lengths of the 1500m heats were not so much fun as far as they were concerned, even when there were GB or SA competitors to cheer on.

The 4×100 medley heats we saw at the end injected another shot of excitement into our viewing, and the support and cheering for team GB was an incredible experience, exceeded only by the final swim-off between three swimmers, one of who was British. The roof was raised 🙂 as if Amy Smith had won the gold medal herself!

The journey out was slow but orderly, and we took the opportunity to step down to the front, to poolside to have a brief look at the view from the lower part of the hall.

Our way out was equally as managed by the purple clad volunteers and we were surprised to realise it had been raining outside in the three hours we had been cut off from the outside world in our bubble of Olympic excitement.

We found a bench in the park and had our packed lunch, but the children were far too excited to eat much and enjoyed practising being Usain Bolt, having competing 100m finals against each other on the grass by the river running through the park. They have done a fantastic job in the park with all the landscaping and making the space available to cater for all the visitors and the organisation has really been spotless.

Our final foray in the Olympic park was to the on site store, which we decided to visit to get the children a bit of a momento. It seems everyone else, understandably had had the same idea! We queued up for about 10 minutes, and only then worked out the direction the queue was snaking around outside the building. In order to move about 10 metres, as the javelin flies, my trusty iPhone app told us we had moved well over 600m.

With our children proudly clutching their Olympic mascot soft toys, we departed the park, with thousands of spectators now starting to arrive for the evening sessions. Our mood was slightly melancholy as we realised this was the end of our Olympic experience which had proved far more compelling at the end of the day than we had expected, and hopefully, at least, the children will remember they were part of the amazing party that was London 2012.

Go Wiggo! Go Froomey! Go GB!

After the disappointment of the men’s cycling road race on Saturday, expectations were high for the time trial today, which took place along the streets of Surrey.

The race started and finished at Hampton Court Palace, looping round through East and West Molesey (unlike the women’s race), before going through Walton and then turning back to Esher and Kingston. The men’s race again had a slightly different route, detouring up to Twickenham before completing the 44km circuit back round to Hampton Court.

Time Trial – Cycling Medals

The earlier women’s race, without the detours, was limited to 28km and was taking place at lunchtime so I decided to get into the spirit of things and cycle while I watched.

I was quite an interesting, and humbling, feeling realising that I was trying my hardest indoors in the gym, pools of sweat forming undereath my static cycle and yet I was still not doing anything near the speed that these olympians were achieving, out on the road, with hills, wind and turns to contend with as well.

The men’s race later was fantastic, with Bradley Wiggins the firm favourite after his stunning Tour de France performance, and Chris Froome, who lest we forget came second in the TDF and on any other day that by itself would have been an amazing performance by itself, but in the company of Bradley Wiggins and Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, the master of the time trials, and Germany’s Tony Martin, World Champion, and others such as America’s Taylor Phiney, and Wiggin’s and Froome’s TDF Sky teammate, Michael Rogers, they were always going to have to work hard.

The did not disappoint this time though.

Rowing Women’s Pairs

Going through the first timing point at an early 7km it was difficult to call, but after that the race was on and Wiggins showed his complete domination of the discipline, slowly pulling away from Martin all the way through the course. Froome also did a fantastic job and if Martin had failed at any point the silver would have been his. In the end the gap was too much though, and Martin could no more catch Wiggins, than Froome could catch Martin. Cancellara had a disappointing race again, coming in ‘only’ in 7th, probably down to the crash he had in the race on Saturday as he was clearly suffering with pain from his shoulder after the race.

The other triumph for the GB team earlier today was our first gold medal in the Rowing Women’s pairs for Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, so well done to them too. After many days of concern, our medal tally is starting to look a little healthier.

Changing Landscape

It seems that the months of warnings of travel chaos and the much vaunted crowds and travel issues may have scared everyone working in London, or planning to visit any non-Olympics related venue, out of their skins, as the trains, roads and streets are apparently quieter than normal. Travelling earlier than normal, it is difficult to tell if things are really any different, but the earlier start has certainly made things easier.

Today was the day we were having another governance committee discussion at work, to decide on the prioritisation for the ‘remaining’ IT projects for the year. I was to attend, which I was pleased about, given that it is normally a busy affair, with representatives from the whole Bank attending, so I don’t always get the opportunity.

Victoria Park Live

This was planned for the afternoon though, so time for a quick run at lunchtime 🙂

Nigel had called in the morning and we had arranged to meet up again. He is quite a speedy chap, which is good for me as it stretches me a bit and we both decided to go back and follow the route through the sights and smells of Brick Lane (every other shop is an Indian curry restaurants) before making our way to Bethnal Green and Victoria park.

When we got to the Park it looked a little different to normal as it was being used as one of the Olympics ‘live’ sites with entertainment and a large screen to watch the events. Entry was free, provided you were prepared to go through several miles of security checks (concertina’d into 10 metres). I’m sure there were plenty of attractions to spend money on inside the enclosure which seemed to encompass the whole south side of the park.

We eventually got to the other side and ran our way round to the Regent’s canal. From here it is about 4km back to work and Nigel normally gets a bit of speed on for the 1km from the park, along the canal, to Hackney road. Today was no different. Having had a few weeks of stepping back, I was no match for him at this stage, and he left me standing, reaching the bridge probably some 15-20 seconds before I did.

Although I thoroughly enjoy running on my own, it is also good to run with others on occasions, especially if they are faster than you, as it stretches you and pushes you which then improves you for the future.

A gentle run back through Hackney ended my exercise for the day.

East End Running

The last day of my trials as the ‘man in-charge’ of business systems at work, and with it being Friday I made time for a run at lunchtime, and after a final debrief of what is effectively our CIO, I was ready for it!

I had bumped into a colleague, Nigel, earlier in the week and we had exchanged some emails about a run on Friday, after the stiflingly hot weather at the beginning of the week, but we had not made any firm arrangements.

Victoria Park

As luck would have it, I was just about to pop upstairs from the gym, when I met him and so we quickly arranged an impromptu run as he explained he was meeting his brother who works locally. By the time my watch had struggled to pick up the satellites in the building surrounded confines of Exchange Square, Nigel was bounding up the stairs to meet me.

We went through Spitalfields to meet his brother, Blair, and then took a new route, across Brick Lane and through a couple of parks, that I was desperately trying to memorise, before we popped out on Bethnal Green Road, just a few hundred metres from Victoria Park. We chatted as we ran along, relatively gently, and the subject inevitably turned to the Olympics and the starting ceremony which was starting at 9pm in the evening. Blair had apparently been invited to the preview for the opening, a sort of full scale dress rehearsal, as he is associated with the audio and video industry, making shorts movies and mood music. Although he was clearly nervous to discuss the detail at any length (many of the participants have had to sign what in effect is a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, such is the secrecy surrounding the opening display) he did confess is was going to be a great show and worth watching.

So, fast forward to 9pm, the children were getting tired but we had decided this was too good an opportunity for them and one which they could not miss, but not knowing what the ceremony would encompass, I was unsure as to whether it would capture their attention.

I need not have worried.

Olympic Cauldron 2012

In the end the show had something for everyone and kept their attention for hours with a simple display of the ‘best of British’ – a stunning set piece to start with depicting the change of Britain from a ‘green and pleasant land to the industrial revolution with the introduction of the Olympic rings coming together from molten metal. Then there was British music from the 60 to the present day, comedy and humour from Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean and Daniel Craig as James Bond with an unbelievable cameo from the Queen herself, children’s literature with J.K.Rowling reading from J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan, and dancing along with a final nod to British technical genius in the digital and social media age, with the introduction of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN scientist who invented the world wide web back in 1989. There were a few moments of reflection before the athletes entered, which the children enjoyed watching as they spotted the colourful flags and cosmopolitan attire of the competitors as they paraded around the stadium.

The final crowning glory was the lighting of the ‘cauldron’ from the torch which had travelled more than 3000 miles on it’s journey around Britain, but which was subsequently the subject of intense speculation as to who would actually take it on it’s final journey. David Beckham? Steve Redgrave? Kelly Holmes? All were there towards the end, but nobody could have predicted the torch being symbolically passed to seven young athletes; the next generation, who then, after one more lap of the stadium, lit the ‘petals’ of the cauldron, all 204 of which had been carried in by each of the teams competing in the games, but which were ‘brought together’ to form a huge sculpture of fire. A stunning idea, brilliantly designed and wonderfully executed.

In the end some of the sentiment would have been lost on some of the foreign audiences (the NHS?) but it was certainly a celebration of everything it means to be, and what makes us proud to be, British.