I know I keep banging on about the London 2012 Olympics like some zealot but if we cannot be proud to be British now we never will be.
I have been lucky to visit the games twice now: on Sunday 5th August I watched the hockey and last night Tuesday 7th August I was invited by Dartington Glass to be a guest for the Athletics.
On Sunday I went with Helen, my wife and Michael 23 and Veronie 21, my son and daughter. I played a bit of hockey in my time and to a fairly decent standard too, so I was looking forward to watching 2 international teams slug it out.
We decided to get the 10.00ish train from Chalkwell to West Ham and walk to the stadium from there. As it happens it was a good call. The walk is about 25 minutes but the atmosphere builds as you leave West Ham station. En route there are plenty of Olympic helpers with a high five, cheery smile and often an amusing aside to keep you on the right track and to get you in the mood.
On arrival there are no security queues and we breeze through the entrance. Yes think airport security but with a service and welcoming smile – no jobs worth attitude – are you watching and learning UK airport security control?
As you enter the Olympic Park you are immediately aware of the magnitude of it all. We entered via the Greenway Gate and the first thing you see is the Orbit Tower and the Olympic Stadium. We arrived purposely early so that we could have a good look around.
Michael had already decided that the picnic Helen had made had nothing in it for him and hunted down food. It is not all about McDonalds – thankfully - he returned with fish and chips – claims on the park map that the food was Best of British were wide of the mark but he acknowledged it was edible.
The heavens decided to open so we scuttled into the Official Olympic shop to dry out. The shop is very well laid out and the main attraction appeared to be the clothing, so much so that Veronie and Helen both came away, once the rain had stopped, with purchases.
The display of China and Glass London 2012 Olympic commemorative products seemed to be receiving rather less attention – I guess lugging a few Olympic mugs around the Park is not an attractive option – anyway you can see it there and buy it on line.
We continued to explore, all the Stadia are magnificent structures, all different and as you get closer to them you could just imagine the atmosphere and buzz inside having seen it on the TV.
We picnicked in one of the many seated areas – Michael now decided he would have a go at the selection anyway devouring most the sausages!
Next, on to the Riverbank stadium and to find our seats for the Hockey. Entrance again was easy as the tickets were swiped along with that now familiar welcoming smile.
We watched India v South Korea – I had said that India were former top dogs in Hockey so we were expecting a good win from then. As I know only too well history counts for nothing and they were soundly beaten by the Koreans 4 – 1, I think, I lost count.
Next up after a beer break, for us not the players, two European teams Holland and Germany, again both have a successful Hockey history. The first thing that I sensed was just how physically big they all are, the second was that we seemed to be surrounded by a sea of Orange as the Dutch turned out in force to support their nation.
This was a far better match in terms of quality of play with the Dutch eventually coming out comfortable winners 3 – 1. Team GB Hockey team will do well avoid either of these two teams if they want to feature in the final.
So that was our day at the Olympics, we decided to head home and catch the 100 metres on the telly.
In Summary here are my Olympic Tips.
- Do take comfy shoes – you will walk miles
- Take empty water bottles – remember airport security with a smile – plenty of water coolers around park. Do not queue for ages at one area, there are others that might be less busy.
- Take a picnic – apart from the Champagne bar – it is not a culinary experience.
- Wear appropriate clothes – our rain ponchos were very necessary, highly sort after and envied!
- Travel to arrive 3 to 4 hours before your session – security will get busier and entrance slower the nearer the session time starts.
- Get a feel for the place, the stadia, the environment, the parks, the wild flowers, the people, soak up the atmosphere this is only going to happen once in a lifetime – probably
- Chat to the people around you. It adds to the sense of party and also makes our foreign visitors feel even more welcome. The Dutch behind us overloaded in coffee ordering, Helen and I were offered the slack, gratefully received.
So Why Am I so Proud to be British right now?
It is not just about the great achievements, to date, of Team GB, though that clearly helps. It is that so far we have managed to deliver what is possibly the best, most inclusive games of all time and in some style too.
Middle UK is on parade and is really showing the world the Great in Great Britain. Apart from the Olympic Park being a structural masterpiece, the management and house keeping at the park are a lesson for us all. Happy smiley Olympic helpers engaging with their customers, making one and all welcome, as well as acting as walking talking sign posts. In turn all (OK most) the visitors are in good moods too creating a truly great atmosphere.
There is no litter, just respect from all visitors, the odd lapse is quickly picked up by staff or indeed fellow visitors. People here really do seem to care and that is something I hope we can all learn from as a nation.
Contrast this to a year ago the Police at the Park could not have an easier task – no wonder they were smiling.
Respect your environment, respect your community, respect each other, leave something for the future, seem to be Olympic bywords that hopefully is the legacy for GB they are banging on about. I just hope it is lasting.